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Jenny Needham talks to a Teesdale designer who hopes that slow, planet-friendly fashion will become even more sought-after in 2022
FEW can be in any doubt now that our appetite for fast fashion is poisoning the environment. Around 300,000 tonnes of used clothes are burned or buried in landfill in the UK each year and the industry is responsible for more annual carbon emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
So now that we know that, could 2022 be the year we all start shopping more meaningfully? The year we choose clothes to last, not to wear once and throw away; the year we source items that are made close to home, opting for materials that are recycled or recyclable?
Jennifer Healy hopes so. Putting her money where her mouth is, the fashion designer recently launched Peach Eyes, a luxury, slow fashion brand, hand-made in the North East.
“I must admit that I haven’t always been eco-conscious, but this changed as I learnt about the negative impacts of the industry on the planet, the treatment of workers and the throw-away culture,” says Jennifer. “Whilst working in the industry, I’ve been surprised to discover how little was made here in the UK, very sad considering the rich history of clothing manufacture in the UK.”
Peach Eyes prints are digitally printed as it’s more environmentally friendly; fabrics are responsibly sourced, using recycled or organic bases where possible. “When we do occasionally use fabrics made with traditional techniques, we work with established high-quality fabric suppliers, such as Linton Tweeds,” says Jennifer. Packaging is all recycled or recyclable and customers are encouraged to re-use any packing products where possible.
The Barnard Castle-based designer is determined to prove that shopping responsibly doesn’t have to be boring. Her vibrant garments, which are aimed at people of all ages, have a graphic, retro edge, from trapeze shapes to bold graphic prints.
Rosa tights, £22 Picture: VEIL & GUN
The name – Peach Eyes – and the inspiration for the clothing line came from Jennifer’s grandmother. As a child, Jennifer would visit her garden in Northumberland, and paint with her in the kitchen. “Peach Eyes is actually a Dwarf Bearded Iris. I often found this flower being referred to in her gardening journal and fell in love with the name.” When granny moved to Barnard Castle to be closer to the rest of the family, she continued to inspire her granddaughter creatively until her death in 2007. Now Jennifer lives in the ‘granny flat’ with partner Ben and dogs Django and Otis. “To pay homage to the wonderful woman who helped inspire me to create this brand, I have named each piece after her favourite flowers,” she says.
Juniper headscarf, £70 Picture: VEIL & GUN
Jennifer’s fashion journey began early. “I told my parents from a young age I wanted to be a fashion designer,” she says. “I remember saving up my pocket money to go to the charity shops or to buy fabric from Boyes to make myself bits and pieces. As a teenager, I volunteered in Marie Curie and also worked as a Saturday girl in the town’s Dress Agency. I loved talking to people in Barnard Castle about fashion and getting to set up the window displays.
“I think my love of retro came from this exposure to vintage fashion, and also for my love of Sixties and Seventies film and music. In addition to the aesthetic of retro, I love the whole movement and what it meant for people at the time to express themselves in a new and exciting way.”
Penelope shirt, £160 Picture: VEIL & GUN
Having successfully studied for a Fashion Design Degree at Manchester School of Art, Jennifer began her fashion career by winning the prestigious Tu Scholarship Award 2018 at Graduate Fashion Week. “I was able to bring my own designs to life as a collection on the shelves of Sainsbury’s. The collection launched in May 2019 and was sold nationwide and online, which was a real pinch-me moment!”
This led to several years in industry, experiencing a variety of departments for the high street retailer, but Jennifer was increasingly drawn to exploring the possibilities of more responsible and creative design and made the decision to follow her dreams by founding her own label in her home town of Barnard Castle.
Peach Eyes garments are made very locally, at Self Made studios in Bishop Auckland. “The company is very inclusive, offering opportunities for young people in the area,” says Jennifer. “I get to go in every week to see them which has made the whole manufacturing process so personal, and the attention to detail has been second to none. The accessory items are produced elsewhere in the UK, as I couldn’t find anywhere locally for this manufacture; the hosiery is produced very close to my old home in the Midlands.”
The collection is aimed at people of all ages, with relaxed shapes, so they can be worn in different ways. “However, the collection is definitely aimed at an environment and fashion conscious woman, who still wants to wear lots of colour.” Jennifer’s favourite item in the collection is the Lady Jane coat. “I just love a statement coat, even more so with matching accessories.”
The Lady Jane trench in Juniper print, £395 Picture: VEIL & GUN
She also loves being back in the North East. “At the moment, it’s quite rare that I get a day off, but I love to take the dogs for long walks, followed by a nice cosy drink in town!,” she says. “And I still can’t resist a good rummage around the charity shops!”
The fashion industry produces ten per cent of all humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.
Around 300,000 tonnes of used clothes are burned or buried in landfill each year.
Polyester clothing, which is pumped out, sold and quickly binned, much like single-use plastics, takes 200 years to decompose.
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