Recycled (left/top) and Bioplastic (bottom/right) sequins, by the Sustainable Sequin Company
Pic 1: Me in all the sequins - Photo and awesome necklace: TartWork
Now THIS could be a game changer!
I've been talking about this for some time, in that non-bio cosmetic glitter is now a cause for shock and outrage, but that the same people that walk around dripping with bio-glitter still go mad for sequins.. a top to toe outfit literally made of plastic is really no cause for concern?! (Oh I'm one of them, I'm not preaching!) Don't even get me started on face gems..
The difference between cosmetic glitter and sequin outfits is, of course, that one is single use and the other is an investment piece. I have a Rosa Bloom playsuit that I've cherished for about 5 years now. But I've been mulling over sequins for a while now. Designing my rain capes to sustainable standards, I've become more aware (not perfect, just aware) of the eco-friendly nature of clothes. I agonised over the few inches of nylon webbing involved in the Carny Valley easy-stow carry system because it was non-natural. It eventually made the cut because of it's durability. My capes are made to last and therefore their 'working parts' need to match up with the lifespan of the waxed cotton.
But back to sequins. The fast fashion industry has cottoned on to the love of shiny things. Once indie stalwart institutions, festivals (and the festival wardrobe), have become more mainstream. Now, as well as quality indie-label, boutique makers such as Rosa Bloom, Lady Jane and Kuccia, the high street has started churning out cheap fashion sequinned pieces. What happens to these cheaper items when people have worn them to their festival(s), sequins have fallen off and seams unravelled?
Enter this research.. Rachel Clowes, founder of the Sustainable Sequin Company and all round sequin saviour, is collaborating with Bangor University's experts in 'biocomposites' to create biodegradable / compostable sequins from a type of bioplastic called PLA (Polylactic Acid).. A quick Google of the name leads me to an Etsy shop full of recycled plastic (recycled polyethylene terephthalate or 'rPET') sequins! I'm gonna say that again.. *RECYCLED PLASTIC SEQUINS* This lady is already offering a greener alternative to virgin plastic sequins. She might be my new hero.. (Check out her Facebook page for general eco-glitter chat).
Back to compostable sequins. What popped into my head when I read this was 'Yey! Finally!' followed quickly by 'But how long will they last?'. Where does that leave investment pieces that aren't meant to be worn and thrown away? If used, will my sequins literally degrade whilst on the garment (remembering my +5yr old Rosa Bloom - I'm no throwaway girl!)? A quick read around tells me that PLA is an incredible material used in a wide range of items from medical screws to compostable cups! To degrade, it requires moisture and warmth upwards of 140/170 C (depending on the source you read). It sounds like these sequins will be fine on your garment, as long as you don't hot wash it and you don't leave it in your car in the summer..
Rachel's reasoning behind biodegradable sequins is that partywear is worn 2-3 times and then relegated to the back of the wardrobe. Does this ring true for you? Rachel's argument then is that you're then just storing waste until you finally throw out the garment. Her work is fascinating - Pic 2 features her work, showing three stages of garment life. 1. Intact 2. Partially 'liquified' sequins to create a 'new, old' outfit 3. All sequins gone and parts dyed with colour released on degradation, the outfit is still wearable and has transformed into a less bling, more everyday outfit.
"...Garments celebrate the ephemeral as they become enduring: everyday clothes that were once special clothes." Rachel Clowes in an interview listed below
In a reductionist way - three looks for the price of one, no worries about lost, bent or sequins that have lost their lustre.
From the other end of the fashion market, it's not likely that budget labels will produce garments with this type of artistic evolutionary approach. However, how will the cost of bioplastic sequins compare to standard sequins - ie will the cheap end of the market choose the eco-friendly or will they choose the cheapest, (whichever that might be)?
A lot to ponder but super exciting news! I'd love to hear your thoughts..
Are you a designer? Do you use recycled plastic sequins? Would you consider using bioplastic sequins? What would you need to know before buying?
Are you a consumer and lover of all the shiny things? Would you pay more for eco-sequins? What would be your questions to the designers of your shiny outfits?
Questions! Discussion! Go!
Pic 2: Rachel Clowes - Three stages of a bio-sequinned garment
"I’m working on developing zero waste designs as I’ve found that, on average, 33% of sequin film is wasted during the conventional punching process of round sequins.." Rachel Clowes in an interview listed below
Fair warning, this is not meant to be a light-hearted read.
You'll probably have heard the term 'fast fashion'. This post looks at a real consequence of fast fashion.
The day I wrote this post was the 6th anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh. You might remember it. Bangladesh is probably a long way away, from where you're sat reading this, right?
1,134 people died. 2,600 were injured, many of them seriously and irreparably. This includes kids in the nursery at the bottom of the building.
This is jaw-droppingly bad.
Still, we are removed from it. Unless we have a direct connection with Bangladesh; family, friends, travel, it’s hard to be genuinely emotionally moved as much as we should be, at least without watching footage or seeing photos. That’s just human distancing.
What if I told you that the connection you had with those people was that they were in effect working for you. They were making your clothes. The people in that factory were sewing clothes for western high street fashion brands including Primark, Monsoon Accessorise, Matalan, Benetton, Walmart and Bonmarche.
That brings it closer to home, right?
The enforceable agreement that was signed three weeks after the Savar building collapsed that housed Rana Plaza is currently threatened. Not everyone wants the accord in place. Ask yourself - why was the Savar building built to 8 stories, way above building regulations? Why, when huge cracks started to appear and workers were scared to go in, could work not be suspended? Why did people in charge threaten workers with pay suspensions if they didn’t enter unsafe buildings, ultimately paying with their lives for fear of losing their appallingly tiny wages?
Because of Western greed for cheap fashion.
It’s an unpleasant truth.
This is not meant to be about guilt. This is not meant to be about perfection.
This is about joining a movement. A groundswell.
Buy less. Buy better. Ask questions. Be informed.
Choose sustainable, slow fashion brands. View your clothes as an investment. By doing this, you're not only buying clothes, you're investing in people.
Find out a bit more about my rain cape design and manufacturing team HERE
How can I help with this fight?
Follow hashtags #slowfashion #fashionrevolution #fashionrevolutionweek and #whomademyclothes #imadeyourclothes
1) It'll rain.
When it does, have a think about your rain coat, if you currently own one. Think about your best festival outfit. Do you want to put that raincoat over your best festival outfit? If the answer is no, put a mental tick in the yes column for one of our rain capes. They're designed to compliment, to be a valid part of your outfit, not to cover you up in everyday dullness. We want you to feel like you want it to rain, just so you can put your cape on and feel gorgeous, dry and smug all in one! Trust us, that's how it works.
2) You don't want to carry a coat around in the dance tents.
I know right?! Carrying stuff when you want to dance is the WORST. That's why our rain capes are designed with the unique Carny Valley ® hands free Easy Stow Carry System - two D-rings at the neck and an S-biner clip means you can clip to a bumbag, belt, back pack or bag. No carrying, tying around your waist, stashing, checking or losing it! They're short, so they don't drag, and lightweight - our lightest cape is currently 650g so you'll barely notice it's there. Another tick.
3) You'll want to sit down.
It might have stopped raining hours ago, even the day before, but no-one wants a soggy butt, or crazy-grass ass print.. Let's face it, it's way nicer to sit on a picnic blanket but no-one wants to carry one. Unclip your cape, spread it out and its big enough for two or three bums to sit on, or one person to lie down on. It's waterproof with a soft lining AND it's wipe clean. GENIUS. That's another tick in the yes column..
4) It gets cold at night.
Even if it doesn't rain, it still gets a bit chilly. You don't want to carry a coat around for later, or have to go back to the tent when you're out on a mission... You know how it is; the next band you want to see is on straight after this one but you're getting cold, or the woods just look so pretty to chill out in but now you've come out of the dance tent you need more layers.. Just clip your cape on when you go out, throw it on when it gets cold. On and off. Easy. And because it's cotton and lined, it's just another layer of fabric, not a plastic wrapper. Tick four.
5) They're eco-friendly.
If all that hasn't persuaded you, we hope that you'll want to be part of the growing sustainable, eco movement and not part of the problem. The after-pics of festival sites look like plastic battlegrounds; festivals imitating life, right? Our capes are made from natural materials, metal studs and the tiniest, hard-wearing piece of nylon strap we can get away with for our hands free stow system. They're made to last for years and years if you take care of them, but if for some crazy reason you decided to bury one in the compost heap, the cotton would degrade in under a year. But don't do that.. We're currently working on a new for old recycling scheme. We hope that's tick number five.
Emma is wearing Coat D'Azur Double Tier. She is 5'10(/5'11)", owns a Coat D'Azur Single Tier and is an awesome travelling hula hooper. She's also vegan so is super happy our capes are too. Leggings models own