Turning Studio Trash Into Treasure

by Amelia Ayerst

Sustainability and reducing waste have always been practices that I am fascinated with. While studying at Royal College of Art, we were always encouraged to consider these things when developing our own practice so from an early stage, I always knew it would be important. 

I have always been a passionate designer, maker and dreamt of being an entrepreneur. I launched my company DUO-HUE in February 2021. I was lucky that I had time during lockdown to really hone in on what I wanted to achieve and design. I was able to explore different materials, colours and patterns using my digital embroidery machine. From this I ended up gathering a lot of experimental samples that I used to develop and create my current collection.

Like most people, especially if you are in the creative world, you become a hoarder and collect all your experimental progress samples. I couldn’t bare to chuck anything in the bin and this made me realise the importance of starting a business that created as little waste as possible. As a new company, I am working, designing and embroidering everything in my spare room in my flat in Bristol. So as you can imagine, the space was getting less and less for all these unused samples. 

Over the years I have always had an obsession with popping into vintage markets and shops to collect different items and this is when my idea came to life. I always was interested in up-cycling vintage clothes with my embroidery, but this time I wanted to use my experimental samples and studio waste to bring these items back to life. 

I embroider directly onto jackets, as ways of experimenting with new colours and patterns, but a lot of the jackets also incorporate my studio samples. These samples either have small defects in, or are experimental. I used a technique called appliqué to up-cycle the jackets. 

Unfortunately, the fast fashion industry generates over 100 billion garments per year and is encouraging consumers to purchase more for less. This also leads to a huge amount of waste and unwanted clothing that is chucked and discarded into landfill. So many consumers purchase items and never even wear them. I believe reworking vintage clothing, using my embroidery, can bring items back to life, meaning they can last a lifetime. 

I also worked on some beautiful one of a kind rucksacks that were sewn and made up in Falmouth. These rucksacks used ex-army bag surplus material and old climbing rope - you wouldn’t have a clue they were using old material to create such hard-wearing, sustainable and beautiful rucksacks. It is so important to consider how long the product can last and if it can be handed down the generations. Purchase things that can last your lifetime and help reduce our waste and impact on the planet! 

The fashion industry alone is responsible for around 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so if we want to help save the planet, it is our chance as designers to create business models that help encourage change. It might not be a lot, but small changes go a long way and we can keep improving, day by day, towards a more sustainable way of life. 

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