Vintage, secondhand, pre-loved
Olive Road London only sells vintage and pre-loved fabric and haberdashery. The fabrics I select have either been used by someone else, such as a pair of curtains. Or they have come from someone’s fabric stash, held onto for a long time and they want someone else to make use of the fabric. Re-purpose it and give it a new lease of live. I may sell new fabrics in the future and if I do they will come from a responsible source with a transparent supply chain.
‘Where do you find the fabrics?’ is a common question I’m asked by customers and friends. I’ll admit, it isn’t easy finding vintage fabrics and I stumble to give a straight answer. Where ever I am on holiday I can’t resist a charity shop to hunt for vintage and pre-loved fabric. My best buys have been in charity shops by the English coast. I can only assume people by the sea like to buy more fabric than us city dwellers. Charity shops are my go to for haberdashery items. I have a rainbow stash of darning yarns that have been collected over the years along with a treasured vintage darning mushroom. The best charity shop I have found in the UK so far is The Big C distribution centre in Wymondham, Norfolk. A treasure trove of fabrics, haberdashery and craft items you never even knew you needed. All neatly categorised in baskets. Buying textiles from charity shops raises millions of pounds for small through to large charities. Sometimes customers donate fabrics to me in exchange for a money donation to their favourite charity. I regularly support The Big Issue Foundation, Refuge, Bow Foodbank and Friends of the Earth. 10% of my eBay sales are donated to either one of these charities.
Buying vintage or pre-loved fabric is a sustainable source of textiles. Occasionally the fabric has it’s brand name and country of origin on it’s selvedge or it comes with a label but this is rare. With most of the fabric I source I have to estimate the fibre content of the fabric through my experience of dealing with fabrics, reading text books and undertaking a burn test. I do not know if the fabric has been produced in a sustainable way, with minimal damage to the environment with the many workers who have produced the fabric being paid a living wage and being treated fairly. What makes it sustainable is it’s reuse. By recycling a textile that is already in the world, it is preventing that textile from adding to the textile waste crisis. Re-purposing vintage fabric into a new item of clothing or home accessory means we are not buying new. We are not using the earth’s valuable resources to create a new product when there is already plenty of textiles in the world we can use. Of course, the added bonus of buying vintage means it is unique. I often only have one piece of each fabric. It is quite rare to find another the same.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
I’ve created a range of patterns to help dressmakers use up small pieces of fabric. This might be a small piece of vintage fabric a relative has given you or off cuts from dressmaking. I encourage the reduce and reuse of scrap fabrics. My patterns are printed on recyled and FSC standard paper using vegetable inks. I’ve pulled together kits using the patterns with the right amount of fabric and trims. The zips are sourced from factory deadstock (waste). The cotton cord and webbed tape for bag handles was sourced in Hong Kong. They are 100% cotton and made in China. The agent I bought them from wasn’t able to give me any more information on this. I bought the stock around 8 years ago before I was aware of the damaging effects of non-organic cotton on the environment. I did not want to throw away existing stock and replace it with an organic alternative as this would be adding to the textile waste crisis. I am looking for organic cotton or recycled alternatives once my current stock levels have run out. The kits are packaged in a drawstring bag made my me from vintage fabric and pre-loved fabric.
Refresh & repair
Some of the fabrics I source are in a bad way. They can be stained, have holes in or just have that musty smell that is difficult to shift. I never give up on a piece of textiles and do everything I can to restore it to a condition so it can be reused. I use Smol non-bio laundry detergent. I’ve mixed up my own spray to help reduce the effects of the smell, prevent moths.
Currently I ship my products in packaging that has been used for other products. For example the cardboard box that my Smol laundry detergent comes in. I also use mailbags that decompose in compost or household waste. I wrap the fabric in 100% recycled acid free tissue and then put in a plastic bag. It does mean that when you receive vintage fabric order the packaging may have another brand name written on it. I’m not worried about this if you’re not. I’d rather use resources that are out there. I found this article from Eco Age useful to explain the problems with plastic that sounds like it is sustainable. They recommend the reduce-reuse-recycle ethos. All my marketing material is produced on 100% recycled paper (sometimes t-shirt offcuts) using vegetable inks.
Olive Road London is run by me, Sarah Richards. Born out of a passion for vintage prints and fashion. I got fed up with the original vintage clothing not fitting around my size 16 waist. I wanted to make my own clothes to create a modern and wearable wardrobe with a vintage style. I adhere to the values I have set out here and strive to constantly improving my carbon footprint. I welcome feedback from customers on my products but also my values.