Press release: Fashion First Aid to the rescue!

Our Challenge’s Press Team are tasked with posting a press release every day. Here’s what they have written about day three of our Challenge.

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Fashion First Aid to the rescue!

In Exeter’s Guildhall Shopping Centre this week, fashion experts and members of the public have been working with University of Exeter students in Exeter’s Guildhall Centre to talk about ethical fashion. Yesterday’s expert was Falmouth University’s Irene Griffin who ran a Fashion First Aid Surgery in a disused shop. Staffed by students from Exeter and Falmouth Universities, and assisted by Lauren Coxon from Exeter’s Arrietty shop their aim was to work with members of the public to breathe new life into old and tired clothes in. Some examples of this work will be part of a Fashion Show tomorrow in the Forum building at the University of Exeter.

For Irene, a Technical Instructor for mixed media on the Textile Design Programme at Falmouth University, running this surgery was important because, she said, “As a human race we have lost our creativity because we no longer ‘make’ ourselves”. She believes that more ethical and sustainable shopping should involve buying fewer clothes, and that retailers should think of ways to restyle old clothes so that they will create a long-term relationship with their customers, “When you buy clothes you enter a ten-year contract.”

Also visiting yesterday was Jocelyn Whipple, an environmentalist and sustainability expert within the fashion and textile industries. Joss was a founding member of the Green Carpet Challenge project, whose aim was to ‘unlock the potential of Sustainable Style’. This, she told the students, had had a mixed reaction from big brands who found it difficult to adjust to such an innovative scheme.

Joss explained how it was difficult to find out exactly who makes our clothes, where, and to convey this information to people. A more ethical fashion industry requires such transparency. As retailers and consumers, she said, “we can all implement changes and participate in a positive new movement. A shift that will redirect towards clean, transparent and socially uplifting systems which, in turn, will become the ‘fabric’ of our lives.” 

The Fashion First Aid Surgery was been busy all day, with people popping in to see much loved clothes – from skirts to waistcoats – revamped and repaired. Exeter local Wendy Birch droped by to join the team, customizing clothes left over from the previous day’s Clothes Swap in interesting ways, including sewing onto one garment dozens of  ‘Made in’ labels cut from students’ clothes.

Outside, in the Guildhall Centre’s Market Square, other students in the Exeter team set up a fashion ethics pop-up cinema, showing a short film they had made about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in April last year and its effects on the fashion industry and consumers. Passers-by who stopped to chat could take a fashion quiz to see how much they already know about ethical fashion. Others were asked think ‘what would you say to a person who made your clothes?’, and write the answer on a card. A selection of these cards will be on display in the shop window today. They were joined on the square by Exeter folk band Cider Fecks.

Students have also been working with Exeter artist Catherine Cartwright to produce cellophane outfit drawings, and shopping bags for tomorrow’s fashion show that have been made from textiles printed with the faces of Bangladeshi factory workers.

Another group of students visited High Street clothing retailers, inviting their managers to visit our store and share their expertise. Some were reluctant to do so, saying for example ‘We expect people to come to us’. But the manager of one of the city’s main Department stores is expected to drop by today.

Today, the students are completing their work, getting ready for their big show in the University’s Forum Building tomorrow afternoon. Guildhall Centre Manager Sheryel Adams will be in the audience. After learning how to repair a skirt damaged by her dog, she asked the students ‘Can you do this again next year?’


For more information on this project, see



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Instagram: @fashionethicsftt

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