From the moment I discovered the sewing machine at the age of 15, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in Fashion. I was so excited when I completed my first dress from a set of old bedsheets and called it ‘Lavender Tea-Party’! Little did I know back then, that this simple act of recycling would define my vision for Sustainable Fashion in Malta in 2018.
Like most women, I have always wanted to dress well, and a trip to the shops was the means to that end. When I began sewing, I used my newfound skills to complement my shopping exploits, rather than replace them – I would buy inexpensive clothes, and alter them to my liking. What mattered the most to me was that I could buy a lot of clothing on a small budget. This was my idea of winning!
But then my focus took a sharp turn. While doing personal research into the fashion industry and what a career in it would look like, I was devastated to learn about the extent of environmental damage and the human cost of the current fast-fashion industry trade (I recommend a viewing of the documentary ‘The True Cost’). As a person who cares deeply about the environment and human rights, I realised that if I was going to positively contribute to the Maltese fashion scene, I wanted it to have a strong, powerful voice in the name of sustainable and ethical fashion. As a person who cares deeply about the environment and human rights, I realised that if I was going to positively contribute to the Maltese fashion scene, I wanted it to have a strong, powerful voice in the name of sustainable and ethical fashion. With sewing skills at my fingertips, I finally took the full step to quit active shopping in 2017. I have now spent a year focusing on ways to create clothing that produces less waste, is sustainable, and kinder to the environment.
The clothes I have featured in this spread were made from just 2 pieces of material and fabric cut-offs. The striped skirt and terracotta dress overleaf are one and the same item – a reversible multi-way garment that can be worn as a skirt or a dress, depending on how you loop the rope through the channels. The terracotta shorts and striped key hole dress were created from the leftovers, and the two crop tops (the blush pink beaded number, and the cross-over strap piece) were made from cut-off scraps I collected from the production floor.
In addition to making clothing from scratch, I also enjoy upcycling – that is, taking an old item of clothing and giving it a fashionable facelift. This can mean transforming an old dress into a fancy frock, converting unused scarves into kaftans or cover ups, dip-dying a top to give it a hipster edge, or adding a lace collar to what was a previously boring sweater. I have chronicled many of my upcycling projects and original designs on Facebook.
The ‘Lavender Tea-Party’ dress now seems prophetic as it foreshadowed what my future fashion direction would be. Through my gift of sewing, I have found a way to marry my convictions with the choices I make when creating a piece of clothing. Now, I feel like I am truly winning.
To get in touch with Shannon for one-of-a-kind commissions, donate used clothing for upcycling projects, or just to see what she’s up to lately, find her on her Facebook page ‘Sew What’.
Styling: Shannon Briffa – Sew What
Photography: Zach Farrugia
Makeup: Natalie R Vella
Model: Lauren Mizzi