Upcycled Clothes, Sustainable Fashion, Educating Communities: The story of Stitched Up

| Azad Sharma

Every morning we all wake up and put on clothes, professional, casual, or that strange in-between known as ‘smart casual’. In our century this fashion has become both a highly valued art, a culture filled with style icons, and fully integrated with speed. Fast fashion is a global industry, full of the contradictions of our times such as the relationship between low-waged jobs whose workers are prevented from unionising, to rising costs of clothing, and also increasingly shocking environmental consequences. So what can we do to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment, what can communities do to reclaim fashion from the snares of these contradictory relations between the reduction of the working wage and the rising cost of products? One answer to these issues came from a group of women in Manchester in 2011 who felt ‘stitched-up’ by the fashion industry and wanted to change things for the better.

Stitched Up (est. 2011) are a grassroots alternative fashion collective based in Chorlton, South Manchester. They are a not-for-profit upcycling clothes initiative, a women-led co-operative determined to share knowledge, build community and help people claim their own style whilst helping the environment. In the spirit of the educational side to this new and eclectic initiative, here are some of the eco-facts they provide communities to help them think about the relationship between fast fashion and the environment:

  • Textile production creates more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. 
  • 20% of global industrial water pollution is caused by the dyeing and treatment of textiles. 
  • Each year around half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres shed from plastic-based textiles end up in the ocean.
  • Despite the high cost of creating new clothes, compared to 15 years ago we wear items half as many times before discarding them.
  • More than half of fast fashion items are disposed of in under 12 months. 
  • 300,000 tonnes of this goes to landfill in the UK annually, costing our economy approximately £82 million.

Whilst these facts present us with the big picture, in the spirit of Greta Thunberg and other young women who are taking a stand for the climate, Stitched Up represent another feather in the bow with all arrows pointing towards a future in the name of climate justice. Stitched Up have a three-pronged approach:

  1. Re-Use: Stitched Up take donations of textiles from craftspeople and companies, to prevent them ending up in landfill. These fabrics are used in workshop settings where community members are taught how to upcycle and repair their clothes. The co-operative also run  ‘Clothes Swaps’ every two months. What’s left over is donated to Refugee Aid Chorlton and local charity shops. To find out more about donating fabrics or attending workshops why not get in touch with Stitched Up here
  2. Skill Up: Stitched Up teach sewing, clothes making, mending and upcycling skills to people of all ages and abilities. They have a programme of workshops open to the public and also travel to organisations across Greater Manchester who work with young people and vulnerable adults. To check out up-coming events click here
  3. Educate: Stitched Up run educational events that help raise awareness of the environmental and labour issues in the fast fashion industry, including talks, fashion shows and film screenings. They also support campaigns like Fashion Revolution and Labour Behind the Label

We really enjoyed learning about Stitched Up, an initiative that helps people take control of their style whilst making an impact on the climate as well as engaging with a community. If you want to learn more about them, do check out their blog for articles and tips, or keep in touch on Twitter to hear more about their upcoming events. 

Photo by Stitched Up.

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