Brixton Makers, makers of and in Brixton, it is such a privilege to be writing this column for Make It In Brixton. My name is Alice Holloway and I’ve been a Bespoke Lingerie maker based in Brixton for the past 8 years. I’m also a hyperlocal system change fanatic, which is an annoyingly abstract way of saying that I used to be into social justice (Uni days) then I was into social justice and the environment (post uni days). And now; 15 years on I believe that both colonialism and the climate crisis are underpinned by an inadequate system that was designed with the wrong aim (profit) a century or so ago, and by now is decrepit and falling apart and sucking the joy out of an otherwise totally amazing planet to be alive on right now. BUT, it doesn’t have to be this way.
This time of year, Christmas, the winter solstice etc, has a real emphasis on JOY, which is interesting because I wonder if your internalised vision of sustainability, of a net zero way of life, of a future in balance with nature, has much JOY associated with it? MINE DOES. My journey through all the above mentioned movements has been one of seeking JOY. I love making clothes and I have done since I was a kid (cutting up bits of fabric and sticking them on a barbie with actual glue); I love the idea forming in my head, the colours, the shape, the texture (very important for JOY) and then discovering the way to make it work, and then using my skills to bring it to life, and then (of course) people saying- ‘I love your…’ and saying, ‘thanks! I made it’.
But back in 2007, when I was studying jewellery design at Central Saint Martins, the Internationalist published a magazine that looked in depth at the thousands of Indian Cotton Farmer suicides, and DAMN if that isn’t a real downer.
And since then, my mission has been clear. To maximise my experiences of JOY I need to maximise the total experience of JOY for everyone involved.
Christmas is one of those seasons that PRs itself as being a festival of JOY and love, but in reality, under our current system it can easily degenerate into:
Trying to meet social obligations to give gifts to people who have potentially unrealistic expectations, wildly different socio economic status, and or traumas around expressing and receiving love etc.
Pressure to create the instagrammable event of Charles Dicken’s dreams but without the full production crew that is backing up your fave celebrity chef
Stress of getting it all done whilst mildly hungover and last minute scheduling in a school nativity play and that report that needs to go out before you break up etc.
I’d like to suggest that this dissonance, this pressure and expectation, is the current systems main ammunition in the battle to make you over consume fossil fuels, give up your time to your workplace, and chuck money at the ghost of Christmas past.
JOY is the ultimate response to the climate crisis, because JOY REALLY ISN’T about over consuming. When we really dig down into our personal JOY cycle, we start to realise the ways to stop tripping on short term dopamine hits, stop the stress loops that make those dopamine hits necessary (which is all this current system has got to keep us hooked) and start embedding behaviours that maximise Serotonin and Oxytocin in our neuro-transmitors.
I love making underwear for people. I experience JOY when someone says ‘I only wear the bra you made me’, or when they do the ‘Wow, I can’t believe my body can look like that’ jiggle in the mirror. I don’t enjoy the dopamine hit of getting a sale (yeay), if it’s then followed by the anxiety of whether the item they bought will fit, or be useful. So I make Bespoke with fittings, I’ve adjusted my work to focus on building longterm relationships, discussing and negotiating expectations, rather than the stress of a load of faceless complaints and returns (which are a big problem in lingerie as you can imagine!)
I genuinely believe, after decades of banging my head against the systems change wall, that we have to be building an alternative to our over extractive economy that is eyeball deep in experiences of love and JOY. (Which is actually a really big opportunity considering the stresses mentioned above). And the first step is to really map what those experiences feel like, and then consider the low carbon, low waste, maximum love (for people and planet) way of creating those lasting Serotonin and Oxytocin showers.
Finding your JOY is what my mentor calls ‘Deep Work’ and its very dangerous if you don’t do it in a properly cared for environment, so lets get together in the New Year and ‘face unafraid the plans that we’ll make, walking in a winter wonderland’.
My Top Christmas Joy Moments;
Opening the Cluedo as adults to find a note that my sister had written about my other sister, when we were children, on one of the notepapers- it was a sketch of a pig labelled with my sisters name. There were no hard feelings and we found it hilarious.
Singing carols at the bandstand in Myatts Fields with mulled wine, I’m sure singing is an oxytocin releaser.
We lived on a boat for a couple of years and it was parked outside Hampton Court- frosty mornings, a log burner on board, and they were filming Holmes and Watson on the grounds so every morning we’d walk past a queue of extras in top hats.
Last year my pop-up shop was cancelled due to lockdown, but I wasn’t too upset to make a homemade stollen with homemade marzipan instead of being in Marylebone everyday. Fresh marzipan is definitely a different beast.
Top Tip for more JOY this midwinter;
Try to replace your feelings about doing something well (by any crazy instagram/TV/Machine made standards) with deliberate chill jolliness. I reckon there’s more joy in laughing at something gone a bit wrong, then being impressed by something gone perfectly.
Alice Holloway has been beavering away in the Sustainable Fashion space since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2008. Its not an easy space to work in. The skills and expertise of makers and practitioners has been really degraded by the rise of fast fashion and neo-liberalism.
Last year Alice completed an MA in Design for the Cultural Commons where we was energised by rediscovering her peasant ancestors who were so skilled, so resilient and tbh, having such a good time. Alice is on a mission bring us back into conversation with a way of life in balance with nature, and in balance with our own brains – which seem to really crave a deeper connection to each other and to nature.
Alice is the founder of Brixton-based bespoke lingerie brand Little Black Pants Club producing little handmade garments with big post-capitalist dreams.
We all want to make it.
Make it in our chosen career. Maybe make it big.
Sometimes perhaps just make it to pay day.
But whatever our ambition, what unites us all is the desire to thrive, be recognised – and be supported.
And that’s what Lambeth’s Creative Enterprise Zone is all about. Supporting creative people to do amazing creative things without having to leave our amazingly creative corner of south London.
Because we all want to make it – of course – but more than that, we want to Make It in Brixton.
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