Retail therapy was a thing of the past for Laura Egan by the time lockdown happened. The professional fashion designer hasn’t bought a single item of brand-new clothing or footwear for some time, as she told Ryan Tubridy on Thursday:
“I stopped buying new at the end of last year.”
Laura has enjoyed a successful career as a fashion designer over the past four years, although she’s careful to point out that working in fashion is tough and it’s not all champagne-fuelled catwalk shows and endless goodie bags. Working in Paris and London, Laura has worked for both high-end labels and high street brands. But as her career progressed, she felt she could no longer ignore the environmental impact of her industry. Laura uses the word ‘damage’ to describe it:
“The word ‘damage’ does cover a whole vast amount of things in the fashion world. The one that I’m focusing on is the waste that is produced: the actual textile waste that the industry is producing.”
Laura has an insider’s view on what actually happens in the industry, and as such, she says she was part of the problem:
“I was a part of it. So, I might be in a fitting with a model, and I would be putting my design on her that I had pattern cut and made. And I would be, you know, marking it with a sharpie and cutting into the hem, where it’s deemed un-sellable. So that alone, that one garment is now in the bin.”
Laura says this is standard across the fashion industry, with thousands of brands binning clothing used in runway shows, and she says she reached a point where she needed to step away:
“I felt over the years, I needed to make some sort of change because the guilt was real.”
Last year, Laura came to the decision to stop buying anything brand-new to wear:
“I just cut out any new clothes, any new shoes. So I completely dedicated my shopping to charity shops and second hand.”
Fast-forward a few months to the Covid crisis, and another big change. This led to even more reflection for Laura:
“During Covid, I actually lost my job in London. I took it as… I was lucky enough to take it as a step to re-evaluate what I was doing and take it as a chance to make some sort of change in the fashion industry.”
This led to the creation of Minti, Laura’s online “pre-loved” clothing store. She has married her industry experience with the desire to help people who want to buy fewer brand-new clothes, but may not know how to go about it:
“People need to be converted to second-hand but I can understand how intimidating that is for someone who doesn’t necessarily like going to charity shops or who doesn’t really have much interest in rooting through rails of clothes. So, I thought, why not give people a platform where they don’t have to go to charity shops, they don’t have to leave their house; and start up a pre-loved and vintage clothes online shop.”
Laura has added an upcycling service to her offering, where she uses her design expertise to convert and combine older items into something new, potentially saving them from ending up in landfill:
“A lot of people have wanted this because they have those clothes in the wardrobe that they don’t wear, where they’re thinking, ‘You know, I would wear it if it was …’ It might be a dress, ‘I would wear it if it was a skirt.’”
Working from home, Laura tries to design with zero waste and she has plans to move to a studio in the near future and start teaching people how to upcycle their own clothing.
You can hear more from Laura and her plans for upcycling and sewing workshops in the full interview with Ryan here.
Laura’s pre-loved clothing website is minti.ie.
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