To support fashion revolution week’s campaign ‘who made my clothes’ I chatted to Designer-Maker Nadien Klages on her stall at the recent Urban Makers East Eco Spring Fair. Nadien re-purposes adults clothing into children’s apparel. I find out where she picks up her ideas and how she developed her sustainable fashion business.
It was whilst re-organising her wardrobe that Nadien found the inspiration for her business. ‘I found all these lovely pieces that we stopped wearing. The first pair of trousers I made for my son was out of my partner Nils’ blue and white striped shirt. It was what he was wearing when we first met but it had shrunk in the wash’. Nadien took her fabric scissors to the shirt and turned it into a pair of trousers for her son Emil, who was one at the time. ‘I do ask Nils before I cut up his shirts’ Nadien laughs.
Nadien never dreamt she would run her own children’s label. ‘I studied women and menswear design at university but my interest shifted once my son was born. Having him around and seeing what is important for kids clothes such as wide shape for comfort, easy to clean, clothes that grow with the child’. She explains whilst bouncing her second child, daughter Ida on her knee. ‘Two or three design tricks mean you can keep your favourite piece for more than one season’.
Sustainable fashion was on the curriculum at the university where Nadien studied in Germany. ‘It is more important to resume these existing resources rather than buying them new all the time and helping fight against fast fashion. I want to show people that there are alternatives and the clothes we keep throwing away are still good by mending them and making something new’
I wonder how she comes up with new ideas. ‘I don’t design with an inspiration first. I have an old garment in front of me and I think about what to make out of it. I find it an amazing challenge to turn an existing design into something different – a men’s shirt becomes a boy’s pair of trousers, an old pair of jeans turns into a pair of dungarees for the child and a rucksack for the parent.’
‘There used to be no question that you would mend your socks but now you can buy five pairs for four quid. People don’t have the skill or the time to mend something’. ‘Re-purposing your clothes is so much fun: put lace on the sleeves, shorten the skirt, add fabric to make it wider.’ We both agreed that the nineties fad of dip dying is due a comeback ‘that is what I love – lots of experiments’.
Nadien teaches sewing workshops at pop up shops such as Urban Makers East who hosted their Eco Spring Market last weekend in Mile End. If I have a break from sewing it is like something is not right, I become unbalanced. Nothing is better than starting with a fabric and have something wearable in your hands after a few hours.’ She enjoys passing these skills onto customers and meeting people who want to commission a piece. ‘One customer wanted to talk about what to make for her daughter’s first birthday, so I reconstructed a pair of dungarees from her husband’s favourite shirt’.
‘I made a dungaree skirt out of my grandma’s piny for my daughter. Seeing Ida in the kitchen wearing the skirt brought back the smells of her cooking and I could visualise my grandma. Stories that you connect with a piece when you see it. What is cuter than seeing these stories going along a new path.’
Nadien makes clothes to order and offer an upcycling service that creates bespoke kidswear from your old favourite clothes contact her via her website. You can also buy from the ready-to-wear collection and accessories from her Etsy store.