REMIE STUDIO Interview
Remie Studio uses technical skill to imbue ‘upcycling’ with a whole new meaning, creating inhouse yarns from deconstructed fabric offcuts falling at the wayside of the consumer journey. With a background in textile design which garnered an awareness of the sinister scale of waste, designer xxxxxx was inspired to experiment with sustainability; she began collecting small offcut pieces of the same colour tone and restitching them into new intricate fabrics, before developing silhouettes best suited to handmade textiles, and settling on handbags. Every step of Remie’s process is deeply considered, constructing yarns from matched textiles ensures fabric is created to to match the pattern exactly and eliminating the need for harmful dyes, which minimises both water and material waste. From the recycled thread to upcycled lining, sustainability is the impetus.
Handmade in xxxxx studio amidst the creative labrynth of East London, Remie Studio elevate fabrics from their obsolete reality, transforming offcuts into objects of interest that are both art and accessories. The antidote to mass production, each bag represents a journey that flirts with creativity and artisanal skill. The perfect marriage of style and design. We discuss the plague of fast fashion which deems ephemeral and lifelong experiences the same value, the intricate process behind each Remie Studio piece, and the resources that keep xxxxx informed.
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is all about finding creative ways of using pre-existing materials and building on self-sustaining practices within the fashion industry. This is at the heart of every decision made in Remie’s design process from the space saving patterns that make the most of the small pieces of salvaged fabrics, to the handmade fabric that creates a use for the smallest scraps which are usually deemed useless. The exploration of this fabric was an intensive process, thinking creatively about how those little offcuts can be saved from ending up in landfill. All to result in a beautifully unique accessory that brings joy, and will stand the test of time.
How did your brand come about?
My background is in textile design, so Remie came about through the desire to experiment with sustainability in textiles. Upon learning about the scale of fabric wastage in garment production (the offcuts from clothing patterns), I was motivated to experiment with ways of reusing these offcuts. This is how Remie’s handmade fabric was born.
The process began with combining very small offcut pieces of the same colour tone and restitching them into a new, intricate fabric. The next step was product development, to find the perfect form best suited to handmade fabric. Handbags were the answer as they complement the material, work well with smaller availability of fabric, and allow for endless experimentation in design. The more I sourced fabrics I found there were plenty of offcuts which are big enough (and beautiful enough!) to be used as they are – so now the collection combines both Remie’s handmade fabric, and a range of beautiful upcycled fabrics.
What cultural influences exist in your home country that encourage or prevent sustainability?
I moved from Australia to London 8 years ago – and one thing I loved discovering when moving here was the acceptance and excitement around buying pre-owned. I hadn’t experienced that same focus on shopping in vintage and charity shops before, but over those years this has greatly improved and any stigma that existed before about wearing ‘second hand’ is vanishing quickly. In London, we’re surrounded by incredibly innovative and resourceful designers who are all hyper aware of the effects of fashion on the planet. And so we’re seeing a lot more upcycling methods, which is exciting as it’s a much harder design solution.
Can you tell us more about the story behind each Remie bag?
The first step is sourcing the fabrics, from pre-consumer waste (offcuts left behind after pattern cutting and textile swatches) to post-consumer waste (unwanted or damaged garments and fabrics). Fabrics are sourced from local clothing manufacturers, fashion studios, charity shops and donations. The key being that the fabrics are at risk of ending up in landfill.
The fabrics are then sorted; those which are large enough and suitable to be used as they are, and those which are not and need to be re-made into Remie’s unique fabric. For Remie’s fabric, the offcuts are grouped into colourways to avoid dyeing and water usage. They are then deconstructed and reconstructed together using intricate stitch work, all done using recycled thread! Creating the fabric from scratch takes time and patience. At Remie, each piece of fabric is also made to match the pattern, thus avoiding any off-cut waste.
The making of each bag is done by myself in my London home studio. I pick a fabric, and then decide which bag style will be the best fit and best use for the size of fabric. Care goes into every stage of the making process; choosing the best handle style to use, picking a complementary lining (all upcycled as well of course) and adding hand stitched details. Sustainability is kept in mind through all the materials used, down to the threads used which are either Gütermann’s recycled range, donated, or sourced secondhand.
Each piece is completely one of a kind. In some cases there might be enough fabric to make a second or third bag in a similar style, but they’re always unique in their handmade quality. The collection currently consists of three main bag styles, all of which have their own personalities and marry practicality with creativity.
And a little bit about the community that surrounds the brand?
I am based in East London, which is a never ending labyrinth of creatives in all disciplines. One of the things that makes me most proud to be in this community is the awareness and care for the environment – it seems to be at the forefront of most people’s minds and there is a real support for local makers and creatives. East London is also home to many fashion studios and clothing manufacturers, which means there are many opportunities to source salvaged fabrics locally.
In your eyes, what is most misunderstood about sustainability in fashion?
The value in time. It’s difficult to compare with the highstreet, on prices which don’t pay anyone in the system properly. As a society we are sadly so accustomed to buying an item of clothing for the same cost as a meal, when in fact there is nothing sustainable about this. In turn, we are in the habit of buying cheap items more often, rather than saving and spending more on items less frequently which are made sustainably. This mindset is something that needs to be challenged, each item has a value and takes time to create – not valuing this is the heart of the issue.
What is your advice towards achieving a more sustainable wardrobe?
Swap with friends, buy second hand: go into a charity or vintage store when you pass it – you never find exactly what you’re looking for, just pick up the gems when they find you. Revamp items if they’re not quite right for you; taking in a seam can make all the difference and give items a new lease of life, if a white item is stained, spend some time dyeing or painting it. Keep a list of local makers who you can buy from, and do your research before buying – don’t be fooled by greenwashing advertising, support designers who are making the fashion world a better and cleaner place. Think consciously before you buy – ask questions like, is this item going to stand the test of time in your wardrobe? And enjoy what you have!
What resources have you found most helpful for staying informed about sustainability in the fashion space?
Stories behind things (ig: @storiesbehindthings) is a great community and news platform for all things sustainable. Good On You is an ethical fashion app where you can search a label to see their sustainability practices.
‘Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press’ is a podcast dedicated to sustainability in the fashion industry with a wealth of topics and knowledge. ‘Fashionopolis: The price of fast fashion and the future of clothes’ by Dana Thomas is a very informative book.
Tell us about a day in the studio?
Each day varies between the many areas of admin, sourcing, photography, orders, and of course making! But it can look a little like this… Start with a tidy studio and a coffee. Check any urgent emails and to-do’s. Process any new orders. Select fabric for the next new piece. Get making! Check the socials, take some photographs. A final email check and any admin tasks that need to be done. Tidy the mess that’s been created for a fresh start tomorrow!
What can we expect from your brand over the next year?
The next year for Remie will bring more creativity, collaborations with other innovative makers, beautiful fabrics, some exciting additions to the collection, and the opportunity for Remie pieces to be enjoyed out in the real world with friends and family.
In your own words, what makes your brand unique?
Remie has a unique way of elevating fabrics from nearly wasted, to beautiful objects that balance art and accessory. You can own and enjoy a piece that’s completely one off, and only exists in your life, in your wardrobe. In a world of mass production that element of uniqueness can be magic.