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!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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:

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Final flourish:

sleeves  11949782_10153607098352174_249735746_n (1)

Tah dah!

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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 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.

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ImageTurn inside out so the hem is hidden.

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

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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

Personal icons – women who inspire my fashion range

Personal icons – women who inspire my fashion range

The fashion industry is full of people who explain themselves as “I used to ….. but now i do this” people. Painters, writers, architects, and most of all, musicians. I am no different, I’ve never devoted myself entirely to any one discipline, but the thing I’ve felt most devoted to is music. Fashion has always felt an integral part of being a performer – essential to performance and an extension of the craft. Perhaps it is ego, or part of that innate need to express, whatever the reason, musicians have always been my style icons with their boundary pushing, easily imitable, expressive styles.

For this blog, I will talk about some of the ladies who have influenced me the most (I’ll get to the gents later), starting with the women who forged my formative style….

1) The Runaways

ImageWhats not to like here? All that denim and the customised, handmade tees certainly permeated my consciousness!

Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Cherie Currie were scandalously young when they hit the big time in the mid 70s, and they were scandalous in general. Their lyrics were explicit and the clothing followed suit – Cherie Currie infamously sported a basque and suspenders for one live show in Japan. Nothing compared to Gaga or tongue lolling Cyrus, but at the time, damn shocking.

ImageAs a 12 / 13-year-old, i fell in love with their shocking nature and the styling – I tucked my jeans into my boots, my tee into my flares, and wore my cut offs high and tight. Quite rightly, it all terrified my parents, and Joan Jett has fuelled my love of annoying society in general ever since. Though i go the pleather route where I can.

2) Tori Amos

This particular goddess has always produced artistry that feels a little bit like she creeps into my room at night, and like some sort of perverse tooth fairy, steals my thoughts making them into amazing songs, and wonderful visual art. Tori’s work is incredibly evocative – Neil Gaiman long ago made her into a character in one of his graphic novels – and her stylistic choices are often inspired.

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She is never afraid to flash a bit of flesh, and rarely follows any fashion whatsoever, but always manages to remain incredibly haute couture. When I have seen Tori live, she has appeared in everything from jeans and vest to immense chiffon gowns, all the while skipping from piano to harpsichord, often playing both at the same time, and singing complex, towering vocals for huge audiences. Of late, her personal appearance (sometimes her stylist should be slapped) and plastic surgery choices have been criticised, but hey, she’s only human right? Sometimes I struggle getting past pajamas and I’m not a multi million selling artist. So, chill.

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The above artwork from concept album ‘American Doll Possee’ is a fine example of the extra mile Tori goes for the visual aspects of her work – inventing different personas for songs and changing into their costume during gigs, down to the wigs. What a gal.

3) PJ Harvey

ImageA mixture of pure passion and folk, PJ is as complex and aloof as they come. She is a fascinating woman, and an adept visual artist whose image has been carefully cultivated and remains strong today. Her clothes are often underplayed, but she is cutting edge indeed – don’t doubt it.

ImageThis t-shirt set me off making my own slogan tops (soon to be revived) and i loved this picture so much I once recreated it for one grateful boyfriend.

Lucky guy.

PJ can often veer into the gothic and folky looking costume – but it’s all very much determined by the feel of her albums, and sits perfectly with them. A truly devoted approach.

4) Cher

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Less the body stocking, enormo hair stuff of the 80s, and much more the mega gown, eyeliner, Sonny betrothed days of the 60s and 70s.

Not my favourite singer, but nonetheless a talented woman, and a much overlooked style icon. For some reason, I have always leaned towards the Navajo Indian look, no idea why, and Cher seemed to cultivate an accessible version of that for me – this inspired MANY an Afghan coat purchase. She had a snaggle toothed, aloof beauty, also possessed by my sister, which I very much admired. Now, Cher’s face looks very different, as we all know.

These days I’m more a fan of the dysfunctional Mom she depicted in Mermaids…anyone who knows me knows what I mean…

ImageI also love those mega dresses the 70s did so well, praise the lord they are back again! Check her out in this snazzy ensemble…Afro? Check. Fringing? Check. Bikini? Uh huh. Chandelier earrings? Yup. And yellow.

Also, a great tune.

5) Juliette Lewis

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Now, Jules is a recent addition and is mainly here as she encapsulates so many looks that I love. A real rock n roll chameleon. Borrowing heavily from my true messiah, Patti Smith, and working all the clichés, JLew sums up a lot of what i like and what has stayed with me. The below picture could basically have been me from the age of 15..

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Shirt and tie is such a classic eh? She also rocks a leather driving glove regularly which I’ve never been able to pull off…

ImageOverall, I love the bat shit crazy, all out rock styling she dons for this persona. It’s the disregard for the norm that appeals most to me – combining vintage and new, and wearing whatever the hell you feel like. That’s at the heart of my fashion ethic and its great to see it employed!

I’m sure I’ll kick myself for not including so may wonderful women, Allison Mosshart is already plaguing me,, but these are the lasses that spring to mind right now.

Who influences you?!

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.

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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/