The sustainable fashion designer talks his love for the slow fashion movement and the progression he hopes for upon his partnership.
It is no secret that the world needs to start thinking more green. And, while the wonders of the fashion world are endless, its notorious connection to wastefulness and lack of climate consciousness cannot be ignored. One innovative design maverick hell-bent on breaking down this relationship and leading the industry to a greener tomorrow is Patrick McDowell.
With a passion for slow fashion deeply rooted in the very ethos of his work, the young talent has been paving the way for a new generation of designers by crafting garments from declaimed fabrics since his beginnings. Now, he has turned his attention to shedding light on the Gen Z designers sharing his passion for the new movement. In a bid to celebrate the hope-igniting statistic that over half of young people today are keen to ditch fast fashion, Patrick has partnered with Samsung KX upon the commencement of Graduate Fashion Week. Playing the role of ambassador and host of the Slow Catwalk Finale, the designer, along with eco-fashion enthusiasts Samata Pattinson, hoped to praise the creative innovation and social consciousness of the class of 2021.
“We were able to host this show at the Samsung King’s Cross space at Coal Drops Yard which was really uplifting for the students who have had a year where they’ve been creating between home and university and have had that uncertainty as to if they’re going to show their garments in a physical setting,” explains Patrick. “It has been really nice and it has been a huge honour of mine to be able to work with these really talented graduates”
Upon his partnership with Graduate Fashion Week, the pioneering designer sat down with Wonderland to discuss the potential impact a new generation of designers could have on the fashion world, how everyone can get involved in slow fashion, and what the next step in his career looks like. Head below to read Patrick’s interview now…
So first of all, how are you doing? How have you been?
I am okay, enjoying the sun! How are you?
I am good, thanks. It is not so sunny over here! So how has the last year been for you creatively? Has the pandemic affected your design process or your creative energy in any way?
When it first started, we changed what we were doing and ended up presenting a completely digital show which was fascinating. In general, I have found that it has given everyone that push to do more digitally-focused things. In some ways, businesses are running more efficiently now, and I love efficiency. Creatively, I also think it is important to say that it has been difficult and for any creatives reading this you should know that it is okay to feel like sometimes you need a breather.
Congratulations on your partnership with Samsung KX for Graduate Fashion Week! You must be so excited! Can you talk us through the experience and your role within the partnership?
So as a global ambassador for the Graduate Fashion Week, it has been a real privilege to work with Samsung and shine a spotlight on graduates that are doing things in a more conscious way.
We were able to host this show at the Samsung King’s Cross space at Coal Drops Yard which was really uplifting for the students who have had a year where they’ve been creating between home and university and have had that uncertainty as to if they’re going to show their garments in a physical setting. It has been really nice and it has been a huge honour of mine to be able to work with these really talented graduates.
That leads in nicely to the statistic that has come out which states that six in ten young adults are keen on leaving fast fashion behind them. What do you think has instigated this change?
I think we are now seeing a generation of graduates that are Gen Z and their brains have formed with technology around, so of course they’re more with it. It is like I was saying at the beginning about things working in a more efficient way and about common sense. This new generation takes a look at things that were done in the past and can see through the bullshit and see how it can be done better and faster. They look at fast fashion and think ‘How embarrassing that this generation started this thing which is really terrible and we know how to do it differently and it’s perfectly within our reach, and we have the tools to facilitate it so we’re going to do it’. I love that type of attitude that they have about re-thinking and doing things.
It is so uplifting to see! So obviously we are talking about how other people are getting involved with the slow fashion movement, but how did you personally get involved with it? Where did that inspiration come from?
So it all started when I was thirteen, I come from a very working-class background in the North of England in Liverpool and I wanted a new school bag and my parents wouldn’t let me, so I stormed off upstairs found an old pair of jeans and made a new bag from that. Following on from that, I’ve always used old textiles or damaged textiles because that was a cheaper option for me, so that was always a necessity for me rather than trying to save the planet. But, often the best innovations come from people who come from more challenging backgrounds because it is a necessity for them and they have to innovate, which is not the case for most people in fashion.
Reworking old garments is one of the tips you provide for people who are trying to get into slow fashion. What would be your favourite tip for someone trying to embrace slow fashion?
It really is incredible what you can do with what you already own, I always copy this quote from Orsola de Castro where she says, “The most sustainable thing is always in your wardrobe,” and it is really true.
I had a vintage suit and because I am a short person, men’s jackets are always too long for me and I was not wearing it. So, I took it to the dry cleaners, pinned it and said “Can you just cut this and re-hem it really short”, and he did it and now I really love it. It is amazing if you just look in the wardrobe, it’s almost like you can go shopping. A good thing I find is that if I take a good thing out of the wardrobe that I am not wearing, put it somewhere such as the kitchen cupboard and then after a few weeks go back to it, I see it differently. You can almost go shopping in your own wardrobe, and if you have got friends you can swap things with them because we all have things we want from them.
That is such good advice! I love the idea of hiding your clothes away and rediscovering them!
It is fascinating because it is really easy to get rid of something if you don’t like it, but if you can stop yourself from walking out the door, you can re-find things at home. Just standing in front of a mirror for thirty minutes and holding them up and seeing how they would look wider or shorter can be useful and then you can maybe take it to the dry cleaners and change it. To get that jacket shortened it was £20 because it was tailoring, but if it’s trousers into shorts or a shirt without sleeves its can be super cheap, and it’s fun you know.
It’s fun, you become your own designer! So all of these things you’re doing now are amazing, but as someone in the slow fashion movement, where do you see it heading next?
So I think it’s really fascinating, I don’t think it’s a one size fits all approach but I think if we look back at the ideas of the past and combine them with technology, we’ll create the future.
My grandmother is 98 and speaking to her about things she did in the 1920s as a working class lady is amazing. It was all the things that are in fashion now like swapping clothes with your friends. Her wedding dress, for example, was her friend’s wedding dress because she couldn’t afford to buy one. Her mother’s wedding outfit was the one outfit that all the group of friends bought together and wore to different occasions because it was all they could afford. All these things are kind of versions of what’s happening now like swapping and changing things. For me, the changing of business models is always the most interesting, for example looking at the gross of rental, the gross of second hand sale and the gross of restoration. If you look at companies such as Restory, who are doing incredible things with repairing and receiving luxury garments and accessories, they are changing from a linear business model to a circular one which provides so many more business opportunities. I am excited to see those things growing right now.
It is an exciting time especially when considering business models and restoration.
It is amazing, I sent Restory some of my old Valentino boots and they came back looking brand new. It’s really mad magician work that they do there!
On a more personal note, what is next for you? Do you have any projects you are working on right now that you can tell us about or any that you are excited to work on in the future?
So we are growing our Reimagine collection, which is where we work with brands to find new ways to utilize their deadstock clothing or past season garments.
We are also looking to launch a new line, which is my first real venture into clothes that will be sold under my own label. I have been hesitant to do it so far as I didn’t believe the business model was efficient. We are looking into a direct-to-consumer, made once ordered and in a limited quantity luxury fashion business model. I think we will start to see things moving that way as it avoids all of this overproduction nonsense we are seeing right now. For me, being a designer is also about designing the business model that the clothes sit in, not just the clothes themselves.
Do you have any final sentiments?
Just that the graduates have had an unprecedented time and they have still managed to come through with really great ideas. I strongly believe we always have to support the next generation of talent from all backgrounds, to ensure the future of the fashion industry and we need to make sure we’re giving opportunities to people from all backgrounds and all classes to ensure they thrive in fashion.