“The Maisey Made story is a story of simplicity, beauty and positivity and in Rose Mason’s interview Maisey Clarke tells us about her own journey, values and production. I asked Rose to give us a run-down on Fast Fashion and the detriments to our power of sustainability, read on, it follows Maisey’s interview.” —Susan
Quitting fast fashion does not mean quitting being fashionable, or feeling confident in what you wear.
At its core, sustainability is the ethos of maintaining and sharing what we can currently enjoy.
Sustainable fashion is buying second-hand. Sustainable fashion is slowly made clothing using recycled, recyclable or ethically produced materials where producers are paid fair wages. Sustainable fashion enables people to shop and look forward to wearing new items, but doing so in a conscious way. Sustainability means there is a positive impact that fashion can have on the world.
The Maisey Made story is a story of simplicity, beauty and positivity.
Maisey Clarke has recently begun a small business, rescuing dead stock fabrics from a local furniture manufacturer and turning them into beautiful bags. She spoke to us about her journey, her values and her story of beginning a small business.
Maisey used her time in lockdown to put a passion for sustainability into a project. After moving home from college to her parents’, she was looking for something to do. Her father Matthew Clarke owns a shop called The Mardyke Magpie in Skibbereen, West Cork in Ireland, which sells upholstery and antiques. He gave Maisey access to his stock of fabrics and a sewing machine in a corner of his shop, which led Maisey to start creating shoulder bags out of patchwork fabric and selling them online. The bags became increasingly popular and now she is selling 20 a week which is all she can make.
After the continued success of her bags, she got in contact with an Irish furniture manufacturer and asked for old fabric samples. They were interested in her passion for sustainability and have supplied her with dead stock fabrics, offcuts and samples from old fabric booklets. Her new business Maisey Made which she has grown completely independently rescues old, spare fabrics from becoming waste, and upcycles them into beautiful bags and hats.
Maisey managed to find some time in her busy patchwork schedule to chat to us about how she has begun this new venture into fashion and sustainability.
Rose: How did you learn and become passionate about sustainable fashion?
Maisey: I guess I’ve always been interested in sustainability and I have always tried where possible to be environmentally conscious but I think my interest in sustainable fashion really sparked during the first few years of college.
Rose: How did the Maisey Made project begin?
Maisey: When I moved to Cork, shopping (which I loved and still do love) was SO ACCESSIBLE to me and I think I just kind of lost the run of myself. I eventually I got to a point where I was cleaning out my wardrobe and I had all of these clothes that I had worn maybe once or twice or even still had the tags on and it kind of spooked me just how easily I’d fallen into the fast fashion addiction to buying cheap, poorly made clothes that supported an industry of exploitation and terrible environmental practices. I guess it was sort of an epiphany that I’d been brushing under the carpet for a while that I just couldn’t ignore anymore. I worked from there really, researching more about the fast fashion industry, finding brands that I could support without a guilty conscience and I really got into charity shopping and up cycling pieces with my little sewing machine (which I’ve always been into even before my fast fashion epiphany).
Maisey Made was kind of an accidental happening (a very happy accidental happening). I had taken the year off college to travel with a friend; we were planning on going to America but for various reasons those plans fell through and I found myself without a job, living back at my parents’ house. It was just before Christmas and I had still planned on travelling so I didn’t really want to get a job only to have to leave after a few of months, so I started getting creative and making bits to sell, at first to friends and family and then locally and it just kind of took off from there!
I was conscious that I wanted the products I was making to reflect my own ethos so I decided to make my bags out of only scrap or dead stock materials instead of supporting the fast fashion industry by buying new materials and further harming the environment! I’m all about re-using and repurposing where possible instead of throwing things on the landfill!
Rose: Tell us about the highs of the process, which moments have you felt proudest of?
Maisey: There have been so many highs throughout my journey with Maisey Made so far. It’s been growing organically since I started the business in December and I think seeing the feedback I get from happy customers is one of the best parts of what I do – it’s really rewarding to have so many people messaging me to buy a bag through Instagram and having that interest in something that I’ve created and then afterwards seeing the bags being worn and hearing positive feedback really gives me such a good buzz! The other day I got a message from someone in Canada saying they had spotted someone wearing one of my bags over there and it’s such a rewarding thing to hear!! Another high that comes to mind is winning the UCC Fashion Society’s “Vibes and Scribes Designer of the year award” in February. I entered just for a little bit more exposure but I wasn’t expecting to win at all so that was a really affirming moment for Maisey Made! I really have so many moments where I’ve been so thankful for all the support I’ve been given and have made me proud of my little business.
Rose: How have you found the experience of starting a small business?
Maisey: I feel like I’ve had such a positive experience of setting up my own business. Because it’s grown so naturally and without much force I’ve been able to ride the wave and take each next step as it comes so it hasn’t overwhelmed me (yet). There’s a lot that I’ve been picking up as I go along, I’m new to business through Instagram so that’s been very interesting trying to figure out how best to market my product and engage with my customers and ALL of the other things that come with it. I’m very lucky to have a network of women running small businesses that I’ve met through Instagram who are really helpful if I ever have any questions or need some support!! Overall, the experience has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done to date, it’s an unreal feeling to be self-sufficient and self-employed!
Rose: What do you recommend people do if they want to learn more about sustainable fashion and why it’s important?
“For me, sustainability is so important because at its base, it means having consideration for the planet and humanity too.” Maisey
Sustainable fashion is a buzzword at the moment. There’s a lot of information out there that can help to educate and raise awareness about the negative implications of fast fashion! For anyone looking to find out more information, there are some great documentaries online (“The True Cost” is one that really struck me) there are some great Instagram pages like @sustainablefashiondublin and @thesustainablefashionforum and there’s lots of articles and books out there too. I think it’s such an important conversation to start having. It’s an easy one to overlook but it’s also very easy to change our consumer behaviours too by making small changes – even talking to your pals about how you can support local more sustainable businesses plays a part!
Maisey: For me, sustainability is so important because at its base, it means having consideration for the planet and humanity too. Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter, so I think it’s incredibly important that we all move towards more sustainable consumerism and it’s so easy to make small changes to offset that pollution – even fixing old clothing or up cycling scrap materials instead of buying new makes an impact! The fashion industry has such negative impacts on environment, economy and society and I think it’s so important to hold ourselves accountable right down the line – for example, If I call myself a feminist, I should support the female garment workers who are underpaid and overworked by supporting brands that pay their workers a liveable wage.
Rose: How do you shop for and find the clothes and accessories that you wear?
Maisey: I still LOVE shopping, so you can usually find me in my local charity shops rummaging for some bargains. I love altering and up cycling things I find in charity shops, which also means my clothes are very unique, which I love! If I do shop new I usually try to buy locally within Ireland, from vintage shops or things made from sustainable materials like recycled material or organic cotton – I try my best to research a brand before I buy!
Rose: Where do you sell your bags now?
Maisey: Currently, I sell my bags on Instagram via my stories every Tuesday and Friday from 7pm and it works on a first come first serve basis, so the first person to message back to a bag gets it! It’s been working brilliantly so far as it cuts out the middle man which means I have full control over my products, which I really like but as the business has grown recently, I’m excited to move forward and work on other platforms to sell from!
Maisey Made is a fantastic example of sustainable fashion, a response to the problems of the fashion industry today.
Fashion is a luxury that we can all indulge in. The opportunity to express ourselves with what we wear is a wonderful privilege. Sadly, many aspects of the fashion industry are unsustainable; with problems of labour, consumerism and a huge environmental toll.
Despite its flaws, fashion has the potential to be transformed by sustainability.
To understand better how fashion can be a problematic industry, first let’s explain ‘fast fashion’. Fast fashion is typically cheap clothing from high street retailers where new lines or products are released every week or month. The garments available to purchase from fast fashion retailers usually have a short life cycle because of the poor quality, plastic-based materials that they are made from. Fast fashion is inherently consumerist. Marketing persuades us that we need to keep buying more, never being satisfied with what we already have. Stress is created about constantly being ‘on trend’ and fast fashion companies use this pressure to justify the accelerated release of new collections, which now happens quicker than ever.
Fast fashion may be cheap, but it has high costs in other areas. The production of the many tonnes of cheap clothing constantly filling the shelves of fast fashion retailers has significant social consequences. Clothing manufacturers use sweatshops where people work long hours in poor or even hazardous working conditions for extremely low pay. There have been numerous cases of factory fires and warehouse collapses in Bangladesh, proving that crucial safety is not ensured in these workplaces. The 2013 Rana Plaza garment factory collapse killed 1,134 people. This factory supplied clothes for companies like Primark and Matalan.
The production of garments can require dying or cleaning. Without adequate protection equipment, workers suffer exposure to harmful chemicals and carcinogens. Furthermore, the disposal of these toxic chemicals is not controlled, meaning they often end up in the water systems, impacting local and global health. Textile workers struggle to demand better conditions because access to trade unions is limited and the surplus of people needing work means the people demanding better conditions can simply be fired. Female workers are frequently subject to sexual harassment, discrimination and have no access to maternity leave, and the use of child and slave labour also occurs.
This isn’t just an issue in Bangladesh. In July 2020, The Sunday Times investigated a garment factory in Leicester which produces clothes for online fast fashion retailers Boohoo and NastyGal after a local coronavirus outbreak. The report found that workers were being paid the equivalent of £3.50 an hour, far below the UK minimum wage of £8.72, and were not provided with adequate personal protection equipment. Meanwhile, the corporations running this exploitation are generating huge profits.
In our consumerist world, it’s easy to get ‘had by the ad’. Yet if a sparkly new garment costs less than £5, and the fast fashion brand is making profits large enough to spend on advertising campaigns with influencers, it’s not difficult to make the connection that for this to happen, someone must be getting exploited somewhere down the line.
The environmental cost of fast fashion is huge. Textile industries emit more greenhouse gasses than international shipping and aviation combined. When clothing is so cheap and disposable, there is no encouragement to value items and extend their lives. This leads to many clothes being dumped in landfill as a new trend cycle begins. More and more textile waste is being created, which, given that the fabrics used are often plastic-based such as nylon or polyester, does not biodegrade or break down. Just like other plastic waste, the toxins enter the air and water cycle, polluting our oceans and further damaging our own health.
Fast fashion is a dirty industry on many levels, but with so many fabrics, clothes and pre-loved items floating around this crazy space, all we need is someone coming in to rescue them and give them new life as something made consciously and sustainably.
Quitting fast fashion does not mean quitting being fashionable, or feeling confident in what you wear.
Fashion is one of the most polluting industries. When the true cost of the fashion industry is revealed, it’s enough to put people off ever buying new clothes again. But the horrors of fast fashion shouldn’t stop people from having fun, expressing themselves and loving what they wear.
Sustainable options are out there, we as consumers just need a little shift in perspective and the motivation go out and find them. The good thing is, finding sustainable alternatives is exciting and ethical in so many ways. Through avoiding fast fashion, you stop enabling companies to harm people and the planet. Buying an item from a shop like Maisey Made instead means you have supported an independent business owner, rescued materials from waste and you get the benefit of a unique piece different to what anyone else owns. It’s a win-win for everyone, and this is why sustainable fashion is something everyone should get involved with.
Rose Mason is a writer on a whole host of topics, from sustainability, to politics, to chatting about her daydreams. She studied BA Culture and Media Studies in Leeds and now lives in London and is committed to spreading a positive message though her work.