Geraldine Carton and Taz Kelleher, the trendy duo behind Sustainable Fashion Dublin, are running fun events with a strong message about the fashion industry’s global environmental impact, writes Ellie O’Byrne
Freelance writer Geraldine Carton, 27, studied creative cultural industries in DIT and worked for Image Magazine and as the Happy Pear’s social media manager before meeting Taz Kelleher, 24, a freelance podcast producer who studied media communications also at DIT.
Now they run Sustainable Fashion Dublin and organise a variety of events, from swap shops to denim upcycling workshops, focused on reducing the impact of ‘fast fashion’ and promoting sustainable fashion. They’re holding their first weekend of events outside Dublin, including a charity shop trawl, swap shop, and sustainable fashion flea market, in Cork on August 17-18.
Geraldine says: “Myself and Taz only met in November of last year. I followed her on social media and I was leaving Image Magazine to go freelance. I wanted to do something positive and community-driven, and I saw Taz put up a video saying she wanted to do some swap shop events. We met for a pint and it was, boom! Platonic love at first sight.
“We were both interested in fashion but really interested in sustainability too. I think millennials are also finding it really hard to meet people, so I wanted to provide events and spaces that are encouraging and inclusive and that’s how we came up with Sustainable Fashion Dublin; it’s a fun way to engage in sustainable fashion that’s not preachy and not based on itchy hemp knickers and beige.
“From waste-water laden with pesticides used to grow the crops, through to the dyes used, the fashion industry is considered the second-most polluting industry in the world. There are documentaries where you can see the impact on various communities around the world. Things are looking frankly apocalyptic and we really need to change, but it’s not all doom and gloom and it’s possible to do something positive.
“People are going to engage with the fashion industry, but at least by shopping second-hand you can reduce the demand for new clothes, because we have enough clothes in the world. We own 60% more clothes than our parents’ generation owned, and within a year of being bought, 60% of clothes are ending up in landfill anyway. At this point, we’re treating clothes as being as throw-away as a disposable coffee cup and when a t-shirt is the same price as a coffee you can understand that.
“If you wear your clothes an extra nine months, it decreases their carbon footprint by 30%. Basically, we’re just saying value your clothes, and value the fact that they do cause damage to the world. We do a DIY denim workshop; a lot of people don’t realise how destructive denim is. Cotton is an incredibly thirsty plant. To make one pair of jeans, you need the equivalent of one person’s drinking water for three years. People throw jeans out so flippantly, so we’re trying to say, really value them and if you don’t like them, why not upcycle them with things like embroidery until you love them again.
"People seem really interested in going back to basics right now so there’s a huge demand for things like sewing workshops. Our grannies were far more sustainable than us, but not because they were trying to be; they were just being practical.
“Our first ever event was a charity shop crawl and we had nine people. We brought them from Rathmines to George’s St and stopped in about 11 charity shops, talking to the people who worked there and highlighting the great stuff you can get in them. Not only are you shopping more sustainably, but you’re supporting a charity too, so it is a real win-win.
“Next, we set our sights on a swap shop and the event sold out within days and since then there’s been no looking back. We probably have about 60% young girls, 30% older women, and about 10% guys at the moment and we’re really trying to expand and make all ages, genders, and sizes welcome. I don’t want sustainable fashion to be another stick to hit women with. Women do buy more clothes, but men wear clothes too and they need to consider the impacts.
“We say all shapes and sizes are welcome. Myself and Taz are both young, slim girls but it’s not all about being ‘size zero’ or high fashion. We get people of different sizes and when we do a swap shop, we always do a little talk first where we say, ‘don’t look at the sizes first. It’s not about a number, it’s about how you can work with what’s on offer.’ It’s just about approaching clothes differently and finding the joy in them and I think that does shift body confidence issues.”