Interview With Dr Linda Thomas – Designer of the Wave of Waste Dress

There have been some really great threads on social media this week in response to the utterly heart wrenching scene in last week’s Blue Planet II that showed a mother whale carrying the body of her dead calf in it’s mouth. The calf had probably died from drinking it’s mothers milk that had been tainted from plastic pollution. After seeing the upsetting effects that our plastic pollution is having on ocean wildlife it was great to see a positive conversation on social media off the back of it.

So this week I’d like to bring you an interview I’ve done with Bristol based Linda Thomas, designer of the “Wave of Waste” dress. A 22 metre long dress created from the waste of 100 salvaged body boards from three beaches in Devon and Cornwall which was created to highlight just how bad the issue has become.

Having won Young Designer of Nottingham as a teenager followed by medical school and a twenty year career as a Doctor, Linda’s interest in¬†ethical fashion was triggered by article she read in The Ecologist about non organic cotton which drove her to completely change her lifestyle; stop buying from from regular shops and buy preloved and certified organic/ethical clothing instead.

“Until that point I thought natural fibres were good and synthetic ones not so good. To read that cotton was the most pesticide greedy crop on the planet and was devastating people and the Planet changed everything”

How did you get the inspiration for the Wave of Waste dress?

I designed the Wave of Waste dress this year after seeing a photo of the wall of dumped bodyboards last year. (14,500 are dumped in the South West alone each year). I wanted to create something that would be eye catching and as the boards are so colourful I thought it would work. As more of the boards arrived from Keep Britain Tidy and I went to collect more covers I grew to really dislike the often sexist images too and so wanted to create a dress that looked colourful at first glance but on closer inspection clashed. So “it’s girls surf stuff” pink and body distorted girly patterns right next to an image of a ridiculously aggressive shark. In the end it was 100 boards and 22 metres long, and thanks to the team, the images did cause a stir.

Dress: Linda Thomas Eco Design (Instagram @linda_eco_design) Photography: Symages Photography Board collecting and organising: Beach Care of Keep Britain Tidy Model: Emma Adams Eco Hair: Clair Swinscoe Studio Couture Eco Make up: Rebecca Rose Robinson Location: Watergate Bay, Newquay

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the fashion industry in terms of becoming more sustainable and reducing it’s carbon footprint?

I think the absolute biggest challenge is a complete rethink on the concept of ‘more’ and growth at all costs for both the industry and the consumer alike. Within that there are other great concerns such as the use of synthetic fabrics getting into the water system and using petroleum to produce clothes, as well as the massive pollution from pesticides but all of this is made worse by this off scale demand for fast fashion.

Give us an insight into your wardrobe and how you like to shop? Where do you shop for clothes in Bristol?

My wardrobe is full of colourful clothes with a mixture of my own designs, vintage and preloved items. My favourite places to shop are local charity shops, particularly where I am fond of the charity, so Oxfam and St Peter’s Hospice feature strongly. Gloucester Road and Clifton are great as there are lots of choices. Movement Boutique is great for new ethical brands and Heartfelt Vintage for vintage (Just to own up to bias, they both stock my designs). Village Green Boutique is great for high end pre-loved too. For eco underwear I tend to have to buy on-line.

The #waveofwaste campaign is on-going to raise awareness of the issue of polystyrene bodyboards washing out to sea and causing pollution on the beaches. 

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