Sustainable fashion charity TRAID are NME’s fashion partners at our #Lifehacks event in London this Thursday (November 23). During the afternoon, they’ll be running an Anti-Fashion Workshop and helping you to adopt their Secondfirst Styling approach to putting together outfits. Ahead of the big day, we got in touch with TRAID’s Head of Communications, Leigh Mcalea, to find out more.
How would you sum up TRAID’s M.O. to people who aren’t aware of the charity yet?
“TRAID is all about keeping wearable clothes in circulation for longer. Let’s stop wasting them. Let’s stop throwing them away. Let’s think about the impacts of fashion on people and the planet. To do that, we’re changing attitudes to second-hand clothes and providing second-hand alternatives on the high street through very well-stocked charity shops. We also help you to pass on wearable clothes you no longer want by collecting them for re-use and resale. The circle is beautifully closed through our funding, which is committed to projects tackling exploitation in our textile supply and production chains – things like stopping children and bonded labourers making our clothes. Sourcing more of our wardrobe second-hand, reducing our consumption and finding out more about the conditions in which are our clothes are really made has hugely positive social and cultural outcomes. It loosens the grip of advertisers and corporations on shaping our style and identity, and it transforms us from individualist consumers disconnected from the people who make our clothes and unconcerned about our fashion footprint, into collective citizens who value sustainable and ethical outcomes.”
What will happen at your Anti-Fashion Workshop on Thursday? Can anyone join in?
“We ran this workshop for the first time at this year’s Glastonbury festival in Shangri-La – a.k.a. The Naughty Corner – as part of the Environ Mental theme, and people loved it! We know you will too! Anyone can take part. Choose the anti-fashion slogan that most resonates with you, and we’ll show you how to screen print it by hand onto a T-shirt provided by TRAID. It will be a second-hand T-shirt, of course! It just takes a few minutes, but we guarantee that it could be life-changing in terms of starting a conversation that explores the environmental and social justice realities of our fashion choices.”
What do you mean exactly by “Secondfirst Styling?” And why is it something that we should all try?
“Clothes are a powerful way to express yourself, but people often end up feeling like they don’t have anything to wear, despite in reality having an overstuffed wardrobe. Secondhandfirst styling is all about making more of what you already have, and with a bit of guidance and some tips from our team, we can help you put your clothes together differently, instead of rushing out for the quick but temporary fix of buying something new. We’ve also got lots of advice about buying second-hand clothes and extending the life of loved pieces by repairing and caring for them. We’ll be at LifeHacks during TRAID’s fourth annual #Secondhandfirst Week, when we celebrate the power of re-using the clothes we already have. So we can’t wait to talk to so many engaged young people about practical ways to adopt a more sustainable fashion habit. Some people might even take our #Secondhandfirst Pledge and commit to sourcing more of their wardrobe second-hand.”
You’re Head of Communications at TRAID. What does this role involve on a day-to-day basis?
“I love my job for two reasons. One is that I genuinely believe in what I do. I’m proud to be involved in a small way in work that agitates for urgently-needed change in the way our clothes are made. The other reason is that on a day-to-day level, my job is really varied which keeps me interested and motivated. My role covers creating a brand voice for TRAID, and using that voice across many channels, from digital to print, to raise awareness of our work. On one day, I might put together a social media ad to encourage people to donate unwanted clothes to us, and then I could be writing about TRAID-funded work like helping cotton farmers to stop using pesticides. A big part of my role is to support our teams delivering the three main elements of TRAID’s work: getting more people buying second-hand and passing unwanted clothes on, sustainable education in the UK, and funding projects tackling exploitation in the fashion industry.”
What was your journey to working in communications for a charity? What advice would you give to a young person interested in a similar kind of career?
“My route to working for TRAID in the charity sector started nearly 20 years ago in the music industry. I began life as a ‘plugger’, so my job was to get records played on the radio. I had the pleasure of working with lots of bands, labels and DJs that I loved, from Laurent Garnier to artists on the Bella Union label. But after 10 years, I wanted to try something different. So I went back to university and did a Masters in Human Rights. From there, I moved into the charity sector and in 2009, I started working at TRAID. At first glance it seems like quite a leap, but in many respects the core aspects of my job are the same. It’s just I’m now promoting TRAID, rather than a band. In terms of advice, I’d say that today, people move between jobs and sectors more quickly, so staying flexible and being open to any opportunity that comes your way is important. Also, there isn’t any one route into most creative industries. Some might get there through an apprenticeship or working their way up, others through further education or specific training. But my key piece of magic advice for anyone is develop a good attitude. Everyone prefers to work with collaborative, can-do people. Nurture your talent, but also nurture your kindness. People will love you for it, and want to work with you.”
There are lots of ways to support TRAID and shrink your fashion footprint. Find out more on their website.
NME has teamed up with University of Salford and youth initiative Create Jobs to lay on our #Lifehacks event in London this Thursday, November 23. The event will be headlined by Chelsea footballer Eni Aluko and hip-hop artist Loyle Carner, who will team up for an ‘in conversation’ panel.
Another panel will see acclaimed campaigners Paris Lees, Paula Akpan and Josie Naughton join forces to discuss how to effect positive change. Meanwhile, MOBO founder Kanya King MBE and Universal Music UK’s Jonathan Badyal will talk about the things they wish they’d known at age 18.
One the day, you’ll also be able to connect with the NME team and our partners at the dedicated Hack-Space, and enter the world of gaming at the Game Lab. Plus, there will be free food and drink, and the event will culminate in an exclusive secret evening gig.
You can buy tickets to our #Lifehacks event (including an exclusive secret gig) with University of Salford here.