Dundee charity transforms waste into fashion

Rhianne Grieve and Cally Thomson

A DUNDEE charity changing lives through a clothes-making qualification has launched a project to turn Scottish designers’ waste material into fashion.

Through Front Lounge, 34 learners have completed the SQA-accredited Kindred Clothing qualification since its launch in 2020, with an additional 10 set to graduate so far this summer.  Due to its success, the qualification is now attracting interest from schools, veterans and even a prison, with 12 projects in the pipeline across the UK gathering speed.

Today, the charity launched EVOLUTION, a pilot project where Christie Wanless, Front Lounge’s Fashion Technologist, will create marketable products from Scottish designers’ waste material, which they can go on to sell. Christie, a self-confessed ‘ambassador for slow fashion’, is already producing garments for Jo-AMI in Dundee and Orkney designer Kirsteen Stewart while appealing to other designers to get involved.

To celebrate the launch, a recent cohort of learners showcased and modelled their own sustainable collections, including lounge suits, dungarees, and dresses.

The learners were supported by Megan McKay of Dundee-based Little Peril Studio, who helped them define and refine their style and develop a coherent collection of garments using offcuts and waste materials. Megan also worked with the group on creating a brand, with a ‘deep dive’ into their personality and values.    

Megan (27), who creates clothing and accessories made from new, recycled and upcycled materials, said, “I’ve always cared about the environment but that came into sharp focus at university when I started to see how much the fashion industry is destroying the planet and so many different eco-systems within it. Essentially, I wanted to do what I love without damaging the environment. It’s not just about the fabric waste; it’s about the leftover dye waste, residual chemical waste, bleach waste, and everything that goes into making the clothes.

“Because of our shared values, it’s wonderful working with Kindred Clothing and launching EVOLUTION. The current group have been so motivated and shown real talent. As with all industries, rules and regulations around waste disposal within fashion are tightening and we have a legal and moral responsibility to minimise the impact of our work.  EVOLUTION will give fashion businesses the perfect outlet for their waste fabric while creating some truly unique, high-quality garments in the process.”

As well as providing evidence for learners’ course portfolios, photos of their creations will be showcased as part of Fashion Revolution Week (15-24 April 2024).

Today’s launch was also attended by Ellie Fraser of Baldragon Academy, who graduated this summer. She was joined by peers Molly Caithness, Aimee Simpson and Brooke McMillan, all Kindred Clothing graduands.  After completing the course in February 2024, the group went on to make clothes to road-test EVOLUTION.

At just 12 years old, Brooke is Kindred Clothing’s youngest learner. She said, “I have loved gaining more knowledge and skills around what I love doing, which is sewing. I also hope that Kindred Clothing will give me the confidence to start my own brand and hopefully launch a business in the future.”

Meanwhile, Kerry Livie (44), a mum of two from Dundee and part of the current cohort, joined Kindred Clothing while signed off for work with post-viral fatigue.

Kerry, who chose a neon theme for her collection, added: “I’m hugely limited in what I can do, and my concentration is poor, so it’s easy to feel down. However, I’m determined by nature and want to push myself while I prepare to return to work. Kindred Clothing is definitely helping with that. Although it’s challenging and particularly exhausting for me, it relaxes me and gives me a focus for the day. I’m also part of a wonderful group of women, all with their own backstories. I’ve also learnt a skill – I couldn’t sew on a button before! I took some of my girls’ old summer dresses in and have used parts to customise my trims and sleeves, so it’s fantastic to give these items a new lease of life! Best of all, my girls have started sewing too, so we have a new hobby we can do as a family when I need a quieter day.”

Started by a group of young parents in Dundee, Kindred Clothing has been credited with building confidence, raising aspirations and improving mental health and wellbeing.  Many of its learners have progressed to further or higher education, secured meaningful employment or returned to school after a period of reduced or non-attendance. 

Christie Wanless, Fashion Technologist at Front Lounge, said: “Through our engagement with local designers, it became clear that they didn’t have many options to manage deadstock and waste fabric, so we invited them to give us our waste. Our learners then chose the fabric they wanted to work with and, with our support, created their own mini collections. The waste from fast fashion is shocking, and I’m determined to inspire our learners to be creative and express their design personality without having to go out and buy new fabric. For designers, EVOLUTION presents a viable solution to deal with waste fabrics and we look forward to attracting new businesses to get involved.”

For more information about Kindred Clothing, visit www.frontlounge.org

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