Portsmouth High alumna returns to school with sustainable fashion workshop

Portsmouth High School girls in Year 9 and 10 were delighted to have the opportunity to take part in a Sustainable Fashion Workshop led by alumna, Madeleine Michell who left the school in 2014 and is currently in her final year in textile design at Leeds University.

The girls were given the opportunity to work with Madeleine and gain an insight into how the fashion industry works.

Madeleine completed her industrial placement with top fashion/textile designer Mary Katrantzou and is looking at how garment production can be streamlined to cut waste in both materials and time, yet still allow for individuality in the end pieces.

‘I wanted to explore with the girls their thoughts on what is fashion and what is sustainability. In the words of yachtswoman, Ellen MacArthur, ‘we need a new textile economy in which clothes are designed differently, worn longer, and recycled and reused much more often.’

‘I wanted to share with the girls some facts; for instance, did they know that it takes 2720 litres of water to make a t-shirt? That is how much we normally drink over a three year period. And that £30 billion of clothes are discarded in the UK in one year; enough to fill Wembley Stadium.’

‘I never realised how much waste there was,’ said Zara Best, Year 9.  ‘And it has made me appreciate how big the industry is. The workshop has definitely opened my eyes to how much work goes into the fashion industry and garment making.’

‘I think we’ve learned that if we work smarter, fabric doesn’t need to be wasted,’ added Thalia Burke, Year 9.  ‘It has been a really good two days and we’ve learned so much about the industry.’

‘Alongside the workshop, I am conducting a study which explores an approach to changing the fashion buying habits, specifically of young women, which are having a negative impact on our global environment,’ said Madeleine. 

‘The girls engaged in a simple garment making process, using part circle-shaped pieces of fabric to construct a garment to fit their body. This, hopefully, will encouraging understanding, through participation, of the skills required to make clothing.

‘Enabling young women to break free from their increasingly disposable wardrobes is at the forefront of my investigation,’ she continued.

‘Can engaging consumers with the making process result in a positive emotional attachment to their clothing? Does this result in a longer life span of the garment, thus reducing the desire to discard clothing and consume more?  I hope the girls will have a chance to think about how we can move fashion towards a more sustainable future.

‘My vision is to transform the way clothes are designed, sold and used to break free from their increasingly disposable nature, by scaling up clothing rental schemes; making durability more attractive and increasing clothing utilisation through brand commitments and policy.’

Mrs Amelia Brooks, Head of Art at Portsmouth High School, who taught Madeleine added:

‘It is lovely to see a student come back and lead a workshop and for our current girls to have the opportunity to work with someone who is really in the business.  The girls have experienced what it is like to be in a design studio and had their eyes opened to the industry.’