Contemporary fashion – heirloom pieces or destined for landfill?

Scarf-1993-coat-vintageFrom the spring of this year, the British women’s fashion brand ‘Jigsaw’ has been running an ad campaign with the strapline “For life not landfill”. There has been a media wall running along the walkway at Oxford Circus underground station showing Jigsaw posters in front of an enormous photograph of a landfill mountain.

Media wall ad - Jigsaw, Oxford Circus underground station, London. Spring 2015
Media wall ad – Jigsaw, Oxford Circus underground station, London.
Spring 2015

It is an interesting theme for a contemporary fashion brand to highlight. The snappy slogan, “For life not landfill”, also appears at the top of a series of magazine advertisements showing vintage clothing paired with a new, Jigsaw garment. Naturally, in other parts of the world and in our past the idea that we would consign cloth to landfill would be an outrage. Clothing was worn, restyled, passed down, patched and repaired. Textiles were routinely recycled.

Jigsaw magazine advertisement. Sunday Times Style supplement. September 2015
Jigsaw magazine advertisement. Sunday Times Style supplement.
September 2015

My mother was a great collector of scarves and when she died I inherited some of her ‘heirloom’ pieces which poignantly (but I guess not really surprisingly) included some of my early work. So here is my version of ‘For life not landfill’. Top of this blog post photo shows silk scarf (1993) paired with my vintage navy blue wool and cashmere coat purchased secondhand in 1988. And, below, same crepe de chine silk scarf with contemporary linen shirt and suede skirt finished with a leather belt (1975).

Simplicity pattern 1953.
Simplicity pattern 1953.

But our best family clothing heirloom is a brick-red, mid-weight wool waistcoat made by my mother in the 1950s. She made this waistcoat and also a skirt from a wool coat. She had originally bought the coat from a shop on Oxford Street, London, when she first started work. She passed on her waistcoat to me when I was a teenager.

I would post a photo of it, but the waistcoat is now with my daughter back in London. However, I’ve still got the original paper pattern which my mother used. So, that’s a coat restyled to a waistcoat and worn by three generations – 1948, 1979 and 2015!

And, finally, a quick reminder whilst we are on the theme of buying quality, so-called heirloom pieces, it is ‘Buy British Day’ this Saturday, October 3rd which coincidentally was my mother’s birthday.

Buy-British-Day-Saturday-3-October-2015

Make it British on Buy British Day

Rag Rugs – Upcycling for the 21st Century

My Kitchen Rag Rug

There is a display at the Time and Tide Museum, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk that shows a 1940s bedroom with an old-fashioned rag rug placed in front of the fire.

Time & Tide Museum.
1940s bedroom fireplace at the Time & Tide Museum.
rag rug
Simple patterned rag rug.

I remember my Grandmother had one similarly placed in her sitting room only hers was to protect her polished floorboards from sparks. And, the little rug disappeared whenever there were visitors.

Now, I said ‘old-fashioned’, but perhaps I should have said vintage or ‘upcycled’. In 1997, remembering that little rug I persuaded my mother to ‘prod’ one for me. She was very patient. I drew out the design on a piece of hessian, provided her with a colour guide and gave her a bundle of old woollen cloth.

Notebook pagesThe rich colours, the dark red, brown and purple, are from old coats bought from charity shops along with some old blankets. Blankets tend to wear out in the middle leaving the edges still thick and useful. I cut off the edges and dyed them to make the oranges and pinks.

The colour guide I gave to my mother - found in my old 'dyes' notebook (bit of luck).
The colour guide I gave to my mother – found in my old ‘dyes’ notebook (bit of luck).

After several weeks, my very, very patient mother finished this three feet by four feet rag rug.

Kitchen rag rug

Originally made for a bedroom in a previous house, the rag rug is now in my kitchen. Ten years on the kitchen floor and it’s wearing very well!