What is the lifespan of your leggings, the durability of your denim, the sturdiness of your sweatshirt, or the shelf life of your glittering gown? Such questions are now becoming critical in a world of fast fashion where tonnes of cast-off toxic clothing land up in landfills. The fashion world is waking up to the idea of quality clothes that endure changing sizes and seasons. Designers like Tom Cridland are in the forefront, driving change, and helping people transition from the quick-and-convenient ethos of fast fashion to the buy-less buy-better philosophy of slow fashion.
The 25-year-old London-based designer, with a client list that includes names such as Daniel Craig, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Grant, Ben Stiller, Kendrick Lamar and Clint Eastwood, is thinking fashion with a conscience. His built-to-last The 30 Year Collections – an antithesis to the wasteful fast fashion cycle – he hopes will make people rethink their shopping habits. Excerpts from an interview:
At 23, you dared to re-imagine retail by emphasising on quality over quantity.
Though my grades at University were good, I’ve always been an independent thinker. I never enjoyed the atmosphere in a classroom and have always been entrepreneurial, since my bootleg CD business when I was 10. I have also had a huge passion for music from an early age and learnt to play the drums by ear. My entry into the fashion world has been very much like my approach to learning to play the drums. It’s a labour of love and something I worked on by taking the initiative.
I started the Tom Cridland brand when I was doing my finals at the University of Bristol with a £6,000 government start-up loan. The premise was direct-to-consumer luxury clothing offered at a value price point achieved by cutting out retail markups by selling online only at tomcridland.com .
What made you decide on sustainability as the key focus?
Sustainability is clearly not being treated as a priority in the fashion industry. To know about the grim world of fast fashion, one needs to watch The True Cost (a documentary) by my friend, Andrew Morgan. I not only want to make luxury clothing accessible, I also want Tom Cridland to be the world’s number one sustainable fashion brand.
How far do you think collections like The 30 Year Sweatshirt and The 30 Year T-Shirt help promote sustainable fashion?
The 30 Year Sweatshirt was the first item with a 30-year guarantee that I designed. It was an attempt to make sustainable fashion more appealing and to get consumers thinking about fashion as less disposable. We also aimed to lead an industry trend towards protecting natural resources by making truly durable clothing.
Thirty years is a long time to be seen in the same sweatshirt. How have your customers responded to the idea?
We’ve had an overwhelming response. The only things customers email us asking us to do differently are the introduction of our line for women, scheduled for late 2017, and to make black 30-year T-shirts and sweatshirts.
What are the challenges of creating desirable designs within the ethos of sustainability?
The 30-year guarantee is no gimmick. A sweatshirt is a wardrobe staple. We do keep trying to improve our designs, but we’re also trying to invoke a bygone era when clothing was built to last.
We developed the ‘30 Year’ figure with our seamstresses in Portugal, who have been making beautiful clothing since 1964. The sweatshirts, T-shirts and jackets are made of luxury fabric sourced from Biella in Northern Italy, and are now crafted in both Parma, Italy and Serra da Estrela, Portugal. Technological advances allowed us to develop a special treatment to protect the garments against shrinkage. We’re selling clothing of a quality you might usually find on 5th Avenue or Bond Street direct-to-consumer without third-party retail markups. Fast fashion is damaging the environment, putting responsible brands out of business and ripping off consumers. We are fighting the corporations that are treating both clothing and those who make it as disposable, by offering consumers something better: should anything happen to your garments in the next 30 years, we will repair or replace it free of charge.
What are the steps the fashion fraternity must take to secure an environment-friendly future?
Built-in or planned obsolescence in fashion terms is clothing being made systemically so that it will fall apart to force customers to return and buy more. We need to promote sustainable fashion to help ourselves as consumers and those trapped in horrendous working conditions putting together our clothing.
Tell us about two creations you customised for celebrities.
We made two pairs of custom chinos for DiCaprio in camel and classic navy, as his waist size is 31. Nigel Olsson, Elton John’s drummer since 1969, is the person we make most custom clothing for though, from suits and boiler suits for his car racing to stage jackets when he’s providing the soulful backbeat to Elton’s amazing music.
Are there any plans to launch standalone stores?
No, we are passionate about keeping our markups small and our prices low, to offer luxury to our customers at a price that isn’t as exorbitant as other luxury brands. We do ship to India. It is free for orders of £150 and over.