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Thread Republic heads to Westminster!

On the 22nd February 2024, Thread Republic director Julia Roebuck was invited to speak about the social wellbeing aspects of our work at the Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion All-Party Parliamentary Group, with Fashion Roundtable as Secretariat of the group delivering their sector vision for the fashion, textiles, manufacturing and retail industries to leading figures in the sector.

Photo credit: Steve Watson.

Fellow panellists included, Junior Bishop – a Zebedee Model and Advocate for Minority Groups; Clare Press – Fashion Roundtable’s Global Sustainability Expert, Author and Podcast Host of the Wardrobe Crisis; Maria Chenoweth – Co-founder of Charity Super.Mkt and Dominique Muller from Labour Behind the Label. John McNally MP and Fashion Roundtable’s CEO, Tamara Cincik, chaired a poignant panel discussion about the future of the sector.

Julia's Message to the APPG:

My name is Julia Roebuck. I am a co-founder and co-director of Thread Republic and I work as a freelance project manager and upcycle fashion practitioner, connecting up textiles, sustainability and education project ideas and delivery for citizens, businesses and third sector organisations. I work as a project manager for WOVEN in Kirklees – a festival celebrating local innovation in textiles. From the fabric manufacturers in Huddersfield weaving the best worsted woollen cloth in the world, to the hidden talents of solitary makers quietly spinning, dyeing, printing, weaving, needle felting, quilting, crocheting, knitting, mending, bespoke tailoring, upcycling and more, there are hundreds of people locally who are passionate about fashion and textiles and I have the privilege to meet many of them.


Fashion, Textiles and Social Wellbeing

For some people, the only reason to go out is to attend a locally organised group. The activity could be gardening, or playing a musical instrument, but textile skills have a very important and particular role to play in our society. From stitch and bitch to knit and natters, repair cafes to craftivism projects, the skills that connect us to fibres and fabrics also have the opportunity to connect us to each other.

Embroidery, clothes making, knitting and other hand crafted textile skills can very easily be a solitary activity. But when opportunities are created for citizens to share, learn, and teach their skills, wonderful things can happen.


The world of TikTok and YouTube seems a million miles away from the stories of retired mill workers recounting tales from factory floor apprenticeships, but learning practical skills through observation and hands on opportunities are fundamental to fashion and textile learning.  There has been an explosion of digital tutorial content in the last 20 years for fashion and textile skills. Whilst digital resources are wonderful to inspire and support us, I hear time and time again that there is nothing quite like learning with others, in a shared space, at the same time. Asking questions of each other, making mistakes, laughing together.  

I’m passionate about making spaces for fashion and textile creativity and connection. For the solitary maker; whether you’re running your own business from home or crocheting granny squares after an awful day at work, it can be joyous to join together with others and unite with a shared appreciation of practical skills and stories of textile acquisition, ownership and repair. No matter your race, religion or politics, textiles, like food, crosses every culture and there is always more to learn.


Showcasing your work (and work in progress!), asking for help, teaching others, learning new skills, receiving praise, are incredible boosts to our achievement, pride and wellbeing. Shared spaces for fashion and textile initiatives provide these opportunities for thousands of people and the power of this must be supported to grow in every town in the UK.


How do we measure happiness?

Third sector organisations are critical in building this movement. With a reduction in fashion and textile skills delivered through the national curriculum, cuts to local authority arts and culture budgets and businesses operating through difficult times, in many towns around the UK assets and responsibilities are being handed over to communities to ensure their survival. We must be prepared for the challenge we face. As a collective, organisations working in the third sector fashion and textile space need to work together to collect, measure and share the social and economic impact of our work to build an evidence base which will support this sector to thrive. How we do this is another question and we are exploring this further at Thread Republic. Please contact us if you have experience of creating metrics to evidence wellbeing.


Skills, Creativity and Enterprise  

In addition to increased wellbeing through the process of coming together to learn skills and share stories, fashion and textile spaces and projects bring people together who would be unlikely to meet in other ways. Conversations around textile products naturally follow and through these exchanges, common themes can be revealed. I have observed participants discovering solutions to shared problems, gaps in the market revealed and business opportunities identified through more connection and conversation around our shared experience of textile acquisition and ownership.  


Fashion and textile skills also empower us to adapt and customise products to our specific requirements. Examples include adapting clothing for disability, changing the shape of a garment for better fit and comfort, and making beautifully personal gifts for loved ones. We might use our own skills or pay for the services of a skilled person in our community. Seek these people out. I guarantee someone in your town has the skills you need that can free you from the industry standard shapes, colours and sizes that might not be working for you. We all have items in our wardrobes that remain unworn for many reasons. If something doesn’t feel good, or look good, it’s useless. Seek out the skills to make these items work for you, but if there is no hope for them, put them back into the system.


A Circular Economy for Fashion and Textiles

A circular economy for fashion and textiles is building and it relies on citizen engagement. The industry needs regulation and government needs to legislate, but whilst we’re waiting for this we can take the lead and work together create solutions within our communities. By taking a role as active citizens, not passive consumers, we can create opportunities that connect us to the true value of textile products in our lives, and each other. One piece of advice? Start something.

Is there any way to be part of a circular fashion movement in your town?

Yes? Attend it!

No? Organise it!

Suggestions: Clothes Swap, Repair Café, Skills Swap, Film Screening, Styling Session, Clothes Bank, Sewing Workshop, Upcycled Fashion Show, Schools Sewing project, Intergenerational Sewing Social

Photo credit: Steve Watson.


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