Meet Your Maker: DIY Couture

Some you may be familiar with the euphoric sense of accomplishment (and sometimes frustration!) of making your very own garment. For those of you who aren’t, now is the time to get that dusty sewing machine out and feel the joy of creating. DIY couture is a London-based fashion label that encourages consumers to be co-creators. Inspired by the lack of affordable ethical clothing and over-complexity of traditional sewing patterns, DIYC (who you might also remember back in Issue 6 of Peppermint!) was born. Many designers would be outraged at the idea of sharing their designs with easy step by step instructions; however founder Rosie Martin is doing just that. Rosie tells us about her motivations, life in London and her exciting new book which is set to revolutionise the way we consume fashion.

What is DIY couture?
DIYcouture is a vibrant fashion brand, providing people with a means to build, rather than buy, the clothes they want. DIYC publishes simple, accessible, visual instructions that enable people to create garments the way they want them.

How did you come up with the concept?
It came in a flash when I bought a sewing pattern a couple of years ago and found that a simple construction process was explained in an extremely complicated way, with a lot of words and a dense system of codes. As a competent DIY seamstress I found this to be a barrier to making the garment I wanted to make, and I imagined that other people would feel the same. I envisioned a way of explaining how to put clothes together using illustrations, so that anybody would feel they could (and actually could!) give it a go. This was the beginning of DIYcouture.

Were you inspired on a sustainable level?
Yes I am a passionate believer in creative rather than consumer culture and I hoped the DIYcouture instructions would encourage and inspire more people to make their own clothes and feel pleasure from doing so. I was experimenting with making clothes as I had ideas about what I wanted to wear, but also I couldn’t afford to purchase ethical clothes and I didn’t want to be forced to turn to high-street shops that had public records of treating workers poorly. Cheap clothes from the high-street serve a purpose and there are some brilliant items in the mega-chains we all know. But the clothes we buy from them often have a high turnover i.e. we wear them for a bit then cast them aside and I thought home made garments might perhaps be treated differently – that that would have longevity in someone’s wardrobe. I hoped in a way that DIYcouture would help to foster something that was the antithesis of fast-fashion.

What’s the best part about where you live?
I love London and I’m sure I am only truly scratching the surface. It is jam packed full of people from all over the world and we are all crammed in here trying to do what we can to make a living and to enjoy ourselves too. There is a lot of top quality, free entertainment in London, whether it is on the street outside your front door or in the grand churches or universities, or in the basement of some tiny pub. If you look, you will find something strange and spectacular that someone has cared enough to spend time making. I also particularly love the fabric shops.

Does it influence your collections and the way you work?
Yes, DIYcouture has grown in London and London continues to live at the heart of DIYcouture. The DIYcouture collection is a collection of designs. The instructions show people how to physically bring those designs into being, in the way they want them to exist. In this way DIYcouture has spawned a chaotic collection that is growing and constantly being created by a huge group of disparate individuals. London is very much like this: permanently changing, a great creation in the hands of its massive, diverse population.

“La beaute est dans la rue” – beauty is on the street – is one of the mottos of DIYcouture. This is a passionate cry that beauty lies in each diverse human, it is not institutionalised or idealised. Taking this very practically, all the people that model DIYcouture’s clothes are ‘normal’ people (not models) from the streets of London. Because they are from the streets of London, they actually come from all over the world!

What’s next for DIY couture?
I have been working for six months now on a DIYC mega book, with ten sets of instructions, which will be published by Laurence King in 2012. Coming up before that will be three sets of instructions released as e-books, which people will be able to download for a very small cost from the website. These will be the shrug, the wrap top and a third – possibly the kaftan. These will all be available later this year. There will also be instructions for one DIYcouture garment – a mantle – in a book called The State Of Craft which is to be published in September by Cicada books. This book is going to contain instructions from various contemporary makers based in the UK. It includes instructions on how to make a pair of summer sandals from scratch – amazing stuff!