High–street fashion accessories are a fun, fast, and cheap way to get your retail kicks, but there‚s a dark side to the business of disposable fashion, says textile designer Tamasyn Gambell, who used to work as a designer for fast-fashion chain H+M. Shocked by “the amount of waste and lack of innovation” she encountered while working at both the high and low ends of the fashion industry, Gambell recently stepped off the fast track and into the slow lane, with the launch of a new namesake design studio. The silk scarves her label produces are woven by a cooperative of women in India then hand-printed in London with certified organic dyestuffs and a seaweed–based binder. Below she explains how she set out to embrace slow fashion that values skill and craft in design and production.
How did you get into this line of work?
I used to work at H&M as a women's wear print designer. When I lived in Paris, I freelanced for a few couture companies, including Louis Vuitton and Sonia Rykiel, and did journalistic work for WGSN and Peclers Paris. In my personal work, I've always used recycled materials and was lucky enough that a batch of unwanted natural dyes was delivered to the print lab in my second year at university. I became fascinated by the whole printing process and the array of rich colours that were achievable.
What was your “a-ha” moment?
When I was a child, my mother was always very environmentally friendly. We were banned from drinking Coke, eating McDonalds, and taken to CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) meetings and marches on a regular basis.
What is your ultimate green goal?
To create timeless designs that are produced using the most environmentally friendly processes and materials available and to work against the fast–paced, throwaway fashions of the current market. My work aims to challenge people's perceptions of eco–friendly design, and prove that it can be modern and luxurious.
What is your motivation?
I want to work for myself in a business that respects the environment and the people who work for it. Uninspired by unethical “conveyor–belt fashion,” I want to produce timeless and well considered designs to be kept and treasured.
What is most important to you, ecologically speaking?
I aim to make every aspect of my work as eco friendly as possible and would say each part is as important as the other.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Doing everything myself!
What is the most rewarding?
Doing everything myself! Nothing really compares to working for yourself; it‚s exhausting and the day is never long enough, but the creative freedom and sense of fulfillment is fantastic! I‚ve always loved experimenting in the print room and am very excited about trying all sorts of new eco friendly fibres and print processes and seeing what happens. Effectively I am a total print geek!
Of the people you have worked with, who impresses you most?
The women who weave the silk scarves for me through a Welfare project in Munar, India. They train disadvantaged and disabled people in the art of weaving and using natural dyes, and give them housing, education, medical care, and a trade in order to support themselves in the future. It's a fantastic project and I'm really happy to be part of it.
What do you wish you could do?
Help change the fashion world and the buying patterns of the public. We are such a consumer driven society and it would be great if people bought less and invested more in small businesses that are producing something different. As environmental and humanitarian issues become more and more prevalent in the media, I would like to see people taking a stand.
What is your best green advice?
Do the small things: Recycle, turn the lights off, use less water, and learn more about what you can do to become more environmentally friendly.