Nothing is Waste.

The world of reuse, upcycling, and recycling, is often described as a modern phenomenon. Sometimes seen as an outsider industry, it can be belittled and cycnically used by large companies to gain the ‘green market’.

What, in fact, is a modern phenomenon is the idea of waste – of resources, once used, becoming waste product, and the need to deal with that.

The old adage of the new car losing a quarter of its value the minute it drives off the lot runs through my head as i pluck wedding dresses from my local recycling centre, or pull bags of clothes on hangers from litter left on the street (NB this is theft by finding, but that’s another blog). In our hyper driven economy, once its worn, used, boring, unfashionable, broken, stained, too small, too big, scuffed, or just surplus, its waste. But it isn’t waste. What determines waste is what happens to it once it leaves the owners hands.

In the textiles sector that Kecks is part of, and in the furniture world we are just moving into with workshops, there is a movement away from seeing second hand garments and home wares as devalued, to seeing the innate value of each resource. If we donate an object to a charity shop, no matter the quality or condition, there may be a great undervaluing and the subsequent loss of revenue may not benefit your cause. It can lose money. Also, an old garment or object is subject to the same scrutiny you subject it to before throwing it away – so if it seems ugly or old to you, it may well to the person in the shop, and thus will not sell – again it becomes waste to deal with. Our responsibility as donors and consumers, does not go as far as simply giving, it means we have to ensure what we donate can and will be used, and to support the methods used to keep it from landfill. But how?

Emmaus Bristol fresh for the refit! 

Longstanding charity Emmaus, which has operated internationally since 1971, recognises the challenge of getting consumers to see the donations that come into their centres as equal to the goods in any other shop. They engage with the commercial sectors – allowing many start up businesses and home owners a cheaper alternative when setting up, alongside affordable goods for local people in their hundreds of outlets. Reuse is central in their centres, and the companions who run them dedicate their time and ingenuity to recycling so often, that i have learnt endless amounts of new tips and tricks since i took up residency in their warehouse studio.

Now we are working together to show shoppers there is an alternative to the fast fashion industry, and its unsustainable consumption, by housing upcycled clothing brands and furniture alongside donated goods, in an alternative ‘department’ store. Piloted in the Stokes Croft store in central Bristol,  the Upcycling Lounge will hold lines from Kecks, Emmaus vintage, and other local designer who source their goods from reuse and is set to launch summer 2016.

In the Emmaus studio, upcycling naturally…

Are we excited? Errr just a bit!!

And also pleased that the idea of old being inferior, of second hand being waste, of charity shops being places for old tat is being challenged head on by the charity sector.

Emmaus values human beings and is working to tackle the consumer culture that creates the world of the haves and have not’s: “Serve those worse off than yourself before yourself. Serve the most needy first” is its global ethos, and how better to do so  than to provide a viable alternative right in the commercial centre of a city meaning those who shop with them provide the income needed to sustain the solidarity projects that give to those most in need. If furniture is cheap, we can help some of the poor, but if we create a system of distribution and reuse at all levels, we can cater to all pockets and give to those in need – and give them beautiful, lasting foundations to build their homes upon. By recognising and paying for the innate value of our ‘waste’ we fund this work, reduce landfill, create a rich and varied market, and provide for all.

Nothing is waste!

Follow us online for further updates on how you can be involved, and more upcycling in action.





Six Weeks, Six Items: the ultimate capsule wardrobe

Six Weeks, Six Items:  the ultimate capsule wardrobe

I made a pledge in 2015 that I would buy no new clothes in 2016, and instead swish upcycle, swap, borrow, make, and generally wind my way through the year without spending a penny on new clothes. I have allowed myself to shop at charity shops once a month, but on a one in one out basis.

My aim is to show how shopping and not necessity is the basis of our current textiles industry, and through my own example show people there is an alternative to this planet destroying economy.

So, when Labour Behind the Label began advertising their 6 items challenge I masochistically could not refuse.

The concept of the six item wardrobe was interesting to me has someone who owns a lot of clothes. I mean a lot. My job has allowed me to build up a fair collection pieces that I love, and the chance to refine those down to the bare necessities was something I couldn’t resist. However yesterday, when the reality of wearing 6 bits of clothing for 6 weeks during a British winter Into Spring became real, I realised I would have to work harder than I thought to try to stay true to the promise I had made to pledgers.


Coats, shoes, and accessories aside (and of course underwear) I have chosen an extra large Pink Floyd t-shirt, faded denim shirt, black three-quarter length sleeve jumper, black and white striped vest dress,red wrap around dress, and my favourite ripped skinny jeans which were essential for work; upcycling furniture can get messy.

Looking at this tiny pile of clothes and the large wardrobe, that i have now put to bed buy draping an ugly throw over it for the next month and a half, I’m already worried that this challenge may prove very difficult. Like so many of us I’m used to reaching into my wardrobe and pulling out what I fancy to wear that day, and being self-employed in the world of Arts and textiles how I dress is a large part of me, but what is more important is that i remember who made my clothes.

So here we go!

Please do show your support for our global textile workers, and for my whiney angst by donating via this link:

For more information about the challenge and Labour Behind the Label, look out for the next blog.





Falling back in love with Fred Perry

We took an unloved, preowned Fred Perry tee, and used a quick no-sew technique to adapt it into a wearable crop tee, ideal with pencil skirts and high waisted jeans.

Here’s how….

Step one:

11896882_10153607097152174_1501455012_n (1) 

Step two:

better second 

Step three:

third  fourth

Step four:

fifth  sixth

Step five:

criss cross2

Final flourish:

sleeves  11949782_10153607098352174_249735746_n (1)

Tah dah!

fred perry blog pic

Tag us in your finished pics so we can coo over your upcycling skills xx

Kirstie, take a seat

This week’s guest blog comes from Keck’s very own Jenna Roberts (@jenarobuts) getting riled over More4 reruns:

“A11791209_10153268779586284_1034515484_o (1)_editeds seems justified with pretty much most of the world’s crises (and several more minor personal ones), I blame tedious, oppressive capitalism and Kirstie Allsopp. Though I could spend most of my day calling bullshit on Ms. Allsopp and her questionable non-contributions to feminism, what I’m here channelling my resentment against is, perhaps one of her lesser offences, ‘Kirstie’s Homemade Home’ and her seeming renaissance as the Queen Of The Upcycle. Upcycling isn’t Kirstie Allsopp, Kirstie Allsopp isn’t upcycling. It really is so much more – and hear me out before you dismiss me as being recklessly profound.

Using my mother as barometer of popular opinion, there seems either this aggravatingly Allsopp-ian image of upcycling as sickly saccharine, faddish and twee, the domain of women with a flair for Pinterest and crafts –or a somewhat ‘Mother Earth’ vision of white girls with dreads ‘making do and mending’, darning up and tie dying their organic hemp ponchos. Whilst neither of these breeds of upcyclers are to be sniffed at, upcycling isn’t a fad – it isn’t whimsy or a quaint seasonable notion for wrapping Christmas presents in an ‘unusual’ way. It also isn’t just for those devoting all facets of their lives to being green and saving the planet (though MASSIVE RESPECT to you guys as we definitely all should be.) As cringey as it sounds, upcycling and re-use is for everyone – and beyond this needs to be instilled as an accessible, universal norm, transcending Allsopp’s ‘Homemade Home’ candy coating. Upcycling is fun – its creative, it can be craftsy I can’t deny and it’s charming and easy to fall in love with as a process. Repurposing an object that’s gone unloved or otherwise become obsolete, tangibly reworking and reinventing that object, its delicate, intricate and personal, a labour of love. It’s equally something of a necessity.

KeckerFor one, upcycling really does just seem to make sense – it’s logical. From a personal, more domestic standpoint, it’s thrifty and economical. Boiling upcycling down to its much less sugared core concept of ‘re-use’ and underscored with the knowledge of the phenomenal damage the textile, fashion and retail industries cause to both our environment and our economy, it becomes logical and necessary in an urgent way. Specifically textile waste in the UK is just unfathomable: 1.5 million tonnes and over £140 million of unwanted clothing are land filled each year. We buy our clothes fast and dispose of them just as quickly. We live in a throwaway culture where we’re in fact pre-designing items to lack durability and quality and be almost immediately thrown out – and only 30% of those clothes we throw away are we recycling or upcycling. According to the New Statesman, for every kilo of cotton preserved through re-using a second hand piece of clothing, you save 65 kWh of energy, the equivalent of over 30 kilos of CO2. Upcycling isn’t just reworking old piano keys into a statement piece clock or ironing patches on your shorts, re-use –after initial efforts we should all be driving to reduce in the first instance- should be an active fundamental of all of our lifestyles. Use it, re-use it, re-use it again. Upcycling isn’t quaint: it’s hardy, hands-on, savvy, defiant. Call me zealous if you will but upcycling is a politically-informed and motivated gesture towards establishing an environmentally-conscientious, circular economy – one that respects both the concept of value and our planet.”

Upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial.

Upcycled T-shirt bag tutorial.

Having had such a great reception to my mini workshop at Love Bristol Fair this weekend, I’m responding to all the requests for a visual how to for the T-shirt bags. Its oh so simple and ensures your bag is a little waterproof at the bottom in case of leaky stuff. Not ideal for heavy books etc, but perfect for the beach or gym wear as its easily washable. Enjoy!

The essentials What you’ll need: Old t-shirt ,Scissors, Duct tape, Needle and thread (optional)
Cut off the sleeves – larger holes mean a longer handle. Cut out the neck – the deeper the cut, the larger the bag opening.
Turn inside out – take bottom hem and fold up toward neck twice making each fold around 2cm tall.
Duct tape along the fold, making sure to overlap at the sides a little. Turn over and duct tape along the other sides, overlapping onto the tape from the first side. Add another layer of tape along the bottom edge, making sure it sticks to the first and second pieces. The more you stick the duct tape to the duct tape, the better it glues.
Turn the right way out and pull unfinished edges slightly to ‘hem’.
Put stuff in your bag! You can sew the outer edge if you like, but i’ve never needed to.
Wear your bag like a boss! You could even post a selfie on your social media and tag us, or post to our facebook page: kecksclothingbristol xx


Upcycled turban head wear tutorial

Upcycled turban head wear tutorial

Ok, so I have had MANY enquiries as to how i made my little upcycled turban the other day….so I did a super quick tutorial for you to get going on your own!

ImageWhat you need:

  • An old t-shirt or other spare material
  • pins
  • needle and thread
  • scissors

ImageLay the material flat and cut out a rectangular strip from one side of the tshirt incorporaing both back and front, of about 30cm in width, from the neck to the hem. Cut a piece the same length, but half the width from the remaining side, leaving the side hem in tact.

ImageImageFold the same sized pieces in half, with the inside out, pin along the edge and sew.


ImageTurn inside out so the hem is hidden.


ImageTake the resulting pieces, cross over, and form a figure 8 shape.


ImagePin and sew the remaining piece, then turn inside out.

ImageTurn the raw hem of the thinner piece inside.

ImageTuck the ends of the figure 8 piece inside the ends of the thinner piece, pin and sew.

ImageImageImageImageTa dah! But please sew yours more carefully as i rushed mine a bit xx

ImageImageStretchy materials provide a more snug, sporty fit for use in the gym, keeping hair out of your face etc. More fancy materials work for every day wear and special occasions – add brooches, studs, or even feathers for next level glam xx

Top 13 songs of 2013

Top 13 songs of 2013

As much as I am an upcycling buff, and determined business woman,  I am a mere empty shell without music in my life.

So I’ve gone all self-indulgent and created a top 13 songs of 2013 list – not all of the songs were released this year, but in some way they have rocked my little world in the last 365 days.

1) Janelle Monae – Q.U.E.E.N feat Erykah Badu

Not a lot not to love here – its enhanced 100% by the video for me. Perfect motivational gear for small business owners and general world citizens alike. Plus Monae is a right role model and a half – daaayum that tailoring is good!

2) The Dillinger Escape Plan – When I Lost My Bet

Drastic change of pace here, but underneath my skin runs a rich vein of metal (hence all the studs and slashed tees in the Kecks collections i guess), and i love loud schitzo music. Greg Puciato has a great set of pipes too. Be warned, the video has its fair share of intestine mask wielding scary folk  Pretty.

3) Jack White – Top Yourself

I only really got in to Jacky’s music this year, having loved his Dead Weather work with my beloved Alison Mosshart. This AMEX live performance is worth watching if you have a spare evening, and this is one little saucy little number from it. Hot tamales.

Jack swaps between male and female bands, and they are all this well decked out. Now that’s what I call style.

4) Big Mama Thornton – Hound Dog

Before Beyonce bust out Single Ladies, there was BMT with Hound Dog. Every gal needs songs to give bad doggies the brush off, and this is a great one.

5) Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine?

From the patchy AM album released this year, this rings out as a real stand alone track for me.

Plus, i have a penchant for those wiry little Indie boys like Alex Turner and his jangly guitar. Lets not discuss his hair. Bless.

6) The National – Demons

if you havent heard The National yet, you will soon. Go see them live – they are crazy bonkers good.

Do not listen to unless you are sort of ok in yourself…

7) Deap Vally – Make my Own Money

I’m clearly not trying to be cool here, I just LOVE these guys. Big hair, short shorts, cut up t-shirts? My kind of women! Plus this in your face big guitar independent woman tune. I bought some of their merch pants I love them so much. Whatever.

8) Savages – She Will

Yes they sound like New Order / Siouxsie Sioux. I don’t care. I love the masculine tailoring, disciplined tightness and humourless delivery of this band. Not everything has to be frivolous!

9) Policia – Amongster

This is just so bombastic a track with its altered states and crescendo. I love it. The lyrics are well buried in there, but worth digging out for a read.

10) My Ruin – Ready For Blood

More metal and from an old album, but this has been on repeat on the old i pod and proved most motivating for a work out.

Angry brunettes, gotta love us eh?

11) Lana Del Ray – Ride

Because falling out of love with someone after a really long time is difficult and wonderful, and this song is that.

End of.

12) Nick Cave – Hold On To Yourself

This song appeared from nowhere into my sphere, and has kept popping throughout 2013. It seems very important and, of course, Cave has magical powers.

13) Cat Power – Bully

Cat is another magical being, and this performance really got me in the belly.

Wonderfully articulated.