As we strive to make fashion more sustainable here at East, we’re constantly looking for like-minded creatives doing the same. We recently collaborated with Rachel Clowes, the founder of The Sustainable Sequin Company: a small studio making sequins out of recycled plastics. We take a look into the world of sustainable sequins and ask a few questions about her work, ethos, inspirations and what’s next for her company.
Tell Us About The Sustainable Sequin Company...
I started The Sustainable Sequin company about a year ago, after completing an MA at London College of Fashion in fashion and the environment. I’ve always been interested in textiles, having completed a BA in embroidery design and working as an embroidery technician. Embellishment has always been a common thread throughout my career.
For my MA, I looked at women's going out/party-wear, in particular how sequins last for thousands of years but are typically on garments that are only worn for a few hours. I created sequins for my MA that were made from bio-plastics; the idea being they dissolve after a few wears. After finishing my masters I wanted to make this idea more commercially viable and so The Sustainable Sequin Company was born!
My overall aim is to work with bio-plastics and create biodegradable sequins for commercial use but as I continue to experiment, my current range is made with recycled plastics. This is a great start but I definitely have more to do, I’m on a sustainable journey.
I source the plastics from China, where it is all recycled from pre-consumer waste. The colours are predetermined by the recycled plastics and I source the colours that speak to me the most.
I hand-punch all the sequins in my studio with the help of some punching machines. It’s a really small production but it means I’m in control of the whole process. Customers can also have any shape they want, I provide a bespoke cutting service for a more unique look.
It’s really important to me to make sustainability accessible for all
It’s great I get to work with fashion companies like Gucci & Kit X through their sequin orders but also work with small independent businesses and students who I sell to on Etsy. It’s really important to make sustainable materials available to students and smaller brands so they can access and realise their creative ideas with better tools. These smaller brands can change their supply chain faster and be more agile so it’s important for them to be making sustainable changes as they can do this so much faster than the established fashion companies.
I also want to support fellow small companies and start ups as I’m a small company myself!
How do you value nature in your creativity?
What I’m producing at the moment looks particularly unnatural but it does come from nature’s inspiration. I’ve always been drawn into the shine and decoration in the animal kingdom. I look at bird and butterfly wings, insects, reptiles scales, everything with a bit of a glint is inspirational to me.
I love providing an eco-friendly slant on something that people don’t necessarily see as natural and eco-friendly. With my sequins, you can turn a beautiful object into something more sustainable without doing a lot; you’re not compromising on the aesthetic.
Sustainability doesn’t need to look natural to be kinder to the planet.
Who do you look to for inspiration?I really like the work of Iris Van Herpen. She embraces new ways of doing things each season. I find her textures and aesthetics really exciting but also the way she looks at using unconventional materials to be more eco-friendly. She is always pushing for new creative ways to reduce waste, designing in a different way, using the unusable.
It’s important to look to people that keep fashion moving forward
What do you think is the most imporant aspect of eco-fashion?
I think there’s a lot of things that link together. Education’s really important, so people understand what they’re buying, where it’s made and what happens at the end of a product’s life.
A massive task is reducing our consumption and thinking about why people buy clothes. Brands need to try to find a way to build in joy through wear rather than only experiencing joy through purchase. That’s what I like about sequins; the idea that you’re putting on something sparkly, feeling good and going out to a party. By making clothes joyful to wear, hopefully it will make you want to wear it and keep it for longer. You are more excited about wearing it than you would be about buying something new.
I also think we need to change the way we use clothes and how we wear clothes now. Fast fashion will inevitably continue so maybe we have to change the longevity of the clothes themselves? That’s where I think biodegradability comes into play.
For our summer collection we used Rachel’s recycled sequins in our Harper dress, in both navy & ochre (as pictured above) and mixed with detail embroidery on our Priya kaftan (detail pictured above). We can’t wait to design other styles using The Sustainable Sequin Company’s range: watch this space!
***All images are a curated selection from The Sustainable Sequin Company’s Instagram or website:
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