6 Items Challenge 2018: six items for six weeks, could you do it?

6 Items Challenge 2018: six items for six weeks, could you do it?

Since discovering Labour Behind the Label a few years ago, I have been looking for ways to support their work and have partaken in the #6itemschallenge twice now.

The campaign aims to show how little we can wear if we put our minds to it, teach us about a sustainable wardrobe – and think more about those who produce our clothing. LBTL directly support textiles workers all over the globe, and aim to bring awareness to consumers and a living wage to those working with insufficient wages, or often, none at all.

At time of press, workers at a factory in Istanbul are seeking the help of LBTL to recoup 3 months of unpaid wages from Zara, Next and Mango. You would think that such high street giants could afford to compensate their workers, but incidents such as the Rana Plaza disaster show us that fast fashion giants are loathe to accept any culpability for standards at their productions bases, and this is where the challenge comes in.

Show the stores that dominate our high street that we can live with less, and make the commitment to pay more, repairing, swapping, and upcycling all items you buy – cradle to grave. Valuing our clothes gives value to the craft of workers who produce them for us, and reinforces our links to artisans.

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So what is the challenge?

  • 6 weeks
  • 6 items
  • unlimited changes of shoes, accessories, coats, underwear etc
  • uniforms and activewear are also allowed – but if you wear your gym gear all day, conscience dictatesit becomes part of your 6 items
  • crowdfund to support the work of LBTL

How i started:

The first time i undertook the challenge i freaked out for days about what my six items should be – literally brought myself  to tears (what an idiot), whereas this year i pretty much threw six pieces on the end of my clothing rail and went for it!

I would recommend a middle ground between these extremes…

I err towards skirts and dresses so i excluded any jeans from my choices – trousers rarely fit my big butt / long leg combo, and i love hosiery so it was a no brainer.

thumbnailWhat did i choose?

  • Blue pencil length dress
  • Plain black mini stretch skirt
  • Leopard print shift dress
  • Black v back jumper
  • Breton stripe 3/4 length sleeve top
  • Washed out denim shirt

My choices seem coincidentally similar for both years, and i felt layering was important in the chilly weather!

The problems:

I straight away regretted not tying on my clothes, and after a recent bout of weight training, the leopard dress feels tight around my arms, but i’m persevering and looking in to ways i can re-tailor the piece to fit better – perhaps some lace sleeves to replace the cap sleeves?

I have also felt cold on occasion, but as a lover of big scarves, simply utilise my favourite shawls.

I also have a few dates lined up and am unsure if any of my outfits will suit the venues…time to get creative with shoes!

I also seem to need a new smart coat – but will be looking into repairing the one i have first, and will let you know how it goes.28070788_824905194363336_2703870495854945264_o

The benefits:

IT MAKES DRESSING SO EASY! I have a tiny selection and they all go fairly well, and just like last year, no one EVER notices my repeat wears. In fact it a great chance to play around with hair and make up a bit.

Plus i have ruthlessly gutted my wardrobe and will be selling the pieces i love but just don’t wear, and taking anything else to the clothes swap i am co-organising with Easton Energy Group…with the aim of bringing little or nothing back. Even a sustainable fashion bod like myself has FAR too many clothes, but none will go to waste!

 

Why not join in yourself and let me know about your journey? If i can do it anyone can!

 

 

Sustainable Gym Wear: get up and go the ethical way!

I have become a 2018 gym-bore.

In fact my gym journey began in 2017 when a very athletic ex of mine reintroduced me to the wonders of working out in a much more fun and practical way. Since then I’ve been hooked, and knowing lots of PTs and gym bunnies, I’m now known to post my check ins and PBs to social media; and i couldn’t be more happy.

Train is good for brain!

At first i had enough residual active wear to cover my first few months, but with my changing shape and regular gym jaunts, i have found i needed at least three sets of gym clothes – plus pieces suitable for certain workouts and just for where by body is at sometimes.

Being based out the back of a charity depot at the time, i was able to pick up a few pieces of pre-loved gym wear – this is more common than often thought due to the changing sizes of those using it, and of course the very body conscious nature of a workout environment. You wanna look good!

So here are my tips to a sustainable workout wardrobe:

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Teeki leggigngs

Borrow, swap, swish.

Now the January fitness rush is over, there will be a lot of unused lycra hanging in peoples wardrobes, so why not get a few of you together and swap fitness tips as well as clothing. Even putting up an ad in your local gym or leisure centre can build into quite an event.

 

 

 

I’ll be co-hosting a swish with Easton Energy Group in Bristol next month, and active wear is one thing I’m really hoping to find!

More tips of organising your own swish in next weeks blog.

Second hand shop.

A lot of charity shops don’t display second hand active wear as people can be reluctant to buy it – but like any other well washed garment – gym wear is safe to wear if you give it a quick wash yourself first! I have often come across unworn gym wear in charity or second hand shops, and E-bay can be a goldmine for such items.

Adapt what you have.

A lot of tees, vests, and even leggings are more than suitable for your workout, and with a little clever cutting and sewing leggings can become shorts, and old t-shirts can be vests.

Sports vest tutorial to follow!

 

Buy ethical.

Certain items such as sports bras, or trainers are best bought new /unused so check out ethical brands for these. Yes, they are more expensive than the high street, but low prices are just what we are used to – ethical fashion and quality cost money.

Brands such as Teeki, and PHVLO are producing eco friendly clothing, and even Ellesse have items produced from recycled plastics. H&M conscious range is much lauded amongst fitness fans, but you wont find Kecks promoting such an unethical fast fashion brand.

Shop for natural fibre wherever possible!

 

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Wash well.

Observing wash labels is especially important to stretch and plastic based fabrics, so wash cool and as little as possible to maintain integrity.

Airing sweaty clothes in direct sunlight will often do the job a few times – give it a try!

Using delicates bags and even a pillow case can also help prevent the distribution of microfibres into our oceans – microfibres now account for 85% of shoreline pollution (Plastic Pollution Coalition) so avoiding synthetic fibres and preventing the spread during washing is important.

 

Let me know your ethical brand favourites and tips!

Fashion Salvage Styling

Fashion Salvage Styling

Bristol Textile Recycling are a longstanding clothing reuse depot based off Feeder Road Bristol, and recently they opened their doors to the public for monthly kilo sales.

Kecks founder Helen took advantage of their cut price vintage offers, and got herself a whole new preloved wardrobe for AW16:

 

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Teaming an under skirt, worn as outerwear, with a cobweb style top from New Look, Helen creates a modern goth look.

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Dressing down the same vintage skirt with a mohair blend jumper from H&M.

Next Tall range gown, and vintage 80s house dress.

The real steal of the day – an Aquascutum vintage mac.

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Making something from nothing: A reuse challenge

Making something from nothing: A reuse challenge

Most people planning the refit of a retail space would bob along to B&Q and buy a few fittings, maybe  a rail or two, and go about their opening. Not Kecks, we like to think outside the box a little, and so our Upcycling Lounge refit will be sourced entirely from reuse!

Starting my second upcycled shop refit, i have been reminded of the sheer scale of materials available to those looking to use second hand resources. Of course, working within the business, the stuff crops up during the working week: but networks like Bristol Reuse are striving to make them accessible to the public.

Often what is needed, is a bit of a rethink of what is necessary in a business: what must be bought new, and what can be borrowed, or reused.

In a recent t-shirt upcycling workshop with Call of the Brave we reproduced handpicked designers from local artists, and transferred then onto reworked t-shirts, using hand made stencils.

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The results were great, a brilliant day all round, and Call of the Brave now have an upcycled option alongside their ethically sourced tees: check out their crowd funded designs!

We also managed to catch up with Made in Bristol TV to film the first of our features on their ‘Thrifty Thursday’ pieces. This time we took second hand clothing from Emmaus and showed people how to make their festival wardrobe by repurposing and restyling what they already own!

So, in both cases, materials already exist to suit peoples needs – all we have done is facilitate that. Simple!

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So with the Upcycling Lounge set to launch in 2 weeks (eeek), we at Kecks are hoping to once again inspire reuse at every stage of the project.

Step one:our fixtures, fittings, and paint….all in tomorrows blog!

 

 

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?

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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.

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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.

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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: https://sixitemschallenge2016.everydayhero.com/uk/helen

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:

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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

Sustainability – teamwork

Sustainability – teamwork

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.  ~Margaret Meade

 

I’ve been pretty absent from blogworld – the practicalities of building my business have taken up a LOT of time…who knew there were so many types of clothes rail to choose from?! Plus battles with finances, but we all hear that one, right?

One thing that has kept me going through this chaos, is the collaborations with pals, and those just happy to help.

The more i have delved into sustainable living, the more i realise it really only works once everyone gets into it – the potential is incredible when you combine practical and creative talents without the red tape of corporate living.

Cisco-Zenoss-Collaboration

For example, the guys over at Freecycle – this online listing of donated goods has enabled thousands to get the stuff they need for free – whether it be furniture, or clothing, even sometimes food – and dispose of what they don’t need. Even down to unassuming stuff like old hair dye, it all stays out of landfill and saves money for the recipient. I have personally furnished most of my home with it, and as a single parent, have put clothes and toys back in and been thanked in a most heart warming way. If your local network needs a boost, why not encourage friends and family to whack something on there – advertise via social media – and watch it grow as word spreads. Its amazing what trash you can dispose of and what treasure you can find.

http://uk.freecycle.org/

Another great factor is that Freecycle is based on basic human courtesy and generosity – simply asking and giving thanks is discouraged in consumer society, and should be encouraged way more. When i reached out to an old uni pal of mine for some help with a promo video, he offered his time in exchange for accommodation during one of  their many filming trips around the country – he and his partner’s company kindly filmed, edited and produced the piece and it just hit 200 views. Incredibly generous, and we had a great time working together and a bit of partying to boot.

If you fancy a video of your own, or have any other filming projects, give them a shout, I will be for my next shoot:

http://gem177.wix.com/fancypantsproduction

The film was not complete without some music, so i contacted a band i have seen several times at gigs and festivals called ALASKA. They also agreed to let me use their latest single as the background music in exchange for a little help on their South West tour – amazing eh?

ALASKA Photo
http://www.alaskaofficial.com/

 

They just released their latest single which features a collaborative artwork  with Dots Printhaus who live in their hometown of Leeds.

http://www.tellusrecords.bigcartel.com/

Give it all a look, its incredible stuff, and all based on a spirit of collaboration and working together to make the projects that may not get funding or support of the ground. Much like my own little Kecks Clothing.

Next up is some work I’m doing with the brilliant Figure 8 Festival in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support – tickets are on sale now, and I’ll keep you posted with all developments! check it out!

http://figure8festival.co.uk/

H & M: Always question your sources.

H & M: Always question your sources.

As a former employee of H&M, i have varying issues with this company – first of all, i was not sacked from the company, i worked here for a long time and rose through the ranks quickly. I also quickly learned that despite employing a diverse and often lovely bunch of staff at all levels, the company has little regard for humans as a whole – whether it be staff or customers. Their ethics are dubious at every level, so i was interested to see their launch of a ‘conscious’ collection.

http://www.hm.com/gb/conscious-collection#inspiration/0

If the ‘horse meat scandals’ of this year have taught us anything, it is to question our sources before we purchase a product – years of blindly buying what is presented to us on our shelves has made us numb to the tricks of advertising. That’s what its there for, to make you buy no matter what. So ‘low fat’ can mean fattier that our previous product but comparatively low, mascaras models wear lash inserts in ads giving us a false idea of what the product achieves, and clothing projects an unrealistic idea of body shape due to sizing that disregards modern body proportions.

In this case, calling their range conscious in light of the repeated reports of slave labour standards in their affiliated factories over the years, made me instantly cynical:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/25/india-clothing-workers-slave-wages

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I would argue, that if these were white people in the UK, there would be uproar, but being India we have all become numb to this. This is not sustainable – if we use slave labour we create a double standard of humanity that spreads. If large corporations had their way, this would be happening in our ‘civilised’ states – we are all aware of the ‘Poundland’ controversy and it’s a good example of how we can stand up to this slide in standards. It also begs the question, are we fine with others suffering so we can have more cheap clothes – do we need all this STUFF? Id say no, of course.

When i worked for H&M, i had my first experience of workplace bullying, i was unable to wear the clothing as it didn’t fit me (I was a size 12 at the time) and i experienced staff regularly making open jokes anbout the Big Is Beautiful range which was shoved at the back of the store until i was assigned to it – being someone who could “sympathise with the customer”…i’ll read that as fat eh? I regularly worked unpaid overtime, the wages were incredibly low for the supervisory level i worked at (this was pre-minimum wage) and the manager produced such a high staff turn over through her management ‘technique’ that we regularly had to re recruit. At no time was any of this addressed, and being a naive 18 year old, i did little about it. I did, however, tell people to ignore the sizing, fed back complaints and read their responses to the sweat shop allegations they regularly faced – this is what lead me to leave the company.

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Given the efforts to improve their carbon footprint are admirable, their recycling is to be applauded – but the levels of waste produced by their huge stores with fast fashion and all its packaging is something they have done little about. I would also question the policy of stores such as this taking in old stock to ‘recycle’ – where does it go? Do they sell it on? And does it push prices up for more ethical manufacturers and charity stores once producers reclaim and re sell their stock? Wait:

You’re buying it,

using it,

and taking it back to them…and you have no promise as to what happens to it?

There are vagaries laid out in their policies, but ti seems that they are making profit out of what others do for free and thus crippling the recycle / upcycle chain and preventing charitable deeds.

Nice.

Here are their ‘policies’:

http://about.hm.com/AboutSection/en/About/Sustainability.html

There are commitments and ideas, but no promises – and what of reducing this waste by producing less, raising prices reasonably: thus enabling workers high wages and better conditions instead of impossible production targets?

Its a bit of a horse that has already bolted for me..and i know there are those who will defend he H&M brand. You’re brand loyal or like the clothes – hey, i love their clothes, but they can be sourced elsewhere, and being brand loyal to a store of this size, honey that’s beyond unwise. You’re being brainwashed, and as the evidence shows, they care little about you, your planet or your body image. Their promises are thinly veiled PR.

Just re read the statement below – a wonderful of vague PR and an open statement of ‘there’s a limit to our regard for human life’

H&M’s auditors carry out regular checks to ensure that there are no underage workers in the factories. It is extremely rare for child labour to be discovered at H&M’s suppliers or their subcontractors. Should this nonetheless happen, H&M requires the supplier to take responsibility and, together with H&M and the family, to find a solution in the best interests of the child. An investigation is then carried out, looking at how best to resolve the situation based on the child’s interests. On many occasions, the solution will involve the supplier contributing financially so that the child can receive an education, while compensating the family for the loss of income. If H&M discovers repeated breaches of its ban on child labour at a supplier – or one of its subcontractors – the cooperation will be ended for good

https://www.hm.com/gb/customer-service/faq/our-responsibility

Then read the question about H&M’s independent auditors. The more you read, the more you see.

So, look into what you’re buying – here at Kecks i’m open about my processing, it’s mainly just me, but it enables me to see how as an employer you have a responsibility to your staff and to the planet. Using small improvemnts as a marketing tool is not enough – if you are compromising your worker’s welfare, you are in defiance of human rights, if you produce huge amounts of waste through over production and packaging, youre destryoing the planet. You dont deserve the money of those who do care, and as people who do, lets encourage others to read the lable a little more closely. Make these companies earn our money.

A rose by any other name would be a daisy…

A rose by any other name would be a daisy…

As my business is growing, I’m often asked to outline what i do in a sort of mission statement or, heaven forbid, an ethos. Reducing my ideas into a bite sized chunk not only focusses my mind on what i want to do – which is usually maaaany things at once – but also what i mean when i say I’m a sustainable fashion brand.

Anyone who has tried to do anything left of centre, creatively or otherwise, will know that you often face a baffling amount of opposition and perplexed faces when deviating from the norm. From years of working with bands trying to explain their ‘sound’ to me at 2am when we’re all a little ‘tired’, i know that one woman’s funk is another’s hip-hop, so terminology is important. Calling yourself eco-friendly can give people the wrong impression, and i don’t want to fall into a traditional woolly, felty, hempy category – love to those who do, but it’s not my vision.

So i’ve been looking at what peole are saying out there and what means what.

Right now I’m calling myself an upcycling brand, but this may grow and develop as i go on, and sustainability has so many facets: fair trade, eco fabric, green production and packaging. I’m hoping to be groovy in every way i can, and it’s proving hard…and expensive. Why isn’t everything green?

I recently watched an IPCC lecture by Prof Stuart Hazeldine of Edinburgh University – i know, cool right? – where he answered the question as to why we are not using renewable energy sources when they are available as partly because “It’s still socially acceptable to put that much CO2 into the atmosphere”. I loved that, and it seems true to me. We are still paying over the odds for sustainable fashion when we could be reusing and recyling most things just because we still think it’s ok to do so. We could buy less and wear things more, and we could really use those charity shops and clothing exchanges, but we can also source from environmentally sound companies.

I’d love to see us all shop with the benefit of our planet and people in mind.

Here’s a few fashion folkwho bill themselves as eco-friendly, special love to From Somewhere who I find very inspirational:

http://fromsomewhere.co.uk/

From Stylewith:

http://www.stylewithheart.com/category/eco-friendly/

And, of course, Vogue dahling…

http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/trends/2010-spring-summer/ethical-fair-trade-eco-friendly-fashion/gallery/1