In February we held Leeds Fashion Futures Week - a celebration of the things we’ve learned, the people we’ve met and how we have come together as a city to discover how Leeds can have a vibrant and sustainable fashion future.

This has been such an exciting project to work on with the RSA. Our three themes of Heritage, Valuing Your clothes and Skills & Resources have given us a real insight into what fashion means to people across Leeds. We've summarised the highlights from the week below.

Monday, 22 Feb

On the first day, we were joined by Peg Alexander and Josie Warden and Nat Ortiz, from the RSA and Rob Greenland from Zero Waste Leeds for the launch of #LeedsFashionFutures Week.

Through their Regenerative Futures project, we are working with the RSA on #LeedsFashionFutures, exploring how a "place-based" approach can be helpful in exploring how to create a more sustainable, circular approach to clothing and fashion.

We also explored some of the rich history that Leeds has when it comes to clothing manufacturing, tailoring, and textiles, including looking at the life of Sir Montague Burton.

Local historians - and former Burton employees - Jacki and Bob Lawrence joined us to talk about the life of Sir Montague Burton, and the business he built. In Bob's own words, Sir Montague Burton was a true visionary - a man who did as much as anyone to transform the clothing industry - creating an innovative manufacturing model that brought the purchase of a good quality suit within the reach of the average working man.

We also shared our short video which demystifies the statistic that was the starting point for our work on clothing and fashion - the estimate that 4000 tonnes of clothing and textiles get thrown away each year by Leeds households.

Tuesday, 23 Feb

On Tuesday, we were joined by Cllr Denise Ragan, to give a Leeds City Council perspective on the importance of continuing to find ways to reduce the amount of clothing that is thrown away in Leeds. It is estimated that around 4000 tonnes of clothing and textiles are thrown away by Leeds householders each year - that's the equivalent of 12kg per household. Zero Waste Leeds, through our Leeds Fashion Futures project and our wider work, works closely with Leeds City Council to support their work to engage local people in issues around waste reduction.

We also reflected on a conversation with Dr Mark Sumner, a lecturer at the School of Design at the University of Leeds, who specialises in sustainability, clothing and textiles.

It was a fascinating conversation, exploring a wide range of issues relating to sustainability and clothing - from what our clothes are made of, to the manufacturing processes, and right through to what we choose to buy, and how we get rid of our clothes when we no longer need them.

On Tuesday, and throughout the week, we shared fashion-themed posts on Instagram by young volunteers at Leeds Museums and Galleries.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Zero Waste Leeds (@zerowasteleeds)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Zero Waste Leeds (@zerowasteleeds)

Wednesday, 24 Feb

On Wednesday we launched our updated Leeds Fashion Map, which includes zero waste fashion options including charity shops, textile banks, alterations and repairs, clothes exchanges, sewing workshops and sustainable fashion designers. We’re also adding local haberdashers and sewing machine sales, maintenance and repair shops.

We also launched The Leeds Textile Trail - a journey through some of the people, places and events that make Leeds stand out in the world of clothing and textiles.

The trail spans over 300 years from the building of the First White Cloth Hall in the early 1700s, to the present day, including the spectacular costumes on display each year at Leeds West Indian Carnival, and plenty in between. The 15 stops on the trail are meant as a starting point and we'd love to hear your ideas for future stops!

It was created in collaboration with Leeds Civic Trust and Leeds Museums and Galleries and supported by the RSA, our partners on #LeedsFashionFutures.

We also revisited this chat about the value of learning sewing and clothing repair skills. Peg Alexander and Suzanne Nicholls were joined by Sally Cooke and Dawn Wood.

Over on our Instagram, Julia from Upcycle Fashion took our account for the day to talk about sewing and sustainable fashion.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Zero Waste Leeds (@zerowasteleeds)

On Wednesday evening we worked with Leeds Beckett University students to host an online clothing exchange. We had work with students to help them to research, plan and deliver a #LeedsFashionFutures Week event aimed at students in our city.

Thursday, 25 Feb

On Thursday, we held a live Q&A with some of Leeds finest makers, menders and designers. Sally, Jude, Dawn, Julia and Eleanor helped to answer all your sewing and textile craft questions and shared some top sewing tips.

Gill and Tracy also gave an update on our Leeds School Uniform Exchange project which is about making good quality second hand uniform the first choice in Leeds. If you haven’t already, join our Leeds School Uniform Exchange Facebook page.

We shared a TEDx talk by Patrick Grant who many of you will know from The Great British Sewing Bee and Community Clothing, a manufacturers co-operative that makes great quality, affordable everyday clothing, from around a dozen UK factories.

We also shared this online talk which gave a fascinating insight into M&S clothing - and how it's evolved over the years. We're fortunate that the Marks and Spencer clothing archive is based at Leeds University - although due to COVID 19 restrictions it's obviously not open to the public.

Friday, 26 Feb

On Friday, we asked the curator of the Fast x Slow Fashion exhibition at Leeds City Museum, Vanessa Jones, to give us a virtual tour of the exhibition - focusing in particular on themes around ethical consumption and clothing and textile heritage.

We also shared this fascinating BBC documentary from 1973 - which happens to be written and presented by Patrick Nuttgens, our very own Peg Alexander's dad! The first ten minutes of the clip give a useful overview of the big changes that took place in Leeds from the late 1800s - primarily relating the mass manufacturing of clothing.

Finally, we shared this clip from Oxfam to show what happens to the clothes that you donate to your local Oxfam charity shop. Oxfam run their Wastesaver operation in Batley - and it's set up to ensure that no clothing goes to landfill, and they get as much value out of donated clothing as they can.

Saturday, 27 Feb

On Saturday, we reflected on the week with this live chat

We also shared this TEDx talk by the Observer's 'Ethical Living' columnist Lucy Siegle, examining the inhumane and environmentally devastating story behind the clothes we so casually buy and wear.

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has contributed in so many different ways to #LeedsFashionFutures - first and foremost The RSA, who have funded the project, and worked closely with us to develop it - as part of their Regenerative Futures project. Thank you too to Leeds Civic Trust for helping to fund Leeds Textile Trail.