For 18 months, we have been running a #donatedenim campaign to collect old denim from the public. The idea was borne out of a want to tackle textile waste, or at least raise awareness to the scale of the problem.
There Is No Clothes Recycling System!
#Donatedenim began following discussions with local charity shop workers. We then had discussions with upper management level of a very large UK charity. The general consensus is that they know the system doesn’t work anymore.
We all buy too much and throw it away without much thought.
Our expectation is that the charity will deal with it. But can they?
The charity structure doesn’t allow for change.
They are not dry cleaners, nor a launderette, but we treat them as such. They are the helpful dumping ground for all the clothes we buy, then regret. Or the dumping ground for old clothes.
Unwashed, smelly, stale, paint stained, torn or plain old dirty.
They say 80% of donations are in this state. It has to get dumped. This figure gets disputed by many, usually from within the industry, but we can tell you one thing - 80% is low.
Our experience from collecting denim is that the figure is more likely 90% unusable.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
If you survey the public you get their best versions of themselves. We all do it. No one is going to be honest in a survey, so the figures skew. Talk is cheap, as they say. Actions speak louder than words.
There is a disconnect between the public perception of doing a good deed and the stark reality. People don’t think. But then again, no one is correcting them!
Only 10% of what we gathered was clean.
Why Is Upcycling So Expensive?
But the disconnect doesn’t end here. We wanted to show that the system doesn’t work, how we can all help and what tools we all have to make a change.
We upcycled the denim into art pieces as a visual statement.
“Look at what we can do” we said. “This material is still usable”.
The public wants the ‘take-away’ service but not the end product. There is no appreciation for the time and work involved. The large fashion brands have destroyed the idea of artisanal work.
The question repeated “why are you so expensive?” without asking “why is fast fashion so cheap?”.
How is it possible to make a new fast fashion skirt for £5?
How is it possible to create fast fashion upcycled denim trousers for £12?
A lot of people are not paid. We all know it.
Our prices reflect 'made in the UK' and trying to earn a living here.
The public isn’t used to that.
So we come back to the point of collecting denim. We decided to put a pause on collecting and halt #donatedenim. Instead we saw this as an opportunity to try a different message with the public.
Instead we ask for you to #savedenim.
This is an opportunity for a greater reach and greater change.
We have heard many anecdotal stories about charity donations.
A comment on a recent social media post has further confirmed to us that the system doesn't work.
A bag of clothes, stinking of urine, donated to a charity.
How is this acceptable in any situation?
The responsibility for our shopping purchases isn’t with the shop.
It is with us. Anything else is avoidance.
Our starting point shouldn’t be to throw out.
Can I reuse it? Can I mend or repair? Can I make it last?
Some of you are thinking can I make it myself?
Positive Behavioural Change
This is why we now ask #savedenim.
Take on the responsibility of your purchases.
It doesn’t have to be scary, it can be fun.
This isn’t about not shopping.
This is about consideration first.
“How often am I going to wear it?”
“What do I do with it when I’m done?”
We ask that people empower themselves to make better use of what they have.
Change through taxation isn’t the answer.
Change through aspiration is a much more positive journey.
Learn Through Online Courses
We teach online sewing & fashion design courses, to give you the skills to make your own clothes. You can also learn how to deal with your old ones.
Slowing down our buying habits and being more mindful of how we donate is the only way to help charities. It'll also help to limit our environmental impact.
That’s what we all want, right?
Click the link if you’d like more information about our online courses.