Sustainability at Pitti:
Patrick McDowell
Edition 100
Kathrine Hamnett x Patrick McDowell Need Your HELP.

Sustainability at Pitti is a series of interviews that celebrate fashion’s climate-conscious innovators. By providing a platform for the designers that put sustainability at the core of their brand, we hope to inspire and lead a wave of change within our industry, helping us all to push for a better future together.

When two of the loudest voices in UK fashion unite to make a statement, it’s impossible not to pay attention, particularly when that statement is “HELP.” branded in huge black lettering across an entire collection. But turning heads is the whole point of Kathrine Hamnett x Patrick McDowell’s collaboration, which is intended to raise awareness about the devastating effects Brexit is having on the British fashion industry.
Their collab collection is called “Reimagine” and it unites the design practices they’re both renowned for: Hamnett’s signature teddy jacket and activist slogan tees, which she has been championing since 1981, and McDowell’s environmentally-conscious design practice (since leaving Burberry and starting his own label, McDowell has worked across the fashion industry developing Reimagine collections to reduce its global impact). 
Working closely with London-based studios, Hamnett’s pieces have been Reimagined by McDowell with sustainability in mind — the HELP. print found across the capsule was added using water-based ink, and the jackets are all from previous collections and revamped with a new silhouette. What’s more, Hamnett’s cotton tees are all GOTS Certified (Global Organic Textile Standard)  aka they’ve been given the stamp of approval from the world’s most reputable certifiers. 
The collection also unites their political stance: Brexit is a disaster for fashion’s creatives in the UK and something needs to be done. Or, as Hamnett puts it: “The only way we are going to get out of this shit is together. HELP. Work together.” Showing their work in Florence reinforces this message: “The Italian Fashion industry has always been so supportive of both of our brands,” says McDowell. For Pitti to show our collaboration is further proof that the UK fashion industry needs the support of Europe.”
In order to learn more about their collaboration, their feelings about Brexit, and the fashion industry’s sustainability efforts, we linked up with McDowell. 
What has been the impact of Brexit on the UK fashion industry? How have you felt the effects? 

I believe that in general, the modern way forward is by working together and collaborating, Brexit inhibits this natural flow of creativity and the natural movement of craft and skill throughout Europe. I think it is completely unnecessary and besides the practical implications, it feels like such an insult to my European friends and colleagues.
What could the fashion industry do to HELP. negate the effects of Brexit? 

We need real support from the UK government that identifies and acknowledges the size and importance of fashion in the UK. I hope that together as a whole industry we can find solutions and work through the extra struggles Brexit brings.

How has Brexit negatively impacted UK brands trying to produce collections in a climate-conscious way? 

Brexit has made the movement of goods more expensive and currently, they are taking more time. In general, I think sustainability is about being connected to people, process, craft. Brexit is separating us from Europe and that's damaging for everyone.
It’s amazing to see two designers renowned for using their voice for positive change within the fashion industry. How did this collaboration come about? 

We first met at a talk a few years ago and I personally love Katharine's clothes. I wear them day to day. Katharine has been very vocal about Brexit and as I am known for reimagining other brand's pieces she felt like it was natural to work together on this project.
Can you talk us through the sustainable elements of this collection? For example, what are the benefits of using water-based dye? 

Firstly all the jackets are from past seasons, reimagined. The workshop and printer we used for the collection are all within 5km of my studio, so they are very local. Printing can often be full of harmful chemicals and use a lot of energy to realize. Mesh and Blade, the London-based printers who we worked with, use water-based dyes free from toxic chemicals and the prints are cured through air, instead of the traditional 'baking,' which uses a lot of heat. 

How do you pair your awareness about the fashion industry’s climate impact with designing and creating new products? 

For me, the clothes have to have a meaning but also be special and desirable. I think we have had so many decades of clothes that just don't mean much. I think now, especially after the pandemic, we need meaningful, desirable, and long-lasting pieces that we can cherish for generations to come.

What are the biggest obstacles you face as a designer in regards to creating responsible collections? 

The system is set up to cater for making first, selling later. I believe this is one of the most pressing problems in fashion. If we simply made what people actually wanted rather than guessing we would dramatically reduce the waste created in this industry. It's just how it was in the past. The future is about looking back to how things used to be, combining those ideas with technology, and creating the future. 
How do you feel about seasonal showcases? Do you think we still need to present collections in such a way? 

I don't have a problem presenting the collections in such a way but feel like the production and buying should change. I think we see clothing sales as a very linear process but in fact, there is much financial gain in thinking about it in a much more 360 approach.

How do you feel about the industry’s current sustainability efforts? What change do you hope to see?  

I think for now it is impressive that sustainability has become part of the everyday language so quickly for many fashion brands. Of course we need to move faster and I think it is in the ability to see potential new revenue avenues such as rental, take back, reimagine, made to order that will see the business of the future today.
Do you have any top tips or words of advice for brands and designers looking to be more responsible in their work? 

Make only what you know people want to buy.
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