Discarded to designer: Zero Waste Scotland partners with Salvation Army to create couture collection from pre-worn fabrics

published on 15 Dec 2016

Last week, two Scottish designers were revealed as the winners of a competition to work with Zero Waste Scotland and Salvation Army Trading Company on a catwalk-ready fashion collection made entirely from pre-worn textiles.

Amiee Kent and Black Cherry Studio impressed the judging panel with their enthusiasm and sustainable credentials. They were invited to the Salvation Army’s Belshill warehouse in Glasgow to rummage through a tonne of textiles, and select just 150 kilos for their project. They will now embark on a 12-week residency to create two new ‘fashion-forward’ collections.

The initiative is part of the Love Your Clothes campaign, of which the Salvation Army is a key supporter. It is designed to challenge consumers to consider the value of their clothes, reminding them that textiles can be reused and recycled in many different ways and should never be thrown away.

Catherine Hamou from The Salvation Army Trading Company said: “There is so much value in textiles that people often don’t see, so we’re really excited to play a part in this project. The creativity of these talented designers should prove to be very inspiring and we’re looking forward to the results over the coming months.”

The Salvation Army Trading Company is one of the largest clothing recyclers in the UK with over 200 charity shops in the UK as well as thousands of recycling banks. Each year, the British public donate around 30,000 tonnes of textiles, and the organisation is able to reuse or recycle over 99%, not only to help raise vital funds for the charity’s work with vulnerable people but also to divert waste away from landfill.

Catherine added: “As a charity that works with vulnerable people all over the country, we see the effects of poverty every day; clothing should never be thrown away when it can be reused or re-worn. Donating textiles to charities like us means that you’re helping to raise millions of pounds each year for people who need it most – and not only that, but you’re helping to prevent hugely unnecessary waste that could be heading straight to landfill.”

According to Zero Waste Scotland, in the UK alone, garments have an estimated life span of two years, three months. The average Scottish household owns around £4,000 worth of clothes, but wear only 70 percent of that each year, most commonly because it no longer fits. It is estimated that £140million worth (350,000 tonnes) of used clothes ends up in landfill each year, which is over 30 percent of our wardrobes.

Lynn Wilson, textiles manager, Zero Waste Scotland said: “The project aims to encourage Scots to pass on or donate old clothes first and recycle second. I believe that with a little TLC, most unwanted clothing can be transformed into something valuable. We really want people to see there is worth in their clothes.”

Once the 12-week residency is complete, an expert fashion panel will appraise the collections and deliver their professional valuations on how much the newly created pieces are worth.

Specialising in printed textiles, Aimee Kent – who has worked with Henrietta Ludgate and Niki Taylor from The Top Project and Olanic – and Black Cherry Studio who have supplied Kookai, Jaques Vert and Primark – will create couture collections from clothes donated to Salvation Army charity shops and clothing banks, thereby transforming them into catwalk-worthy creations.

Joint winner, Aimee Kent said: “I feel honoured to have been chosen to take part. This opportunity is the perfect fit for me, because I already run a sustainable surface pattern design which focuses on the re-use of materials. I want to create designs that can be worn again and again and never go out of style. That’s what I intend to do here.”

Speaking of the upcoming challenge, Jemma Wood, owner of Black Cherry Studio said: “It feels absolutely amazing to have been selected. We were blown away when we heard the news. I have lots of great ideas that I am keen to get started on.

“I want to create a meaningful collection that brings together elements of both the Salvation Army and Zero Waste Scotland. Our specialism is textile print, which will breathe new life into the unwanted garments and shoe people that with a little creativity you can turn the unwanted into the desirable. I can’t wait to get started.”

The commission will finish on 28 February 2016 with the collections unveiled in March 2016.