“I want to create bespoke, perfect pieces that are well-made and beautiful. Things you’ll want to pass down to your children: the vintage of the future.”
Lucy Tammam, Creative Director at the House of Tammam
LC: You never used to be a bespoke label. Tell us what inspired you to make that change to couture only?
LT: We started as a high-end wholesale label selling to boutiques and showing at Fashion Weeks. But I realised pretty quickly that it’s not a sustainable way to produce. I was making things in the hope that they would fit someone and someone would buy it. But it felt wrong and backwards, almost. I’ve always been obsessed with couture and the way things are made so beautifully and perfectly – it’s an art form. I’d been doing wedding dresses for a few years and thought that the bespoke model made more sense and is so much more sustainable. So I converted the whole label to be bespoke only!
LC: At the moment you’re finishing off the One Dress project… Tell us about the idea and how it came about?
LT: I was watching fashion shows and thinking how much beautiful fashion was out there, and how fast it all went by… and I wanted to address that. So I thought about focusing on the effort that went into making just one beautiful dress, and putting the spotlight on the people who made it too. The One Dress project is a feminist piece of work, made by women and about women. One Dress allows the general public not to buy a dress, but a piece of this dress. You could call it ‘collaborative couture’. It’s about helping people to understand that so much goes into the fashion that we buy and wear and it’s not just something that should be thrown away.
LC: So it’s an exquisite white dress, covered in embroidered words…
LT: That’s right. People – anyone – can buy a word. They can choose their own or buy one that’s already embroidered on there. On the website, there is a register where you can see all the names of the people to whom the dress is dedicated and also those who have done the embroidery.
‘The last word’ is (part) the end of the project that’s about finding that perfect final word to summarise One Dress and feminism. We are not going to recreate this dress, you can’t buy a copy of it, and the only way to own this dress is to own a part of it. You get the emotion of knowing you were a part of making this dress, the experience. It’s like when you go to the theatre, you get that couple of hours of pleasure for your ticket money. I think so often we are lured into buying a piece of fashion on the high street that we end up never wearing – it doesn’t fit well, or feels uncomfortable or the colour is a bit off – so with One Dress I’m offering people a chance at retail therapy – the positive impact of making a purchase while supporting artisans and creating incredible fashion rather than buying into waste, slave labour, bad chemicals and so on.
LC: And on 8 March, International Women’s Day, the project will be finished?
LT: Yes, the finished dress will be revealed on the 8th. It will then be worn by a few people, a selection of inspirational women who will be photographed by female photographers. Once I can start touring it around, I’ll showcase it. It’s already booked to go to Australia and India (though the dates are up in the air still) and I’m hoping to revisit some of the places it was exhibited as a work in progress in the UK, like the National Portrait Gallery, the British Library and the FiLiA conference in October.
LC: What about COVID-19. How has that impacted your business?
LT: During lockdown, we couldn’t see customers and there weren’t any parties to go to, so couture hasn’t been a thing recently. I knew we needed to do something instead and I had spoken to a friend of mine in India who runs a fair-trade factory out there, where artisans were getting no financial support whatsoever. So I launched a small accessories collection of scarves and I worked with three artisan groups out in India to do the weaving and production. The scarves are made of silk or cotton, and have the climate stripes on them – a visual representation of the temperature changes over the last 170 years… It’s our way to demonstrate that, despite everything else going on, climate change is still our biggest problem!
LC: That sounds fabulous. What a brilliant idea. Do you have any other advice for consumers about how to approach fashion and sustainability?
LT: I think it’s really important to understand the details of sustainability – what it is and isn’t. It’s about much more than just using organic cotton or recycled plastic now – full supply chain transparency makes something sustainable. But in the end the most important thing is to buy what you love, and wear what you love. Because having a great story behind a piece of clothing, and really investing in it, really means you’re going to love it and wear it much longer. I hope that with our clothing people will begin to really value having that perfect piece that they can hand down to their children. It’s the vintage of the future that’s well-made and worth taking care of.
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