Looking Forward, and Back out

If you have been following What a Waste from the start, you’ll know about my previous job in fast fashion, and that my mission now is to work only with reclaimed or secondhand fabrics having seen so much textile waste.

“Representatives from firms including Marks & Spencer, Primark, Boohoo and ASOS will appear before MPs on the Commons environmental audit committee.”

This hearing takes place on today. I don’t know about you, but I will be keeping my eyes and ears on the news today to find out what is said.

During my 15 year career as a Ladieswear Garment Technologist I have worked for two of those companies,  and worked for a number of suppliers who worked with the other two as well. I am going to tell you my fashion story.

When my husband (then fiance) moved away from London, I left my coveted position for an Online Retailer and really struggled to find a job that matched it up North (I’d be working as a garment tech for 6 years at this point, this had been my 3rd GT  position).

I ended up working at a few different wholesale / suppliers over the next few years, and during this time my ethics were pushed as I was once asked to travel to Turkey to set up a fake childrenswear line in an approved factory for a Next Head office visit. The garments were actually being produced in a non-approved factory. I point-blank refused to do this, and needless to say I resigned not much longer afterwards; biding my time until we could move back to London.

It was back in London that I started working with an amazing high street retailer, that had really good values and ethics. They had a charity set up in Bangladesh – sponsoring disadvantaged children living in slums of Dhaka, to provide them with full-time education and healthcare for themselves and their families. This is the first I had ever seen of a fashion company giving back to the community in which they produced.

It was whilst I was working for this retailer that I became pregnant, and everything changed for me. I couldn’t actually afford to go back to work once little Charlie arrived,  and when I was ready to go back to work, it wasn’t because I wanted to, it was that I had to – to steady the household income. It was a tough decision to go back to work – but I did it at a slow pace, and began working as a Senior Ladies Garment Technologist for a start-up Online Brand (who’s gone on to do amazing work) – but sadly; it was all a bit too much for me, and we decided to move back up North, away from London – where we could live in a bigger house, and actually be better off with me not working.

Well – we moved, had a nice 3 bedroom house, and I was really enjoying being a stay a home mum, but I itched to really start doing my own thing, so we looked at Charlie going to nursery for one or two days a week – I worked for a few suppliers until I was more comfortable to work full-time, and, well, I ended up working at the Other Online Retailer.

It was nuts. Speed Speed Speed. They bought small to minimise the risk. I had never worked anywhere else like it. It was when I was working here that I saw that this is where fast fashion was headed. So many new online retailers work the same way – buying in small quantities, using UK factories (as well as overseas) and not being particularly quality focused. We had to be VERY commercial with our fit decisions; which, in terms of fit samples being produced was better – but it meant a slightly off-fitting garment being sold. I’m proud that I managed to introduce better ways of working whilst I was there (I’d not have been a decent manager if I’d not left some sort of legacy) but at the end of the day, it really opened up my eyes. It was working there, that I saw the waste on the streets surrounding the factories. The fit samples in the bin at head office.

Circumstances bought me to work for this company, but I am in no way excusing it. In all honestly we needed the money. I needed to save as much as I could so we could get out of the situation. It was a tough two years, but I am  happy to say we got there. I mean – now I am working for myself. I walk my son to school and back everyday. I actually have a social life beyond the office. I have a solid network of friends and family around me.

I have managed to rescued around 400kg (62stones or 880lbs) of textiles from going to landfill. Sourced either from factory deadstock / floor cutting, destash remnant donations or upcycled clothes. Designed, Sewn and Printed by me. Not bad for just over a years working for myself. For my path ahead, I am going to continue to work with reclaimed fabrics. I am going to continue to give you tutorials for a sustainable fashion future.

I would like to have more guest blog posts in the new year – so if you are interested please comment below and I’ll get in touch.

Thank you for reading

Julia x

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2 Comments

  1. Wow what a journey you have had, and what an amazing amount of recycling you have managed to do. I have enjoyed reading about your background and how you got to this point of your career. I worked in fashion too alongside garment technicians, pattern cutters and machinists. I visited many factories luckily all good ones, but the mass produced and wasteful fashion did have an effect in me, there must be a better way right? I shall look forward to what you make next. 💚 H

    Liked by 1 person

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