We can repair or refresh old clothes, donate to charity shops or swap with friends. Here we speak with refashionistas about how to turn unwanted items into something fun and new!
Girlwithbeads is a brand dedicated to recycled fashion, all handmade by designer Rebecca Vorperian from her home in Walthamstow, East London.
‘I have always been interested in making things and after I received a sewing machine for my 21st birthday there was no stopping me,’ says Rebecca. ‘As a student I began scouring charity shops for materials to experiment with and soon discovered a treasure trove of inspiration. I love the challenge of taking existing items and turning them into something new whilst keeping a sense of what they were before.’
The range at girlwithbeads.co.uk includes items for adults and children, with unique handmade bags, cool t-shirts customised with vintage ties and fun accessories like giant button brooches and bow tie necklaces. Each design has its own personality, charm and history, from the very British flat cap bag, to the country tweed suit bag and the retro cartoon curtain kids drawstring bag; they all have a definite spark of nostalgia.
Rebecca continues to source a lot of her materials from local charity shops and each piece is carefully chosen and prepared before being transformed. The great thing about using recycled materials is that every creation is unique. She set up girlwithbeads in 2003 after leaving university, as a part-time creative outlet from more mundane day jobs, and it has grown over the past 10 years to the point where it is now a full time business. ‘Over the years I have had my work featured in various exhibitions and books, and been involved with lots of events and workshops all promoting eco design,’ she enthuses. ‘Its great to now be working for myself full time and I’m lucky to have a very supportive husband who helps me take all my stock to events.’
Girlwithbeads kids range or “Mini gwb” launched three years ago with the very cool Tie t-shirt range for babies and children made using organic cotton t-shirts and vintage ties. ‘The Tie T-shirts have been my best seller in recent years, popular with kids and parents alike, as they can look smart for special occasions and be comfortable at the same time,’ says Rebecca. ‘I love making them, I have a huge stash of ties in big boxes divided by colour and have great fun matching up t-shirts & ties.’ There is also an option to have a bespoke set made for father and son with matching ties. A great gift idea for new dads or Fathers day.
Rebecca is keen to encourage others to recycle and save money by thinking creatively. ‘One of my favourite ways for parents to reuse clothing that their children have out-grown is a memory quilt, especially using baby clothes – what a lovely way to keep and remember your child’s early years. Those who don’t have the time or skill to start quilt making, could try making a simple little bag from an old favourite child’s t-shirt - by cutting off the sleeves, turning it upside down and sewing up the bottom, and voila! - you have a lovely little lunch bag!’
Linda Gray and Kally Laurence (aka Queenie and Ted) set up an upcycled clothing shop together to share their love of beautiful women’s clothes.
‘We started Queenie and Ted (queenieandted.co.uk) because we weren’t finding interesting and sustainable clothes on the high street that we could fall in love with,’ says Ted. ‘We decided to use our fine art training and obsession of all things fabricy to upcycle good quality women’s garments that are individual and have real soul. New life is breathed into old clothes that would probably otherwise be heading for landfill, with the addition of quirky re cycled fabric motifs, decorative stitching, braids and buttons.’
Queenie and Ted live in Walthamstow in East London with their respective partners. Ted’s husband is an artist/metal worker and Queenie’s is known as The Chair Man as he recycles old dining chairs. ‘We have three children between us,’ shares Ted. ‘They’re all teenagers now; aged between 15 and 18, and, we are happy to say, all have creative, and green, tendancies!’
Customers can bring their own lacklustre pieces to the shop in Columbia Rd in London, E2 (Queenie and Ted are in the process of moving shop to Walthamstow Village so check the website for updates), and the items will be transformed into something special that won’t cost the earth, both in terms of price and the environment. ‘People love having a relationship with us as designers and having some input into what their finished garment will look like,’ says Ted. ‘Customers include MPs, gallery owners and some lovely clients from Japan.’
‘Our designs are a bit like our children so we don’t always like to pick a favourite but I have a soft spot for my cockney sparrow motif and Queenie loves making the Frida Kahlo inspired design in particular.’ Because each piece is unique and often fun they appeal to women who are tired of the prescribed fashion found on the high street.
Ted suggests making a collage out of outgrown children’s clothes as a way of remembering the short-lived baby and toddler years. ‘A great way for parents to reuse kids clothes that they’ve grown out of is to patchwork sections of them into some sort of memory collage,’ she says. ‘Even if you don’t sew, fabrics from children’s favourite dresses, trousers and jumpers can be assembled and glued onto a canvas to evoke special recollections of good times that you can all keep for ever.’
This approach is even used in the beautiful handcrafted jackets and dresses made for women at Queenie and Ted. ‘We also use bits of old children’s clothing to make decorative patches in our embellished designs,’ explains Ted. ‘A piece of a treasured child’s summers dress, for example, can be patched over a hole on another garment, or can be used to “pimp up” a tired piece of clothing to create something that is one-of-kind and truly personal.’
LEARN Check out janome.co.uk for a variety of creative workshops in Stockport, including dressmaking and crafting accessories. In Devon, try re-dress.org.uk and in London, for teens, we love streetstylesurgery.co.uk.
ENJOY The picture galleries at GetReDressed on Instagram feature a year of wearing only recycled clothing - instagram.com/GetRedressed
READ Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for your Creative Child by Meg McElwee