The year before last I decided to stop flying places, thinking it was probably the best thing I could do to reduce my environmental impact – so when I started Madder Rose, I thought it important to try to fold that principle into my business too.
I try to source all the materials for Madder Rose as close to home as possible, to reduce the air or sea miles it travels to get to you. It's common in the fashion industry for different parts of the production process to take place all over the world - first the fibres are grown, and then processed, then the fabric is woven somewhere, processed and dyed somewhere else – and all this before the garment even begins to be constructed. By trying to source my materials as locally as possible, I can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the clothing I produce.
This is why I mostly use fabrics produced in the UK, specifically Irish linen where possible. Linen has been produced in Ireland for clothing since at least the 11th century, and the industry grew larger and larger up until the 19th century. Sadly, in the 1900s, cheaper cotton from abroad and synthetic materials (ugh) led to the decline of the industry and the closure of many factories. However, those mills that managed to keep going did so because they were producing beautiful fabrics that competed on quality, not price. Using the skills passed down and improved on over many hundreds of years, these Irish linen producers (still in the same areas as they’ve always been!) make fabric that is comfortable, beautiful, natural and very special - a premium product that is different to anything produced elsewhere thanks to the heritage and skill that goes into it.
It may cost more to make my pieces from this special fabric, but I think it's worth it: not only is it important to be making clothes with as little environmental impact as possible, but I also think it's vital that we support these age-old processes and crafts that have been going for so long in the UK. If we lose these industries, we will never get them back, and that would be a great loss for us all.