Wardrobe Crisis Podcast: Clare Press meets Mary Creagh

In this week’s episode of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast, Vogue Australia’s Sustainability Editor-at-Large Clare Press speaks to British MP Mary Creagh about fixing fashion and the need for more creative fashion reuse strategies.  There’s always someone who can use it; that’s my biggest takeaway from my interview with Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield and the British parliamentarian who chairs the House of Common’s Environmental Audit Committee.  Listen to the podcast here. In February, the committee’s Fixing Fashion report made headlines around the world with its findings, which included the jaw-dropping fact that the Brits buy twice as many clothes as the Italians each year, and chuck an alarming amount of them out after just a few wears. “The average piece of clothing is worn seven times in the UK. Shocker! We throw 11 million items of clothing into the bin ever year,” says Creagh. “By now, I think we all know that there is no away. Whatever you chuck in the bin has to end up somewhere.” 

As part of her research into the issue, Creagh visited the Oxfam Wastesaver textile recycling plant in Batley, Yorkshire, which saves more than 12,000 tonnes of clothing from heading to landfill every year. 

According to the Yorkshire Post’s Stephanie Smith, the depot receives all items that aren’t sold in Oxfam stores within two weeks. Why? Well, as Creagh points out, charity shops, like other retailers, feel pressure to refresh stock as often as possible to keep customers excited.

At the Batley depot, clothes are hand-sorted and categorised according to market opportunity. “I saw all these tiny, little hand-knitted baby clothes being pulled out that have been worn once,” says Creagh. “They pull out all the stuff that could go to festivals, all of the cut-off shorts, all of the Wellies. Then there’s tonnes of Burberry Macks – these go to Windsor Horse Show – they have an Oxfam stall there.” Some things get chopped into rags.

“Wedding dresses are a huge problem,” says Creagh. “They are literally overloaded with them. Everyone wants a new wedding dress – psychologically I understand that – but there are hundreds of them there, I’m not joking.” One solution? “They dye them for Whitby Goth Weekend!”

Creagh wants consumers as well as brands to take responsibility for fashion waste, and encourages us to reconnect with the mending skills that were second nature to our mums and grannies. With Hallowe’en coming up, we suggest you head to your local charity shop to source your costume needs – upcyling rather than buying some future-landfill plastic crap to wear once. Make like the Italians!

Whitby Goth Weekend is 25th to 27th October.

Visit Fashion For Good’s upcycled vintage wedding dress exhibition.


Discover more Wardrobe Crisis podcast episodes including Livia Firth’s here

Find out how to upcycle your neglected occassion wear and transform your wedding dress with natural dye.