For The Next Generation: Taking Part In The Creative Careers Cluster

These past couple of months, I’ve been taking part in the Creative Careers Cluster (now the Creative Enterprise Zone), an initiative through Waltham Forest Council to help young people studying gain experience in the workplace; supported by the London Mayor and the European Social Fund.

I have run three activities in schools across the borough, including a sewing workshop, a talk on sustainable fashion and a combined talk on sustainable fashion and starting a fashion brand, and at each one, the students were so incredibly inspiring, from the questions they ask, to the creative work they produce. They are the future and they are keen to see the world become a better place for both people and the planet.

Saywood founder, Harriet, delivering a patchwork and sewing workshop at a local school.

Saywood. founder, Harriet, with the students during the Patchwork & Sewing Workshop

Back in June I went to Hornbeam School to teach a creative patchwork and sewing workshop. It was such a hot day, 27 degrees outside! The students did so well to be engaged and enjoy the workshop in that heat. I was so impressed with their skills and talent. Some of the students even went on to sew their patches onto larger squares to use as bandanas. 

The students at Hornbeam School benefit from a multisensory approach to learning; the school supports learners that have complex learning, medical and behavioural needs and practical learning is very much a part of the school day, so it was an honour to be invited to host a making-focused lesson with the class. The colours and shapes that the students paired together to work with were wonderful to see and it was truly a fun-filled afternoon.

July saw a morning lesson at Willowfield School, and a full day of sessions at Chingford Foundation School. Each class was slightly different and the talks and discussions were free flowing depending on the questions the students had.

At Willowfield we very much focused on sustainable fashion as an umbrella topic, breaking it down into ethics - ensuring a fair living wage and high social standards -, responsible sourcing - from the raw materials and fibres used to the production processes -, as well as understanding how consumer activity and we as individuals have our own role to play for a more sustainable fashion system, and in many other industries at that too.

SAYWOOD founder, Harriet, giving a sustainable fashion talk in a school hall with a presentation on a screen above the stage.

Saywood. founder, Harriet, giving the sustainable fashion talk Chingford Foundation School

Whilst at Chingford Foundation School we covered all these topics and building a brand and business: The honest truth behind it all! The students were all year ten Economics and Business students and they had such a brilliant array of questions. We talked through my career path, and how it’s ok to jump sideways to get different experiences… All of these have led to where I am today. I didn’t start on a solid design path, even though that was what I really wanted to do. I got practical experience in Studio Management and Product Development in my first role, and that has made my design skills all the better for it, right down to the detail. And all of this experience has played a huge part in being able to set up my brand, get the product manufactured, do the costings, and manage a budget. I might even be one of the only designers that actually enjoys doing the accounts… (for now anyway!)

We even discussed the early stages of business and profit and revenue; it takes a long time to build a fashion brand, the upfront costs are huge, so it is all about reinvestment into the business in the early years. An instantly profitable and recognisable business does not happen overnight and I went into this for the long journey. Stability is the goal here. I think sometimes social media can show us something very different, but it is important to be grounded and understand that for most people the reality of life and business is not always exactly as the content shows us. (Believe me, my house struggles to stay tidy with Saywood HQ in my spare room… or hallway as it sometimes it may be!)

Saywood founder, Harriet, holding a bunch of flowers after the sustainable fashion talk.

It was incredibly encouraging to see the enthusiasm and response from the students, and their own desire for global corporations and governments to acknowledge that we must change the way we are doing things, the way we are living our lives, and the way we are upholding an economic system that does not work for our planet and those living on it (that’s literally us, folks!)

We’re here for positive change, and we can absolutely do it. Just imagine how great it will be! No more toxic air pollution. No more of people not being able to live off their wages but working every hour of the day whilst the big brand CEOs splash out on another yacht. No more burning of the Amazon. No more extreme floods and island nations literally being wiped off the map. And not having to constantly recycle a ton of plastic bottles and packaging, only to discover too much of it is still getting dumped in landfill. 

The next generation are with us in our determination for change. Let’s make it happen for them.

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