Not many of us know where the garments we buy on a weekly basis were made, let alone what they are made from. To challenge this modern problem, LCF teamed up with Cordwainers Community Garden (whose members use LCF land to grow food crops) and the artist Zoe Burt, to grow and manufacture an item of clothing entirely within London.
Groups and individuals from across London used spare growing spaces, from large communal plots to small balcony pots, to sow flax – the plant from which linen is made – as part of the Grow a Garment project.
Harvesting flax at Cordwainers Community Garden on LCF’s Mare Street site. Image via UAL News Blog
Urban locations were embraced and the project used the attributes of city living – lots of people and small, disparate areas of land – as an advantage, rather than seeing it as a barrier to sustainability.
Seventeen sites successfully grew flax during spring and summer 2014. The flax was harvested, and community workshops held at LCF and primary schools taught participants to break, scutch, heckle and spin the flax into linen threads.
The linen was eventually designed and knitted into the final garment by LCF students and staff in February 2015. The project took hundreds of hours of labour over an entire year and involved more than 500 people, including primary school children, community groups, growers, craftspeople and LCF staff and students.
The project was created as a way to highlight the environmental and labour costs of growing fibre and to inspire people to connect with the environment. When so much time and labour are invested directly into clothing we are far less likely to throw it away at the first sight of a hole. It teaches us the value of what we wear and encourages us to be sustainable. Sustainable projects like this have the potential to inspire more of us to build the stories of our clothes.