It is estimated that 4000 tonnes of clothing and textiles end up in Leeds householders’ black bins each year. Zero Waste Fashion Week (20th-24th April) has been all about exploring how we can get more of that volume of waste reused or recycled.

Due to COVID-19, we decided to make use of online platforms to share practical ways for people in Leeds to manage the impacts of their clothing choices; explore reasons why sustainability in fashion is so important; celebrate the rich textile heritage of Leeds and build a #ZeroWasteFashion movement.

Monday 20th

Fashion week launch

We introduce Zero Waste Fashion, a collaborative project by Zero Waste Leeds, the School of Design and Leeds City Council, that aims to reduce the volume of clothing that goes to waste.

We kick the week of with the first ten minutes of a fascinating documentary from 1973, hosted by none other than our very own Peg Alexander – TV & Radio Presenter‘s Dad, Patrick Nuttgens. We want Leeds to be a world leader in sustainable fashion – as we have been in the worlds of clothing, textiles, fashion and retail before.

We also ask Dr Pammi Sinha, Associate Professor of Fashion Management at the School of Design at the University of Leeds, to share her top tips with us on how you can manage the environmental impacts of your wardrobe. Pammi’s most important message relates to #LeedsBins and is more relevant than ever as we all #StayAtHomeSaveLives – don’t put any clothing in your black bin!

Tuesday 21st

Second hand clothing & what to do with your donations during the lockdown

Day 2 of Zero Waste Fashion Week is all about secondhand – donating, buying, sharing, swapping, hiring. We asked people to share their favourite #SecondhandSelfies– keep them coming in on our social media!

During the lockdown, many of us have also had more time to sort through our wardrobes. However, charity shops are currently closed and many textile collection banks are full.

We spoke to Nicola Woodgate, Head of Marketing and Communications at St Gemma’s Hospice. Nicki’s message is an important one. As with all charities, St Gemma’s have had to temporarily close all of their shops. They’ll need your donations more than ever once they re-open – and Nicki’s message during Zero Waste Fashion Week is to ask us all to keep our good quality items until they reopen – when they’ll be delighted to accept your donations. And they’ll have plenty of stock in to help you to refresh your wardrobe!

Have you ever thought about going along to a clothes exchange - but not been sure about how it works? We asked Lauren from Leeds Community Clothes Exchange to tell us more about how their monthly event works. It's nice and simple - but following a few guidelines - nicely explained here by Lauren - makes it work better for everyone. Obviously the exchanges aren't happening at the moment but the people behind LCCE are keen to get things going again as soon as possible.

There are other opportunities to swap clothes too - including Bramley Community Clothing Exchange - and we also know of workplaces that have run exchanges at particular times of the year - for staff to swap Christmas jumpers, World Book Day outfits or whatever. If you know of any other opportunities to swap clothes in Leeds, please let us know.

We also spoke to local sustainable fashion designer, Dominic Browning. Dom wants us to remember the stories of our clothes – our clothes are special and part of our own memories. So why throw them out?

Wednesday 22nd

Sewing, repair & upcycling

Just in time for the first episode of the Great British Sewing Bee! Day 3 of Zero Waste Fashion Week is all about sewing, repair and upcycling.

We speak to Dawn Wood who runs the fabulous Fabrication on Albion Street in Leeds. Her key message is that all clothes can be re worked and re-purposed. Even small changes can make a huge difference and you don’t always need machinery to make them.

Corinne Coolican from the sustainable fashion brand Cooli, also shares her practical suggestions and ideas for what to do with old and second hand denim. She is a designer who makes all her clothes using recycled fabric and particularly loves upcycling given that it can be so polluting.

Thursday 23rd

Love your clothes

Day 4 of Zero Waste Fashion Week is all about loving your clothes for longer. Suzanne’s Daughter, Isobel, shares with us a very cute message about her amazing grandma and the clothes she has made for her with love. There is a real value in being able to make your own clothes, repair or upcycle.

We also speak to local designers for their take on making our clothing choices more sustainable. Top tip from local fashion designer Siobhan Thomas – founder of What’s Your Skirt?– is to get one statement piece that you can love for a long time and make it your own and your trend – with everything else that goes around it.

We also spoke with Steph McGrath, from Leeds based luxury lingerie brand Something Wicked. Something Wicked have got their production process down to virtually no waste at all. If they can, so can others. Steph also invites us to ask questions about the impacts that our clothing choices have on the people who make things for us.

Friday 24th

Environmental impact of fast fashion

For the last day of our Zero Waste Fashion Week, we’re focusing on the environmental impact of fast fashion. It has been estimated that 4,000 tonnes of clothes end up in Leeds’ black bins every year. But what does that volume of clothes actually look like? We pulled out our weighing scales and broke it down to each individual household in Leeds to show you.

The cheap prices of fast fashion, and the lower quality of clothing are inevitably contributing to this enormous volume of waste. So to reduce the environmental impact, we will need to encourage a transition to slow fashion. Leeds has a rich clothing and textiles heritage. Learning from our past could help inspire Leeds to be, once again, a leader in the world of clothing, textiles and fashion but this time with sustainability at the heart of everything we do.

Leeds City Museum have created a Fast x Slow Fashion exhibition. Sadly we can’t currently visit in person due to COVID-19, but the curators at the Museum have taken the exhibition online – and you’ll find lots of fascinating exhibits which tell a story of clothing, fashion and textiles in Leeds over the years.

We also talk to Kresse, co-founder of Elvis and Kresse, who has been shocked by the environmental impacts of the clothing and textile industry, particularly by leather waste, of which there are around 800,000 tonnes wasted every year globally. This inspired them to set up Elvis and Kresse, a fashion brand that partners with Burberry, to rescue and transform materials into luxury products.

We also talk to Rachel Hatfield from Fashion Fiesta, a fashion show hosted in Leeds that’s a showcase for local designers. Rachel is clear that fashion needs new designers but the world needs them to be sustainable. Fast Fashion is on the way out, this season its all about sustainability.

Finally, we share two TEDx talks from Patrick Grant and Lucy Siegle – Why We Should All Feel Uncomfortable In Our Clothes, and The Wardrobe To Die For. These talks explain really well the true impact of how our clothing choices and importantly what we can all do to reduce our impact.