Having a kitchen exposed in a restaurant not only provides a sense of transparency between the chefs and guests, but it creates an entirely different dining experience that can set the establishment apart from the competition—similar to the open concept of Remade in Leeds, but in a retail environment.
Lizzie Harrison created the sustainable fashion shop, along with the launch of her brand Antiform in 2010, with an open factory plan, allowing customers to see the reality of how clothes are made as they shop. This transparency comes from a personal penchant of Harrison.
“I can’t eat meat that I don’t know where it came from, and I can’t buy clothes that I don’t know where it’s made and what it’s made of,” said the young entrepreneur and designer.
Although the idea for the Antiform clothing line started to form in 2007, Remade in Leeds initially began as a MA Fashion and the Environment research project at the London College of Fashion in 2009. The project challenged the possibility of having a supply chain and production process that spans just 20 miles wide. To find out if the idea could work effectively, Harrison set up the business, employing a predominantly female staff to tackle the immensely popular high street in Leeds.
Being one of the original centres of the textile industry, having the roots of M&S there, as well as home to Burberry factories, Harrison recognised that not only are there endless resources for local material, but Leeds residents needed more than what the standard shop could offer. The shop owner said the lack of an independent quarter keeps the city behind other major cities in the North, such as Manchester and Newcastle, and doesn’t provide any type of hub for sustainable fashion.
Harrison’s core goal is to engage with audiences who are not familiar with sustainability. Online, the shop provides a web-based community with an active blog and how-to guides. In person, the shop runs upcycling workshops, both locally and internationally, clothing swaps, and collaborations with major charities such as Friends of the Earth.
“It’s important to take up the challenge of educating consumers who are not already sustainable shoppers, otherwise we’re just talking to already informed people,” said Harrison.
The Remade in Leeds typical customer varies, as with many sustainable fashion shops. The shop caters mostly to sixth form and university students, as that is the nature of the city. But, they have gladly welcomed much older people into their 60s who are fans of the cut and colour of many of the pieces.
Harrison believes it will take local community leaders who are passionate about sustainability in other areas, to add fashion to the agenda and push it to members of the public. This may be able to generate loyal relationships with brands for people in the 20s-50s age bracket.
Until the level of interest in sustainable fashion is achieved in Leeds and across the UK, many questions still stand in the minds of ethical fashion entrepreneurs. How much information about sustainability is the right amount to incorporate? Should people be left to figure most things out on their own? Should we take a sustainable lifestyle or fashion approach?
All of which are relevant questions, but the answers are left to the shop owners to troubleshoot and decide. Although Harrison explores these issues herself, she stands by her unique shop concept and encourages fellow business owners to build their own strong identity as a boutique.
“The glossy world that we’ve created is hiding all this other stuff,” said Harrison. “We have the responsibility of exposing what is good.”
To learn more about the story behind Remade in Leeds and Antiform, visit: http://www.remadeinleeds.org/