Alice Holloway is founder of Little Black Pants Club in Brixton. She studied Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins but has made clothes from a young age, weaned on the principle of ethical consumptions by her mother. Alice set up the Little Black Pants Club, who create sustainable made to measure underwear in a Brixton railway arch, to make our clothes mean more to us so we feel satisfied with less. And they’ll fit you perfectly too!
Tell us about your creative practice…
I hand make lingerie in Brixton (although technically all clothing is handmade by a seamstress on a sewing machine…) but where we’re different is that we really believe that bodies can’t be stuffed into standard sizing brackets, so we make-to-measure. If you’ve found that you struggle to get bras that fit well, we go back to basics and work with your measurements and do (online) fittings to really get the fit right. We’re really passionate about body positivity, but from an ecological perspective. Your body is an amazing (mind blowing) part of the natural world. So we fight to make lingerie that honours your body as well as honouring the natural processes that give us beautiful clothing.
What motivated you to follow a creative career?
It was part of my upbringing. My Dad never shied away from imagining and then doing something absolutely nuts. He saw that I loved sewing and drawing from a very young age and did his best to nurture that. Nowadays I just get so much back! (Not financially lol) but in terms of seeing my skills develop, solving the issues of the wom+n that are in our club, being part of the growing movement that will create a truly regenerative fashion future, all those good vibes keep me going through the rent reviews!!
Who have you been inspired and influenced by?
I have a great friend/mentor who is a potter and a feminist whose been a massive influence and inspiration for me. I’m inspired by everyday bravery and all that groundwork that makes change happen. My tutor at London Met (I’m studying Design for the Cultural Commons MA) is really committed to that community graft. The fantastic team at the Windmill – Jean and Annick. I have so much respect for grassroots work, it’s so undervalued but it underpins all real transformation.
What have you found most challenging in developing your work?
FUNDING! Textile production is an incredibly mechanised and centralised industry, so innovation is expensive. This is exacerbated by the ‘squeeze’ that the heritage industry is facing – you’ve got to be bringing dollar to get stuff done! We are as sneaky as possible about wiggling through and finding ‘lean’ ways to achieve our goals. But I’d just love to see some funding focussed on really ambitious social and environmental benefits. Even at the top sustainability accelerators, you’re told to focus your pitch on the profits you’ll deliver! Which is just insane when we’re being told there’s only ten years to avoid catastrophic climate collapse.
And after that ENGAGEMENT; our current politics seems to breed a stifling level of apathy and inertia. It feels like people are exhausted and strung out, which is completely understandable. Making the space to REALLY support people and start to heal the effects of all that pressure is so hard, because we have those same pressures too!
Have a little boast – what are you really proud of yourself for achieving? Give us some highlights.
Last year we made our first fully biodegradable lingerie. It was a massive ball ache – the lingerie industry and current lingerie trends are almost completely reliant on synthetics (plastics) that release micro fibres when worn and washed, and currently can’t be made circular, i.e there’s no safe way to dispose of them. To make a fully biodegradable set of lingerie we didn’t have to just source biodegradable fabrics, but also all the elastics, linings/stabilisers and completely rethink our design process – how do we make it comfortable without stretch fabrics?!
After several months design development we produced a design that I’m really proud of; botanically dyed organic peace silk, cotton lace, organic cotton and natural rubber elastics and straps, metal clasp (can be recycled) instead of polyester hook and eye strips, organic cotton thread to stitch it all up.
Of course there’s still more to do! i.e. For an item of clothing to be safe to compost you have to check any trace elements left over from the processing of the different fibres. (It’s kind of crazy the amount of unknown chemicals that are in our clothes and underwear that we usually aren’t aware of). But we’ve made the first step! So we have somewhere to build from.
What would lead your manifesto vision of the future for wom+n?
Horizontal Governance. If there’s one thing that working in fashion has taught me it’s that we’re living, and trying to make change, in a really centralised power system.
When I started thinking about horizontal governance in Little Black Pants Club I really had to question bigger narratives about where we place validity, how we nurture people for effective participation, how my own ego affects my behaviour! It’s really affected my thought processes and improved my ability to build the collaborations that can make change happen more quickly.
Give us one piece of wisdom for young creatives in the current climate?
I would say that, if you can, put your energies into projects where you really believe in the ideology. You probably won’t get rich that way! But you’ll be able to surround yourself with the people who value care over profits, who will value your work for the change it can bring, not just it’s commercial potential. And the more vibrant energised people we have working in transformation space, the stronger it will become. Until we don’t even have to be rich to have a fulfilled and amazing life!
How can creativity change the world right NOW?
I think the narrative needs to shift. There needs to be a lot of meditation on what we actually want from the world. Creativity allows us to imagine something radically different – not just in terms of products or materials, but in terms of economic models and power structures that can make change possible. Your creativity in choosing a banging outfit that’s all preloved, or thinking of fun ways to empower your friends to realise their potential, these are immediate ways that we can shift the narrative, gently shake things up a bit. For all the big ideas and endless chat at the top, unless the people on the ground want to be part of something different, we’ll just be stuck in this one way of thinking. Creativity is the spark that lights this thing up.
Finally, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
For me it’s a chance to recognise all the traditionally Femme labour that is normally forgotten or brushed away. Don’t forget that there were people like you involved in history even if they weren’t the ones that got remembered. Don’t forget that Shakespeare’s mum taught Shakespeare to talk.
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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