At Raft we believe in doing the right thing. And doing it yourself if necessary. We look out for people with the same ethic and, when we get a few moments, we ask them to share a few thoughts with us.
Antiform is a designer fashion label with a twist – they make all their own clothes using reclaimed materials sourced in the UK. We met founder and fashion genius Lizzie Harrison...
By Terry Stiastny
As I speak to Lizzie Harrison, there’s the rattle of a sewing machine in the background. Lizzie is working in her Bristol warehouse base alongside people who are sewing, knitting and upholstering. Just on the other side of the wall is a mill that’s weaving new material from waste yarn to produce Antiform products.
During the course of our conversation, Lizzie sews together a linen T-shirt and a glittery jumper. Both of them are made from fabric that would otherwise have gone to waste. In this case, Lizzie got a call to tell her that an old mill in Yorkshire was closing down and that heaps of unwanted fabric were sitting around in a skip. So Lizzie hired a van, claimed the textiles, and has turned them into lovely new clothes.
'Changing the culture'
It’s the perfect encapsulation of how Lizzie Harrison, the founder of Antiform, approaches the business of fashion. It all began when she was a fashion student in Leeds and was shocked by the waste she saw all around her. Lizzie says at the time there was a culture of students chucking out unwanted clothes onto the street.
As someone who wanted to get into the industry, Lizzie became ‘conscious of the process of making more and more’. Instead, she rented a shop and began to learn more about the area’s manufacturing past and present. She built up contacts and, over many cups of tea, talked people into helping her. Her textiles could come from military supplies, car dismantlers, weavers or printers.
One of the original punk creations in the 1970s, the Anarchy shirt, started life in a box of unwanted stock from an east London warehouse before it was turned into something new by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood. In a similar way, Antiform takes leftover textiles to create original designs.
'Fabrics with history'
Life — and her family — brought Lizzie to Bristol, where she’s built up new contacts and suppliers in the South West. She’s come up with new products too, like fishermen’s knits, working with a one-man manufacturer in Cornwall. They also make purses which are woven at the mill next door.
They’ve ventured into individual designs – working with customers to produce clothes that incorporate their own treasured fabrics. As well as using waste, Lizzie says ‘we need to think of ways we can stop what we make becoming waste’. She hopes that using a fabric with a personal history will make the wearer want to keep it longer.
What does the future hold? Well, as well as learning how to juggle business with motherhood, Lizzie says, ‘Telling stories and making nice things and bringing more people into the conversation.’
She wants to continue to make connections and collaborate. Sounds like an ambition worth hanging on to.
See more about Antiform and shop their clothes and accessories at www.antiformonline.co.uk
At Raft we craft furniture from reclaimed teak and hand-make sofas in our own London factory. Read about our founders Mick & Heinz here.