On the 9-10th May we ran Refashion East, a weekend of sustainable fashion events and activities around Spitalfields in East London, celebrating the area’s fashion heritage and bringing together some of the key players in London’s thriving sustainable fashion scene.

The Spitalfields area has a particular relevance; it used to be the engine room of the British clothing industry, and you don’t have to look far for reminders of this history in street names such as Petticoat Lane or Fashion Street. The old home of the East End rag trade has seen some changes over the years, from waves of immigrant bringing their multifarious textile skills to the area, to the tattoos and flat whites that recent gentrification has brought with it.

The weekend was a festival of making, seeing and doing. It featured workshops in knitting, hat-making and mending, a big clothes swapping session and a pop-up shop from local sustainable designers selling their wares.

A walking tour called ‘From Huguenots to Hipsters’ unravelled the area’s fashion history. At the Whitechapel Gallery we teamed up with the Empathy Museum, a brilliant new organisation who assembled a fashion ‘Human Library’ – a library in which the books are people from throughout the fashion industry, who had a natter about their work and by doing so allowed visitors to build a more objective/ and holistic? view of the fashion industry.

We had a blast organising the events and working alongside such inspirational partners; it proved to us that given the right platform there’s a wealth of talent and creativity in the fashion industry who are finding new ways to make the clothes we wear more sustainable.

Refashion East neatly encapsulates the approach we’re taking with all of our campaigns:

1. We collaborated with a host of brilliant delivery partners, including Wool and the Gang, Everything in Colour, Birdsong, Hatastic, the Empathy Museum, Fox & Squirrel, Cass School of Art (part of London Metropolitan University), Araminta, SWAP and the Heba Women’s Project – a big thank you to all who were involved!

2. We used our contacts in and out of the fashion industry to stage events that appealed not only to those interested in fashion, but also people interested in art and London history. We believe this is the way to get the sustainable fashion message beyond the usual audience.

3. We provided a platform for our partners in the campaign to do what they do best, while we organised the media and social media campaign behind it. The weekend had a full page preview in Time Out as well as coverage in The Evening Standard, The Stylist, City AM and London Live, as well as a social media reach of over 365,000.

4. The events were relaxed, sociable and allowed people to learn new skills, and/or acquire knowledge.

5. The events helped us work towards our Fashion Manifesto which aims to extend the lifespan of clothing in order to keep it out of landfill.

6. We hope that Refashion East will act as a catalyst for similar events in London and across the UK. We’re putting together a guide to running this kind of event which we’ll open-source so that others around the country can do the same thing based on our experience. If you’re interested then contact us: [email protected]