I recently received an invitation to the Leeds College of Art end of year fashion show. Among the graduates showing their collections, a name grabbed my attention, as I’ve recently been following a project of hers which does tune in with my Slow approach to wardrobe management.
Hannah Gower has launched Don’t Be Tight, a campaign created to reduce the amount of tights making their way to landfill. Hannah explains: “The tights campaign came around from noticing the short life tights live: they seem to ladder or split after only a couple of wears, with their next stop being the dustbin. Not only they are thrown away far too much and too often, adding to the shocking and increasing amount of textile waste on landfill, but they are non-biodegradable. My campaign wants to instil the idea that tights can live more than the life on your legs; bring inspiration in what people can do with their unwanted hosiery (and unwanted clothing) instead of disposing straight away.” Hannah seeks donations of laddered or unused tights, which she will reuse for her creations. “On the off chance I tried knitting with them, they worked perfectly creating unpredictable movement, stretch and texture within the garment.”
I got interested in Hanna’s project as I, as a Slow fashion consultant, am constantly looking for solutions to inspire my clients and my readers to make better choices for their wardrobes.
If you are interested in donating your tights, you can post them to: Hannah Gower – Don’t Be Tight, Leeds College of Art, Blenhiem Walk, Leeds. Or you can drop them off at Remade In Leeds, Hyde Park, Leeds. Don’t Be Tight are also hoping to have a few collection boxes around the country, so if you would be able to host one, do get in touch with them! Or follow them on facebook here.
Another project that’s been running in the past was the Tights for Ethiopia Charity Appeal organised by Tightplease. Their research showed that 524,000 women die from pregnancy and childbirth complications each year and of these deaths, 99% occur in impoverished, developing countries. For every woman who dies, another 40 or 50 suffer severe injuries and complications. Tights are a great way to hold medical dressings in place and so in late 2008 and early 2009 Tightsplease collected over 10,000 pairs of tights to help the Addis Ababa Fistula hospital in Ethiopia. Unfortunately the appeal in now over, but Tightplease still offer ideas on how to re-use the tights before they end up in the bin.
However, another question is: where to buy sustainable tights in the first place? This is a trickier one. Tights are made of synthetic fibres, which are not biodegradable. The only natural fibres hosiery can be made of are organic cotton and bamboo, but obviously they don’t offer the same versatility as nylon, especially if we are looking for fine tights, or nude. My personal advice would be to buy thicker tights (40 deniers or up), which ladder much less easily and can last for a very long time (before you repurpose them, obviously!).
Or, if we can’t avoid the environmental issue that comes with the actual product, at least we now have an example where the environmental impact of at least the production has been addresses and greatly reduced. Courtaulds Textiles has been supplying M&S with hosiery for more than 30 years. As a retailer, M&S has a 28 per cent share of the British hosiery market, so any innovation they can back would be of great impact for the specific market. The great news is that Courtaulds, which is Britain’s largest producer of underwear, carried out a £2m renovation project at their West-Mill hosiery plant in Belper, Derbyshire, that has halved the factory’s energy consumption over the past five years. A new high-efficiency chiller, heat-recovery system and a reuse and recycle process have allowed the site to reduce its water consumption by 20 per cent and achieve a 100 per cent reduction in waste sent to landfill. The moved was recognised by M&S, who awarded Courtaulds with its Plan A eco-factory status – the first in the UK, and also the first UK supplier of hosiery for M&S. Jonny Mitchell, the managing director of Courtaulds legwear, said the factory’s changes, such as reduced energy and water consumption, have given it an “edge again to be able to compete with the Far East”.
I wonder if it’s possible for the average shopper to walk into an M&S branch and know which pair of tights has been produced by Courtaulds – that would really empower us to make the ultimate choice, and show the retailer we do choose a specific product thanks to its eco credentials. However the numbers are quite encouraging.
So here’s another solution for your Slow wardrobe! As it’s often the case, more could be done, but my philosophy is that we can at least start doing something and making some small choices. As with everything else: shop smart, and get creative!
Tags: campaign, charity, Courtaulds Textiles, Don't Be Tight, Ethiopia, Hannah Gower, landfill, Leeds, Leeds College of Art, M&S, Marks & Spencers, Plan A, recycling, Remade In Leeds, slow fashion, tights, Tightsplease, upcycling