FAITH JENNINGS, DESIGNER MAKER, FAITH HATS
With increasing interest in our brand and the team that pulls together our sustainable collection, we have started a project to interview each person responsible for keeping the TALLIS wheel turning. In this interview, we start with the fabulous Faith who runs Faith Hats, in Portland Oregon USA. She collaborates with TALLIS to help design and hand-make a number of hats in our range.
Here’s what she had to say:
1) So, Faith, please can you run through a typical day at Faith Hats?
I start my day with yoga or running, to counteract the sedentary activity of sewing. Most days I commute to the studio by bicycle, and only drive when I'm transporting large boxes of materials. Once I'm in my studio, I'll set my goals for the day and begin. Some days are sewing days, some days I spend over the dye pots, some days I'm processing or sourcing cashmere. My favorite days are designing days, playing with new styles and patterns.
2) How long have you been in the fashion industry?
My first clothing line, Flare, was launched in 2003.
3) When did you start Faith Hats and why?
I made my first hat as a gift for a friend. For a while it was a side project to my clothing line, but it gradually grew to overtake that, and became my primary company in 2007. This year marks our tenth anniversary!
4) What was the first style hat you ever made?
The first style was the Original Faith Hat. And I'm still making them today, they have remained my best-selling style for a decade.
5) Which is your favourite hat style that you make for the TALLIS range?
It's hard to pick a favorite! I wear the reversible beanie in cashmere the most.
6) What first gave you the idea to up-cycle cashmere to make hats?
Flare, my former clothing line, was one of a kind sweaters and jackets constructed from repurposed sweaters combined in new ways. At the time, I worked mostly in wool and wool blends, but sometimes cashmere. The hat line grew out of the same process, stemming from my desire to be able to go in to pattern based production, rather than designing each piece from scratch.
7) Where do you source your cashmere from?
Sourcing is an ongoing challenge that I continue to solve. Local Goodwill outlets originally provided most of my materials, but now I buy from "pickers" (second hand clothing dealers), eBay, and recently have begun buying bulk bales of 100 pounds from a textile recycling business.
8) Have you always been interested in sustainability and up-cycling? And what made you first become interested in it?
Every business I've had has been rooted in recycling. In college, I made metal sculptures from materials I found in the trash. It was driven by economy at first, things in the waste stream are free or very cheap compared to new materials. Also, they are very abundant. I've always been attracted to used things over new, preferring the challenges of repurposing an existing object. There's something really necessary for me in having some limitations, which is inherent in working with recycled materials.
9) What tips do you have for anyone looking to live in a more sustainable way?
If you must buy something new, buy a well-made, high-quality item that can be repaired, maintained, and enjoyed for many years. And eat less beef.
10) A little bird tells us that you’re also very charitable and that you once made bedding for homeless people from surplus cashmere. Can you tell us about that and any other schemes you’re involved with or have instigated?
I found that the cashmere scraps and off-cuts from manufacturing make a very nice fill for bedding. In the past I made bedrolls for homeless people, stuffing the scraps inside a casing. This year I'm making Zafu meditation cushions to be donated to mindfulness courses for at-risk youth and prison populations. I've also sewn scarves and donated hats with minor flaws to shelters for women and children fleeing domestic violence. Giving back to the community is an important part of my work.
11) In your opinion, do you think sustainable fashion can compete with fast-fashion?
On one level, yes, I think we can certainly make up a much larger share of the fashion market. However, until our Western culture radically changes its values around wealth and consumption, I don't think fast-fashion is going away, despite the devastating impact it has on people and the environment.
12) Where do you see the fashion industry moving in the next 5 years?
I'd like to see more innovation in textiles, especially in textile recycling. I'm hopeful that more companies will look at ways to decrease waste, use better materials, and minimize water pollution. I think as more people learn the real cost of fast-fashion, they will make more conscious purchases.
13) Tell us about your first encounter with Lilly.
I love Lilly! From the very first phone call, we had a great rapport, and have seen eye to eye on just about every decision. It's been such a pleasure to collaborate with such a thoughtful, talented, and passionate leader in ethical fashion. Our brands were made for each other!
14) Since your collaboration with TALLIS, the products you’ve been making for our range are now being sold across the world. How do you feel about these hats being worn in many countries?
It's just great! I would never have reached this level on my own. I'm excited that people all over the world are getting exposed to ethical fashion through this combined effort. I especially love seeing the photos in fashion magazines from outside the United States.
15) We know you like travelling the world, do you have any exciting trips planned soon?
In just a couple weeks I will be traveling to Amsterdam, before going on to Switzerland where I am very excited to meet with Lilly and Vicky in person to begin scheming on our next big thing.
16) Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
Aside from making a couture Disney Princess ball gown for my best friend's daughter, I am working on my plans for a cashmere Pop Up Shop in Portland this Fall. I so enjoyed having a retail store during Holiday 2016, I am inspired to go bigger this year! Watch this space...