Last weekend I went to the wonderful Crafty Fox Market – a grouping of South London’s finest arts and crafters – when it came to Peckham’s Bussey Building. And it’s there that I met Russell, founder of CUSHN COMPANY, who makes cushion covers and pads using textile waste from the creative industries.
Cushn Co has a simple, sustainable vision: to stop textiles from going into landfill by processing the offcuts from fashion and costume houses. Russell also uses end of roll and ethically sourced fabrics to make plant hammocks and will soon be launching a flower vase.
I thought this was a genius idea (and the products look amazing), so I asked Russell a few questions…
What gave you the idea for Cushn?
Over my career in fashion styling and costume design, I have made a lot of bespoke items for different adverts and performances. Being left with offcuts and scrap fabrics from each job, my studio started filling up as I couldn’t find anywhere to recycle them. My friends who run fashion houses and costume studios, had no suggestions on how to deal with this waste and all of them just chucked it in the bin and sent it to the dump. The reality of this waste problem being industry-wide, made me feel pretty sad, but also determined to provide a solution.
Where and how do you get your materials?
We have partnerships with costume designers, fashion designers, theatres and sewing classes. We recycle offcuts in part exchange for end of roll luxury fabrics. The offcuts are processed to make cushion pad filling, which has a consistency comparable to feather down. The larger fabric pieces and end of roll materials are used to make the cushion covers, plant hammocks and other sustainable products. We currently use organic cotton for the pad outers and are looking into sourcing a lower impact fibre like hemp or bamboo instead. We are constantly trying to reduce our environmental footprint and always love suggestions of how we can do this. If your readers have any suggestions on how we can improve anything we do, we would love to hear from them. Our goal is to become a zero landfill, no carbon studio, not just zero landfill products. We dream of offering a circular economy service to the garment industry and stop all waste.
Do you strive to be as eco-friendly as possible in your day to day life too?
I imagine most people have found it easier to be ethical at home, compared to at work – I know I have. That’s why at Cushn Co we are constantly trying to reduce our plastic dependancy and carbon emissions, amongst other initiatives and are always up for hearing advice on ways to be greener. We love cycling everywhere and we are always looking fora materials and fittings that are more sustainable than we currently use. On a more personal level, I live a veggie life, leaning towards vegan, and buy food from the local green grocers that uses no packaging. I think one of the most powerful ways to make a positive change is to choose where you spend your money. Living in a culture where profit comes before all else, I believe your buying power should be used to promote good companies that care about more than the bottom line. I want my hard earned pennies to support ethical companies and help them grow to a point where they can influence the wider market and make bigger changes.
Do you have an Achilles’ heel? What makes you a guilty environmentalist?
Plastic is the one thing I still haven’t been able to completely remove from plant hammocks. They have to be plastic lined so the plants can be watered. The plastic we are currently using is factory seconds that are twice recycled. First used by students to make composition garments and then deconstructed and used by us. I have been experimenting with making starch-based plastic, but I haven’t got a waterproof version just yet. Hopefully this will come into fruition next year, after a bit more R&D. My other weakness is leather shoes. I avoid animal products where I can, but sometimes I just can’t get the vegan footwear in the styles I want.
Where can people find you?
Our studio and shop is at 146 Columbia Road and we are open every Sunday for the flower market. Please come down and say hi. We love to hear tips and suggestions from our customers, in person and online. You can find us on social media @cushncompany and on the Cushn Co website.