The very first ARTWEAR event launched in February in the atmospheric upstairs of Presuming Ed’s. Created by Brighton-based stylist and creative director Abi Rigby, the events are designed to inspire conversations around sustainable and eco-friendly fashion and bring together local designers.
With Presuming Ed’s spectacular vegan canapes and cocktails circulating, the evening began with an opportunity to meet the designers and go through their pieces – from high fantasy corsets and lush tulle-tuxedo constructions, to bold geometric accessories and recrafted denim statement pieces. The open discussion that followed was an inspiring chance to consider how much more exciting it can be to upcycle and rework, buy from local designers and repurpose old pieces.
We caught up with the four designers, sharing their inspirations and insights on sustainability.
Rosie: I run the brand Rosie Evans, a ‘high fantasy’ label, specialising in historical-inspired sustainable pieces.
Rosie Evans started at the beginning of 2020 and took off during the pandemic. I began designing corset stays out of upcycled textiles and vintage upholstery pieces, and since then, I’ve branched out to a full range of dresses, skirt, knitwear and outerwear, alongside my classic corset design.
The term ‘high fantasy’ best describes my brand, as I take a lot of inspiration from folklore and traditional fairy tales. I like to create clothes that cross the boundary from costume design and wearable fashion.
My take on sustainability is to use pre-existing fabrics and textiles, to repurpose handmade pieces lost to time and to honour the work that’s gone into making it. Some of my favourite fabrics to work with are hand-embroidered table runners and linens, cushion covers and vintage felt blankets.
Benjamin: I have just set up my sustainable brand, Material Response, which is centred around upcycled fabrics and reworking existing pieces.
Asking ‘why?’ is what pushed my work in a sustainable direction. My graduate collection, which was entirely upcycled, contrasts odd visual references of ‘outsiders’ with conventional menswear references to create a sense of disconnection.
I have continued this trajectory with my brand, although I have definitely had to compromise creativity in order to ensure return on investment of time and money! I now sell
one-off statement pieces made from reclaimed fabrics such as sails, curtains or blankets, supplementing this with more accessible upcycled sweater sets made from vintage jumpers.
As a side hustle, I do more commercial reworks for vintage stores. Give me a follow on Instagram and stay tuned as I have some exciting things in store.
Henry: The main reason I started sewing was because I was attracted to the idea of binding two materials in a permanent way. I’d asked my mum to show me the ropes and then took it from there. My approach to sewing was to challenge myself with projects which were just out of my comfort zone. I started working on making bags and simple geometric shapes because I knew how to break the 3D shapes into 2D nets. A bag in essence can just be a box with zips and straps attached to it.
The sustainability side naturally wove itself into my projects as I’d go to charity shops to buy my sewing materials and textiles. The idea of upcycling was always on the table. I’ve always been trying to use different materials which conveniently would not be used in the sewing industry, to see if they could be put to good use. And if it didn’t work for sewing, I could save that material for one of my sculptures!
Nowadays I have loads of ideas for projects I want to explore and create, but with working a 9-to-5 I’m finding it hard to get the energy to push on. But, without pressuring myself, I know that over time I’ll reach my goal, whatever that is.
Tilly: My initial interest in fashion came from getting hand-me-downs, borrowing and taking other people’s clothes. I love walking around in something which is so intrinsically linked to another person in my mind.
Clothes which really fit a person are so exciting to me. I think accessible tailoring can really change the dialogue surrounding our bodies’ changing forms. Poppy and I focused on this for the ARTWEAR show. We did multiple fittings and also talked about how the garment made Poppy feel, making adjustments so that she looked and felt as powerful as she is.
I currently work for designer Ben Mak London. The incredible team has really shown me what positive changes fashion can make if the focus is on connection.
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