A Fashion Revolution in Exeter - Sancho’s Dress

Updated: Oct 6, 2018

On average we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. Wardrobes across the country are bursting at the seams and it seems that consumers cannot escape the pressure to have more. Marketeers would have us believe that the more we have the happier we’ll be. Fashion Psychologists would disagree. There is an overwhelming sense of stuffocation and guilt developing about our wasteful fashion habits.

The global fashion industry is one of the largest and it contributes $3 trillion to the world economy - 2% of the world’s GDP. However it also has one of the biggest environmental impacts on our planet and continues to be known as an industry with poor working conditions for a huge proportion of those who make out clothes. In addition in 2017 the Guardian reported that Briton’s were estimated to send 235 million items of unwanted clothing to landfill.

I admit, I was but one consumer who thought “But what can I do about it”, feeling insignificant in this global machine. So I was really excited and intrigued to see Sancho’s Dress, an ethical fashion business based in Exeter, offer a week of free events during Fashion Revolution Week recently to highlight the movement that works for a more sustainable fashion industry.

Founded in 2014 by Kalkidan and Vidmantas, Sancho’s is based in 2 stores in Exeter’s Fore Street in the West Quarter. They source clothing which is fair trade and constructed from sustainable natural materials. Sancho’s have a lovely selection of clothes, lots of bright colours and patterns, as well as neutral basics, such as T-shirts. And they cost no more than the fast fashion retailers sell. They offer beautiful, stylish clothes from brands such as Mud jeans, People Tree, & Stanley & Stella, providing options for the increasing number of sustainability conscious customers looking to make a positive change to their shopping habits. Check out their Capsule Wardrobe offering too.

Kalkidan at Sancho's Dress on Exeter's Fore Street

To kick off Fashion Revolution Week, Sancho's hosted a Repair and Rejuvenate Workshop.

Guests were able to bring along 2 or 3 garments which needed a bit of a fix and freshen up. I went along as I wanted to learn some new skills, as well as save money and reduce clothing waste whilst gaining some fresh wardrobe additions. And if I could pass this on to my clients then that would just be great.

3 stations had been set up covering Tie Dying, Sewing, Embroidery and Patches. There was a real excitement in the shop, and such a lovely warm welcome - it was noisy and there was all sorts of chat going on! Experts from Bunyip Craft, seamstresses and the very lovely Kalkidan freely shared their knowledge and expertise, inspiring us to think creatively about our garments.

I took a long a pair of my hubby’s jeans to see what I could do about the perennial problem of the pockets wearing out long before the rest of the jeans. I’d tried to sew the pockets myself before, but not long after I would again hear the sound of loose change hitting the pavement! I needed a better solution to stop said-hubby abandoning said-jeans and buying more. And I did! The lovely Mattie from Bunyip helped me to patch the pocket with calico - and fingers crossed - its holding!!

Me, delighted at my pocket patchwork!

Others had successes too! Kat had a pair of Zara jeans which were so comfy that she couldn’t part with them but they were becoming threadbare in places. Again, Mattie showed her how with some funky patching she could repair them, making a feature of the repairs and giving Kat a unique pair of jeans.

I chatted to Lisa who was embroidering a plain smoky grey kimono with simple stars - and it was gorgeous! At the start of the year Lisa realised that she was spending too much of her valuable time and money shopping and that she really didn’t need anything more in her wardrobe. So Lisa committed to not buying any new clothes in 2018. The kimono, with the label still attached (we all have those don’t we??) now has a second chance in her wardrobe. Lisa has a beautiful, unique garment that she can think to herself with some satisfaction “I did that.”

Photo courtesy of Sancho's Dress

If Kalkidan and Vidmantas’ aim was to raise awareness of sustainability in the fashion industry, then its worked on me in both a personal and professional sense.

Creating a wardrobe of joy with my clients is rarely about going out and spending loads of money on a whole new wardrobe of clothes. Through my business I have always encouraged women to start from where they are and help them to create new outfits from what they already have. Yes, you might need to add some key, hardworking items, but buying the best you can afford, confident that you will get your £ a wear, ticks the value for money box. And if you want to know that those additions have been ethically produced and sourced then it ticks the value for the environment and human rights boxes too.

For me, personally, I love clothes, I love craft and I love Exeter. So considering whether I can repair or rejuvenate a garment before sending it charity or disposing of it is right up my street. And if I love fashion, then its beholden upon me to consider the sustainability of items before purchasing and recommending to clients. I’m a realist however and can see ethical garments complementing rather than taking over my wardrobe until the availability of such items across retailers improves. And if I love Exeter, then supporting a local fashion business, such as Sancho’s, give me joy!

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