#EalingSewnUp was the result of a casual conversation with OPEN Ealing about how to celebrate the too-often-overlooked creativity of sewing and crafting and its vital role in unique and sustainable fashion.
We live in an era where we only wear half the clothes in our wardrobe and social media culture often makes young people feel that a new outfit is needed for every new post. Not only is this terrible for our wallets but it is putting our vulnerable planet under even greater pressure. Why?
I remember my mum mending my clothes and borrowing a sewing machine to continually adapt the hems in my trousers and skirts as I grew. In my teens (in the 90’s) I proudly tie-dyed some fabric and inserted it into some old jeans to create flares to go with the “look” I wanted at the time. Life got busy, I no longer had access to a sewing machine and buying new just felt like my only option. I am sure this story (perhaps not the tie-dyed flares part!) resonates with many people. Through launching EalingSewnUp I have dug deeper into the culture of Ealing and discovered inspirational people doing amazing things that make sustainable fashion choices both accessible and incredibly fun. One of these inspiring people is Toyah Hemmings, founder and genius behind Design It Yourself.
I first met Toyah in Ealing Broadway’s Cafe Zee. She radiates the creative can-do attitude that I have come to realise typifies sustainable fashion. Next to her wheelie suitcase packed full of all she needs for her next up-cycling workshop she enthusiastically introduces me to her world of transforming clothes destined for landfill into unique & gorgeous wardrobe items and accessories. Her inspiration was her dad who was always tinkering with a needle and thread. Toyah later realised she had a natural talent for creating eye-catching pieces when she started customising baby outfits for her daughter.
With creativity and motherhood spurring her on, she applied to the Prince’s Trust and secured a loan to start her business running upcycling workshops for young people. The business went from strength to strength and importantly was sufficiently flexible to work with family life.
Toyah credits the Prince’s Trust for her success, “I am so grateful to The Prince’s Trust for helping me realise my dream – helping me write my business plan, assigning me a mentor who became very dear to me and sadly passed away after working with me for 3 years. He helped me build up confidence, and taught me how to market my business, keep accounts and everything else I needed to run my business, my way. Thank you Peter! (and Prince/King Charles lll of course!).”
When I co-hosted the first of our Falcons Pre-Prep Chiswick sponsored workshops with Toyah, she had a calm, confident and cool presence with the pupils. In just ten minutes she had 30 Year 6 pupils at Edward Betham finger knitting old t-shirts into bracelets and keyrings. She soon set them the challenge of finger knitting with their eyes closed – four managed it almost immediately. By the end of the workshop five pupils were planning a finger knitting business to save more old clothes from landfill whilst raising money for charity. An impressive reflection of the school’s proactive nurturing of environmental action. These pupils will be the adults that everyone will want to employ in the future.
With more workshops to come Toyah promises to be inspiring over 100 Ealing pupils to be more creative and more sustainable with their fashion choices. If you or your school missed out on securing a workshop place, watch this space for our How-To-Guide video due out in a few weeks that will let you host a workshop yourself, with this online resource to guide you. In the meantime, please check out our sustainable fashion learning resources.