“I am very stubborn and do not like to be told what to do. I remind myself of what I have overcome before and that I can do what I do despite what other people may think”, Helen Brown.
What is your job about?
I began an upcycled clothing business 2 years ago, hand drawing and painting my own designs on preloved garments.
Whilst looking for suppliers I discovered Bristol Textile Recycling, and was invited to join Bristol ReUse along with several other projects facilitating reuse in the South West. With the assistance of this group, my business partner and I have spent the last few months developing and city centre arts hub, cafe and shop. It’s name, Phoenix, reflects how we started it – from nothing! All our furniture and fittings have been donated or bartered, and we aim to sell upcycled and recycled products, locally sourced good and drink, and provide space for similar projects to meet and grow in an environment of re use.
What issues do you address?
- Reusing and upcycling of unwanted and waste materials
- Providing new items from unwanted ones
- Diverting waste to new uses
- The fast fashion industry and its treatment of workers
- Providing clothes for those on a low income
What moved you to take action?
I was inspired by the work of other groups such as Antiform (Leeds) who buy old textiles and create durable pieces. I was working for others and just did not feel like I was doing the right thing but I loved to make things, I had a change in direction and started working on Kecks Clothing. Labour behind the label showed me the human cost of the fast fashion industry.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
- Cynicism – from people I interacted with and also the finance side of things. I also experienced people’s attitudes towards me as a single mum on benefits from a low income background.
- Stepping away from a business I built up alongside Kecks and recovering from that.
What helped you keep going in hard times?
- I just thought you can do this.
- I’m really stubborn and don’t like to be told what to do, I remind myself of what I have overcome before and that I can do this despite what other people may think.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
I’m very much about make do and mend. I’m from Yorkshire and I think I have always thought that being thrifty is cool. I have been in a position where I couldn’t afford new clothes, so I learned how to re use what I had while feeling proud and confident.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
7 – There is a way to go but I think there should always be room for improvement.