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Sustainability and Style: Atelier Tammam’s Slow Fashion Festival

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Slow fashion and sustainability are buzzwords that have grown in prominence in the fashion industry over the last few years – with brands from Patagonia to H&M launching  initiatives to push the slow fashion conversation forward.

However, before these international brands picked up the mantle, it was independent designers and small brands that brought these issues to light and through years of work urged the industry to begin addressing sustainability in fashion.

The National Student recently attended Atelier Tammam’s Slow Fashion Festival in London to partake in a morning of sustainable fashion conversations with these industry trailblazers.

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Attendees included Nanna of Splendid Stitches, Nairobi designer Anyango Mpinga, sustainable fashion blogger Cameron of Uppish, and Lucy Tammam of Atelier Tammam, among many others. Our discussions revolved around the environmental and social impact of fast fashion, the innovations being made by the slow fashion industry, and the personal benefits of sustainable fashion shopping.

Lucy Tammam, founder of haute couture brand Atelier Tammam known for pioneering fair trade practices, explained to me the inspiration behind the festival:

I have this amazing shop spaces and incredible designers that I work with and I wanted to do something to celebrate them and the people who have been in this industry for a long time. Many of the speakers today are people I’ve known for 10 years working in sustainable fashion together. It is so exciting to see our work bring sustainable fashion to the forefront and I wanted to celebrate that because we’ve been doing this work long before big brands, pushing them to take on these issues. I also wanted to showcase the diversity of sustainable designers.

Atelier Tammam celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year and Lucy reflected on how her brand has evolved in that time:

"My approach has always been based on Fairtrade, when I was in university I went to India and witnessed the way things worked out there. I quickly realised that I didn’t want to be involved in an industry founded on exploitation and that no fashion designers were really addressing this issue, certainly none that were high-end."

"All of my values - the environment, animals, fair trade – showed me that to make ethical fashion there are many aspects to consider. I realised the way to cover all of these boxes was to be in India so I spent time there building sustainable supply chains. It is a fascinating process and knowing the individuals and stories behind the products I am making is so rewarding – that is largely what inspired my One Dress project."

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Designer Anyango Mpinga, echoed Lucy’s sentiments when explaining why she was inspired to practice ‘slow fashion’:

"Slow fashion was basically a challenge for me – in the fashion industry we have fashion weeks every two months and there is a lot of production and money that goes into those events. As a young brand, I didn’t think it was sustainable for me to compete because it is financially taxing and I wanted a different approach that speaks to my values."

"I work with manufacturers and producers to make sure my clothes are as sustainable as possible because it doesn’t make sense to be consuming at the rate we are all over the world. A new collection comes out every 6 weeks and there is so much waste. As a designer, of course, I want to sell as much as possible but at the same time, I want my products to still be in your closet in five or six-years."  

The emphasis on value and quality over quantity was a recurring topic of the day, so I asked Cameron, sustainable fashion blogger/founder of Uppish, for tips on how students and young people on a budget could join the slow fashion movement:

"Shopping sustainably when you’re on a budget seems difficult, but it’s actually quite easy. Shop second hand and pre-loved, there are so many amazing brands if you know where to look, whether that be charity shops or online consignment stores, many of which I mention in my London Thrift Guides. A big misconception is that to buy second hand is to buy vintage, you can still buy affordable and in-fashion clothes that are pre-loved. What you’re paying in Zara or Topshop you’ll be paying for much better quality."

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"Instead of buying that party dress you’ll only wear once or those ten cheap shirts from Primark, save your money and think about what you’re actually going to wear and invest in a higher quality garment from sustainable outlets. It might cost a bit extra but you’ll get more use and value out of your clothes in the long run."

Talking to these pioneering designers and artisans the passion in the room was palpable. Slow fashion is gaining momentum like never before and to see the fruits of their labour receiving acclaim on national and international scales brings hope for the future of sustainability in the fashion industry. Lucy hopes this momentum will lead to even more substantial change:

"It is incredible how slow fashion has taken off, all the major brands have sustainability departments even if they’re not talking about it, but I want there to be a day when there is no such thing as fair trade because everything is fair trade."

"Legislation is the way to make that happen, but consumer demand is so important. And consumers are demanding it now."

 Visit www.tammam.co.uk/ to find out more about Lucy's past and future projects!

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