Sunday, October 2, 2011
On a recent trip to London I was lucky enough to chat with Nin Castle and Clare Farrell about their label Goodone. During a typical grey mid morning we explored the trials, tribulations and revelations of producing a successful independent label out of reclaimed materials. Tents, Tesco’s and Textile waste have all played part in the evolution of this label, proving that unlikely combinations can bring about the best creative work.
Can you start by explaining the concept behind Goodone?
We’re a sustainable fashion label, but our aim is to not look like one or act like one, apart from how we produce our clothes obviously! Our specialisation is up-cycling, so we mix reclaimed fabrics with end of roll industrial waste as well as using new British fabrics and sustainable fabrics. We try to be really design led, it’s important to us that we’re being progressive with our designs as well as with our ethos. The reason for starting Goodone was to try and instigate some positive change, some positive impact on the industry and that’s really what motivates us, however we also want to be seen as designers in our own right rather than just another ‘eco brand’.
You use a unique combination of materials, how do approach the sourcing for each collection?
Well we design in two ways, A- From what we want to make and B- From what we have and what we can get a hold of. There are always things we know we can get, for example we know we can always get jumpers. We handpick these from textile recycling centres, but we don’t pick the acrylic or polyester ones, we pick the fine merinos and cashmeres to make sure we get really good quality fibres that are really soft. We work with the mills in Scotland where we get offcuts of cashmere and we also work with mills to get end of rolls and waste from the knitting machines, which we mix with new fabrics.
Sometimes we get people approaching us saying ‘I’ve got all this stuff, can you use it for something?!” So we design with that in mind. We once did a collection with tents. One person approached us and said that they clear up festivals and end up with loads of tents. We told them to give us all the darker coloured tents and we would try and re-use them.
Do you find having a specific product to re-use is limiting? Does this make you think more creatively?
Yes exactly, it limits you but it also pushes you, it’s actually really nice way of working. I very much see design as a series of problem solving exercises. Clare and I design together and we often talk about how being a designer is not like being an artist, (as a designer) your doing something functional and your creating something for a use. And for us good design, or intelligent design, whatever you want to call it, is actually thinking about the effect that each garment has, the effect on the environment, the social effects and that for us is just as important.
It is obviously challenging to run things with sustainability in mind, why do you do this?
It can be a nightmare! The reason we do up-cycling is because there is just so much waste, we all consume so much. We go to recycling factories and it is just immense the amount of textile waste. And for us the most sustainable fibre you can use is one that already exists. If a garment has already been worn, it has already had life and if it is still in really good condition then it should definitely be used and re-worn.
What are some of the problems you face?
Its really difficult, for example for a time I felt really strongly about making everything in the UK, the studio had to be here and the manufacturing out of London. But we got to the point when we were like you know what? Everybody still wants buy from us if we are made abroad and we would actually have a more affordable product and more people buy it. So we could either continue as we are and dye in a years time or make the change. Now we make things in Bulgaria, we have a girl called Lena that works with us, she is from Bulgaria and overseeing it. We sometimes have to make changes to what we want to do.
For us the standardizing is the really difficult part, because we have so much variability coming through. We need to make clothes that are not identical but need to sit as close as possible. Our ability to do that has allowed us to survive a lot longer than a lot of other up-cycled labels. People start doing it and they don’t quite manage the standardising, but for us it is very much about mixing the new and the old together and I would actually rather sell double the amount of clothing made from 50% new and 50% up-cycled than selling nothing that is 100% up-cycled, using a lot more fabrics allows a lot more scope for the design. You can make a higher quality product, so its really about having a bigger picture and not restricting yourself too much, but knowing your aim is to always make the most sustainable garment items we can and also most well designed as we can.
Our new fabrics are all produced in the UK. This is mainly because we know how it has been dyed because dying regulations in the UK are really strict. We know the conditions people are making it in and there is not much transporting involved. The UK textile industry is dyeing, its actually having a little bit of a resurgence at the moment which is brilliant, but it’s such a small industry so I feel really strongly about supporting the industry even though we don’t still produce here in the UK.
So it’s about being realistic?
Its about picking what you think is most important and what works.
Are you both from London?
No my dad is a pig farmer! I’m a country girl at heart. Clare comes from up north and so not London based at all. We had no fashion contacts or anything like that.
I started the business in Brighton but Brighton is so small, it’s a lovely little place but the move to London was one of the best things I have ever done. I lived in New York for 6 months and did an internship with Marc Jacobs and that was great but being British the one place you go to is London, I just love it and I think as long as you have a bike and don’t have to catch public transport that much then its great.
What’s next for Goodone?
Well at the moment we are creating a small capsule collection for Spring/Summer in silks and jerseys which we are actually really pleased about, it’s looking good. At the moment we feel like we are getting better and better but we do so much as a small company; we do a basics range, we do our main collection, we do dresses, tops, jackets, and we have got a point now after doing this for fives years that we need to focus in on what we do, I really like the saying that it is better to do one thing really well than a lot of things badly, I don’t think we do anything badly at the moment but if we focused on one thing we could do something that is even better. So that’s where we are at the moment. We are wanting to do more project work and have different ideas about that too, quite a few possibilities for the future, there are so many different ways you can work things out!
At the moment we’ve got quite a good reputation and quite a good aesthetic and people know about us, so we need to look at that and go how can we make the most of this now? I suppose we have a bit of a renaissance happening, figuring out who we are.
All photographs by the lovely and very talented Stephanie Sian Smith