CHANGE Clothing: Fighting the UK's addiction to fast fashion

CHANGE Clothings founder, Adam West.
CHANGE Clothings founder, Adam West.

Recycling, flying less, and adopting a plant-based diet are often heralded as the holy trinity of things you can do to lower your carbon footprint. If you're dutifully sorting your rubbish into coloured bins, taking the Eurostar to Paris as opposed to that cheap flight, and getting involved with meat-free Mondays, you'd be right to feel pretty chuffed with yourself.

But there's one industry which quietly creates more CO2 than aviation and shipping combined. It's also directly responsible for 35% of the microplastics found in the ocean, and is built on cheap labour and a deeply ugly throwaway culture. Fashion.

The production behind CHANGEs products is all about sustainability.

The production behind CHANGEs products is all about sustainability.

Each week, 38m pieces of clothes are purchased in the UK and 11m are thrown away. The average lifespan of each item is just 2.2 years, and plenty head straight for landfills or incinerators. Sustainable fashion is a must, and that's where Adam West and CHANGE Clothing come in.

"I've always been interested in fashion, and as concerns over the industry's environmental and social impact grew, I wondered if there was a way to do things differently," explains Adam, 32, the founder of CHANGE. "I started looking at sourcing options and discovered Teemill."

Teemill is a garment-production company which uses certified organic cotton and plastic-free packaging, uses renewable energy throughout the supply chain, and makes new t-shirts out of old ones, making it perfect for Adam's vision of a street-wear brand whose focus is not only unique designs, but also on sustainability.

The cotton used is grown in northern India, where co-planting and insect-traps take the place of harmful fertilisers and pesticides. The water for the cotton comes from local reservoirs filled throughout the monsoon season, and the farmers are given a government-guaranteed price for their produce.

CHANGE Clothings t-shirts feature bold designs.

CHANGE Clothings t-shirts feature bold designs.

In the renewable energy-run factory where Adam's designs come to life, water water - usually a major effluent in the fashion business - is filtered and cleaned in order to be used again, while any excess cotton material is re-manufactured to be used for new products so nothing goes to waste.Even the packaging your CHANGE tee comes in is 100% biodegradable.

"The supply chain we use at CHANGE is unparalleled in terms of the low environmental impact and focus on social responsibility," said Adam, who comes from and lives in Garstang. "We've also been able to implement a circular production model in our latest collection, using cotton reclaimed from our returns to make our new products - I don't think there are many brands doing that in the UK yet.

"I think more sustainable practices need to be introduced throughout the industry and, thanks to a growing awareness amongst consumers, brands seem to be waking up to this," he added. "The next step is to give a voice to the people that work within the industry - give them a voice so that we can raise awareness of and tackle the social issues created by the fast fashion industry."

From hummingbirds, deer, and polar bears to cassette tapes, Mt. Fuji, and dream-catchers, Adam's designs are bold and intricate, often featuring motifs promoting veganism and environmentalism. It's the work of what one would assume is an experienced designer, but Adam has only really been doing what he does so well since founding the company.

"I'd never worked in clothing design before starting CHANGE back in 2017," Adam said. "My main design experience comes from working in marketing as part of WestCoastCo., a small agency owned by my partner, Arin West."

That hasn't stopped him, however. "In terms of the design, marketing and website upkeep, it's just me. Thankfully, the folks at Teemill take care of the printing and shipping for me, so I can focus on what I'm good at!"