This week I was beyond thrilled to find out that one of my closest friends got engaged to her university sweetheart and soulmate. So naturally, this has got me all excited about all things ‘wedding’.
Weddings, however, are not the most eco-friendly of occasions. For me, the wedding dress in particular – worn for just that one occasion and costing so much in both money and materials – is the epitome of excess and consumerism… However, there are some designers out there who are filling the void where eco-friendly wedding dresses should be, and providing beautiful alternatives for the sustainably-savvy bride.
I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram recently, as one often does, when I spotted a post by 2 Minute Beach Clean which caught my attention. It was a photo of an incredible dress made entirely out of recycled bodyboard covers…
I had to message the designer, Linda Thomas, to find out more about her dresses and what inspires her…
Have you always been a dressmaker?
I was brought up with my Mum always dressmaking and I was always creating something. By about 10 years old I was using my Mum’s sewing machine and I can remember making earrings from black plastic bags as my earliest upcycling project!
What inspired you to move into the world of fashion?
I won Young Designer of Nottingham when I was a teenager for a Black and Blue Angular Velvet Dress. I had two strong yearnings: one was to help people, and the other was creativity. In the end, I realised I could still be creative on the side if I went to Medical School, but I couldn’t be a doctor on the side if I went to Art College. I did carry on creating but it was more than a decade until I returned to making clothes.
Why upcycled clothing?
There was no question that I would be an eco fashion designer as there would be no beauty for me in designing something damaging the Earth, but the reason I chose upcycling was due to the shocking problem with waste all over the world. In the UK alone there are still 1.5million tonnes of textile waste going to landfill each year. In Bristol alone, 20 tonnes of textile waste is sorted through by Bristol Textile Recyclers every day. Although there are exceptions, the production process of the vast majority of new fabric has likely damaged the environment and been involved in oppressive conditions for people the world over.
What materials do you work with and how are they sourced sustainably?
When I’m not working with broken bodyboards, I usually upcycle with quite luxurious materials like silk and cashmere. I source these materials from local charity shops and sometimes from vintage pieces. Sometimes my clients have a favourite damaged garment and I can salvage some material from it for something new.
Do you strive to be eco-friendly in your personal life too? Is your wardrobe sustainable?
In my personal life everything changed 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I read an article in The Ecologist about non-organic cotton. Up until then I thought that was pure and natural, to realise it was one of the most polluting and harmful crops on the planet shocked me. Despite a passion for clothes, I decided to give up on regular shops and only buy pre-loved or new eco clothing. During the last decade it has got easier and easier to do that. We are a family of eco warriors and we continue to learn new things. We don’t fly, which has led to amazing alternative journeys. We grow and buy organic food which is always more delicious. We follow the motto refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. We are a cycling and walking family, but we do own a now quite old hybrid car for longer journeys.
Your recent work has involved working with beach cleaning projects, tell us a bit about your eco-collaborations.
This last collaboration was with BeachCare of Keep Britain Tidy. I had seen their pile of bodyboards the year before and wanted to do something about it. I didn’t realise I was going to make quite so big a dress at the outset. I am a fairly new member of Surfers Against Sewage 250 club and I am hoping to be able to contribute, not just money but also my expertise, to help look at all of the different plastics contaminating our Oceans. A lot of people think of bottles as plastic but don’t realise all polyester and nylon materials are also plastic and lead to microplastic pollution that also enters the sea, even just from washing those clothes. I am already brewing up my next project in my head…
What makes you a guilty environmentalist?
I don’t like the term ‘guilty ‘as it is such a negative emotion. I have to be very conscious about my showering time. I find it easy to go into flow states and lose track of time. The other thing I am very aware of is that we still have stuff in our black bin. So much stuff seems to come in plastic packaging and that makes me feel sad and responsible. There are still many foodstuffs that I hate the packaging for…tofu for one!
You can find Linda Thomas Eco Design on her website.
Instagram : @linda_eco_design
Facebook: Linda Thomas Eco Design