Kumiko Tani (Re-cycle style Director and Costume designer). Born in Japan and moved to London UK, graduated at Central Saint Martins College of Art and design. She started “Re-cycle style” in 2008. Currently she designs and styles costumes for several theatre production companies including; Secret Cinema, a performance for Friends of the Earth.
Recently she showed her work at Brighton fashion week sustain show in 2014 and 2015, the Ethical fashion college in Japan 2015 and Berlin Alternative fashion show in 2015 and 2016. “Front Row” event at Royal festival hall 2016. She also exhibited the brand at Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising 2016.
• Hello Kumi. Thank you for taking part in this interview. Could you please tell us about your company?
—Re-cycle-Style is an ethical project and fashion brand.
We make costumes using recycled material and attend show and exhibitions. We also make dresses for the musicians and theatres.
Recycled materials used include plastic bottles, plastic bags, newspaper, teak leaf, coffee sacks, and car air bags. To just use recycle material itself is still uncomfortable. This is our challenge to make the product and make people feel good when they have and use it.
And now we have started to make fashion accessories such as cosmetic pouches in the same way we make costumes. We also use teak leaf fabric which is 100 % natural and produced sustainably and we have collaborated with the company in Thailand.
• Describe a typical day for you at work…
—Each day is different, one day I a stuck in front of PC doing research or emailing all day.
Other days I am stuck in front of the sewing machine for a few days. I think that meeting with people is also important instead of just doing enquiry email. So I will go out often to meet people or visit an event, exhibition as people give me a lot of ideas and inspire me.
• How did the idea to start your company come about?
—I am interested more in city waste, recycling system and sometime I visit recycling centres and also did research on the system. Then I become wanted to do something to be part of it with my way, so I started to collect recycle material for my dress.
My first dress material was newspaper, as it was only from 2007 that a few newspaper offices started to give out newspapers for free in London and people started to get those free newspapers and left them on the seat in the tube after reading as they didn’t need them anymore.
• Your brand has strong ethical values. Tell us about your journey into ethical fashion as an individual. Were you always aware of the cruelty, inequality and environmental harm involved in mainstream clothing and fashion production? If no, when did you learn about the cruelty and inequality that goes on behind the scenes and how did this affect you?
—The amount of natural resources is limited, people say some of them will run out in 50 years or 100 years. This is not too far in the future. It could affect you or your children.
When I visited Eco Park in north London, they said they are trying to reduce the amount of landfill sites. They sort out recycled materials, and also try to pick up recyclable materials collected as general garbage. Also they care about emission gas, too. But I think people have to know about it more when we buy food or products also the company has to care before they produce new products, not just the person who works at Eco Park.
Of course clothes are the same. Before they are produced, when you buy, people need to know more about the system then they can change their mind before and could have an effect to reduce the amount of landfill spaces.
• How are the materials used to make your products ethical? How can we shop ethically on a budget? What should we look for if we want to invest in high quality fashion items made from ethically sourced materials?
—-If they say they are an ethical brand, they must be happy to specify everything like where the material comes from and being transparent about the process and the budget, so you can easily find it on their website.
My material is mainly upcycled materials, collected from shops when they do not it need any more or from things I have used.
• As you know, this interview is part of The Online Stylist’s project: “The Ethical Style Project”, which aims to help and encourage others with their transition towards ethical fashion. What tips and advice would you give to those who are about to start their ethical style journey?
—-I think you should start to look at your wardrobe first and organise your clothes.
You could find something you want to wear again instead of buying new items of clothing.
And if you have clothes that you don’t wear anymore, why don’t you take them to a charity shop or join a swishing party. Realising that have plenty clothes yourself already, is the starting point to understanding ethical fashion I believe.
Thank you very much Kumi for taking part in this interview!