Fashion Fiesta alumni inspire a cleaner fashion industry from Leeds and beyond!

Fashion Fiesta alumni inspire a cleaner fashion industry from Leeds and beyond!

From established fashion houses operating on a global scale to our local designers working in their Yorkshire homes,a shift in the fashion industry is underway. The ongoing fight against climate change and a fairer economic system has prompted many to contribute towards a ‘greener’ future for following generations.

The reality is; there is more we can all do to contribute to the industry’s sustainability, whether it’s recycling old clothing or buying from a local Leeds designer rather than opting for a fashion powerhouse. On a local level, Leeds designers are striving towards making the industry a more sustainable one and tackling the problem head on. Some of our Fashion Fiesta alumni have been leading the way for sustainability and re shaping Leeds fashion landscape.

Siobhan Thomas, founder of ‘What’s Your Skirt’ and 2018 Fashion Fiesta Alumni spoke at last month’s Zero Waste Leeds fashion week. Alongside Corinne Coolican founder of ‘Cooli’ who is the current reigning Fashion Fiesta winner. Both designers own sustainable fashion bands from sourcing ethical materials to producing collections resourcefully to limit unnecessary waste. Zero Waste Leeds is a local initiative that sheds light on our wastage issues including fashion, this has prompted many designers to opt for a more sustainable route when designing and manufacturing clothing. Aside from the media attention surrounding what larger brands are doing during the environmental crisis, what can big fashion corporations take from our local Leeds designers, Corinne and Siobhan speaking at Zero Waste Leeds last month.


Many designers are now taking careful consideration when sourcing and using sustainable materials. Futuristic and innovative fabrics that are produced from recycled materials is a route most sustainable designers are choosing to take. Econyl, Pinatex and Tencel are all sustainable materials that designers are now opting for, rather than traditional materials such as Polyester and Cotton that have proved to harmfully affect the environment. Sustainable materials are commonly sourced from plants and even fruit wastage such as pineapple leaves. However, as the push for a cleaner industry persists, creative ways of organically sourced materials are coming into play, such as spider web silk and wood pulp! Utilizing unwanted fabrics.

Designers are reaching for materials that would otherwise have gone to waste, such as cutaways and unwanted fabrics. The art of reworking has been around for decades, but it’s the innovative designers that are elevating repurposing to a runway standard. This resonates with an audience and ultimately makes them want to indulge in purchasing, not just because of its ethical standpoint but because it’s a well-made high fashion garment.

Fashion Fiesta 2019 winner; Corinne Coolican, curated her winning collection with repurposed fabrics donated by friends and family, even unwanted fabrics from strangers online. Speaking at Zero Waste Leeds Fashion week, Corinne said;

“I never quite know what the collections are going to look like… I like to search anywhere that you can get old clothes because they have a part of history in there as well.”

Reworking Fabrics

We all have those items tucked away in the back of our wardrobes we never wear but we’re too protective to throw them away. Repurposing clothing could range from reworking and modernising pieces into high fashion garments, or taking and restoring a vintage garment back to its original state.

Siobhan Thomas, Fashion Fiesta Alumni and founder of ‘What’s Your Skirt’ ethos is taking a typically unwanted garment we would normally throw away into a beautiful skirt that has been repurposed for every day. Her aim is to limit our contribution to fashion waste by utilizing a garment and restoring it to its beauty in an ethical way.

“We’re asking our clients to take an old garment that they don’t like or wear anymore. It could be an old jacket, top or dress – even trousers! We’re then actually converting those garments into a skirt.”

“It’s such a cool idea and trend and people have been really getting involved because it is something that we need to do more of, especially when the fabric quality is beautiful and the print has history and meaning behind it.”

Local designers are inspiring many young budding designers to follow in their footsteps, proving that using a sustainable initiative doesn’t mean the design is compromised, it simply adds a sense of history and the buyer feels good when they’re wearing it. This year’s Fashion Fiesta show is focusing on sustainable designers and we’re looking for brands and designers who operate in a sustainable way, whether that’s manufacturing clothing using sustainable resources or ethically working with employees.

Written by Libby Dunne for Fashion Fiesta 2020