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Back to the Future: Sustainability in Contemporary Textile Production


Saturday 24 September, 4pm

Title: Back to the Future: Sustainability in Contemporary Textile Production
Speakers: Polly Leonard, (Chair), Safia Minney, Carin Mansfield, Lisa Whatmough

Outline: Polly Leonard, Founder of leading textile magazine Selvedge, will lead a discussion that considers how in a world of fast fashion, when a new tee shirt can cost less than a cup of coffee, we can reconcile providing income to makers in developing countries while acknowledging the carbon footprint of our clothes. As well as investigating how we can justify making more garments when there are wardrobes bursting with deserted clothes, she will look at pre-Industrial Revolution textile production methods as a possible way to engage with sustainable production for the future.


Polly Leonard, Founder of Selvedge Polly Leonard is the Founder of Selvedge, an internationally renowned textile magazine that was launched in 2003. From its modest beginning as a one-off publication, the magazine revolutionised the way textiles are presented and quickly became the world's leading textile publication. As well as a magazine, Polly has since launched an online and bricks and mortar shop, seasonal artisan fairs and creative collaborations with the likes of Anthropologie, The National Trust and the V&A. Polly has a specialist knowledge in all aspects of textiles, with particular interest in the role textiles has played in the evolution of humanity. Selvedge combines her passions for social history, fine art and craft.

Safia Minney, MBC FRSA Social Entrepreneur, Author & Founder of People Tree, UK & Japan Safia is recognised internationally as the pioneer of sustainable fashion and one of the best known people in the Fair Trade movement. She is also recognised by the World Economic Forum as an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur. Safia launched Global Village in 1991 in Japan out of which People Tree was born and then in London in 2000. She drove the business as CEO, Creative Director, Head of Fair Trade supply chain development and communications. People Tree was the first fashion company to achieve organic and Fair Trade certification in the world. The business brings social impact to over 5000 economically disadvantaged farmers, artisans and tailors. Safia is author of: By Hand; Naked Fashion – The Sustainable Revolution; Slow Fashion – Aesthetics meets Ethics and is currently working on 'Slave to Fashion' campaigning to day eradicate modern slavery. Safia is featured in the movie 'True Cost' as a leading spokesperson on the fashion industry and her pioneering work in delivering social change.

Carin Mansfield, Universal Utility After 15 years as a type of underground movement, Universal Utility brand has found a home called in-ku. Previously selling within the environs of like minded souls i.e. Egg London, Dover street market London & Tokyo and multiple Comme des Garçons stores in Japan, the brand's inventor wanted the Made in England label to be appreciated in London. The product's character represents carefully crafted quality rather than obscure inventive design. Clothing without season, time, age or trend; the philosophy being slow workmanship to create a life long product which won't end up in landfill. Universal utility has always used garment construction techniques which cannot be used in the current fast pace production methods of this age.

Lisa Whatmough, Managing and Creative Director of Squint Limited Lisa founded Squint in 2005 and has spent the last nine years learning the principles of retail, wholesale and manufacturing. Squint was the creation of Lisa Whatmough, who through her passion for textiles and with a very British design sensibility has created a world of richly decorative home wares which are a fusion of fashion and the decorative arts, each UK-made item becoming a piece of contemporary art work. Lisa imbues Squint with her own style and has created a clear visual signature mixing ages and social and artistic heritages to create her own conceptual vision of how we live today. She sells internationally in some of the world's top design and fashion stores.