Guest Blogger Valery from VT Creation
Hello, I am Valery Touchet and fashion has always been my passion ever since I was very little. My vision of fashion has changed over time especially when I started studying fashion at university.
At that time my feelings about what fashion meant for me changed and it was no longer just about looking nice in what I was wearing. I started to realise that being who you really are is not just about what other people see, it is about who you are as a person. For me the idea of fashion has become about finding a more sustainable way of wearing clothes that makes me feel special through the way that I look. as well as the effect the garments have on the environment.
I really want to help people see that feeling happy about what we are wearing is not just about what others see, but also the way it feels to wear something that we know is kind to the environment.
For me it all started when I was little growing up back home in Cameroon. During the school holidays my parents used to send me to my grandparents and to my extended family who made clothes for a living to help out and learn something about how to sew. That’s how I started to learn about fashion and making clothes. When I was nine or ten years old, in the holidays I would go there and learn about threading the needles, and a few little things like that, and as I learned more I started to enjoy it and wanted to do more and more. I think a big reason why I did it was because it was a way to connect with my grandparents and my family which made me feel happy.
When I was twelve my grandma gave me fabric and I wanted to make a skirt. Don’t ask me how I did it, but I took one she had unpinned to be recycled and I managed to make a play skirt out of it, I asked my grandma how to make the band and she showed me how to hand stitch it. I felt so happy and so proud that I had I managed to do this myself, it was green with black spots. Other than that, I spent time helping out in the family shop for a few hours here and there watching how people work, and picking it up as I went along. Doing this was always a special time for me because I was spending time with my family which made me happy, and now when I am making clothes I still feel the same way like my family are there with me.
My plans for VT Creation started when I was at university when I started to see that for me fashion is not just about what we wear or how we look, we also need to think about the future. I believe we should look beyond what we are seeing when we choose clothes that feel right for us, and think about what effect it is all having on the environment. This is when the ideas came to me about holding clothes swaps and teaching people how to be sustainable with what we wear.
We had a big project at university, a fashion climate change challenge. Doing this made me think about what I can do to educate people from my community about sustainable fashion. Buying sustainable garments made from organic natural fabrics can be very expensive and not everyone can afford to buy organic fabric such as bar cloth. My hope is that little by little I will be able to teach people how they can make things that they can wear that make them feel special, and that are affordable and sustainable for the planet. This is where the idea of swapping clothes came about. So, I set up some workshops at my home. It was beautiful, people loved the idea and most of them had not been out of the house since COVID had started. It made everyone so happy to be together spending time with other people having a good time, and they all went home with something special to wear that was new for them. I knew I wanted to do something more with this, but I wasn’t sure how to make it all happen.
A while after this I was speaking to Baylai Tan Panza, a Specialist Coach from the Big Life Be Well Service who introduced me to Noah Mellor a Neighbourhood Health Worker from buzz Manchester Health & Wellbeing Service. Noah and I started to talk about what would come next to help make my ideas happen. He agreed to help support me to set up and run a pilot workshop, and to help me learn how to feel confident when I am speaking and teaching people in the community about sustainable fashion.
Noah is making me feel so proud of myself and I can’t wait to share my vision with the world. Meeting Noah has opened my eyes to another world and given me the vision of how to make the community aware of my knowledge and my ideas. He has been introducing me to a lot of people within the community and has been helping me to find out how to run my own social enterprise to help the local community. We have learned everything together from insurance to setting up the legal framework for the organisation. He has also helped me just to think about and realise what it is actually possible for me to do.
Noah introduced me to Beth Powell from Creative City CIC and Sarah Taylor form Arcon Housing who gave me some amazing advice about what direction to take. They have been running a women’s craft group in Gorton Community Centre for some time. I did some volunteering with their women’s group where I led on a few sewing sessions, with their support I was able to find my feet and find my confidence to feel like I could run my own sewing sessions in the future. This was very beneficial for helping me to believe in myself.
In the first session I was a bit shy, but Beth and Sarah showed me how to feel confident and helped to build up my confidence. By the end of the second session the group were all very happy to have learned new skills. One of the ladies made herself a tote bag from reused fabrics and was very proud of herself and could not stop thanking me. It made me feel so proud of myself that I could put a smile on someone’s face. This feeling really made me realise what a difference it can make to the way people feel by teaching them something new, and doing this can make them feel so happy and confident, helping their wellbeing. All my thanks go to Noah for helping me to take my idea and show me how to find my way to where I am now.
Now buzz are helping me to run some pilot workshops in partnership with Healthy Me Healthy Communities where I will be teaching people, and it will be my own workshop with a clothes swap and I will be teaching some sewing skills. Noah has also helped me to develop a partnership with someone I studied with, Flora Danso, who wants to support me when I am delivering the workshops. Noah is helping her to learn about running her own workshops too where I will support her. buzz has also introduced me to Visage Textiles who have very kindly donated some fabrics that have helped make the workshops possible.
Recently Noah has also helped me to develop a partnership with Healthy Me Healthy Communities who have asked me to deliver a second series of wellbeing sewing workshops for them. As well as this, Noah introduced me to Debdale Bowling Club who are keen for me to teach them about sewing and sustainable fashion as well. He’s also spending time showing me how to apply for community funding to make all of this possible.
In the future I would like to start my own sustainable brand VT Creation, a big step towards making this happen for me was to hold a fashion show as a part of the 2021 Caribbean and African Health Network (CAHN) event to Launch Black History Month at Manchester Cathedral. I have a friend who works for CAHN and she sent me the leaflet on WhatsApp about it, to be honest I didn’t think about doing it until buzz emailed me about it. I had the idea of having a fashion show so I called her to see what they thought, they came back to me and asked if I could make a fashion show that was ten minutes long. The first garment that was presented on the night was a dress that was originally from my mum. It is my main inspiration for what I do and every time I see the dress it reminds me of home. The prints on the dress are where a lot of my inspiration comes from. My inspiration also comes from nature.
The second garment presented that night was 100% hand made from bar cloth originally from Uganda, it was from a designer called Jose Hendo based in London.
The third garment was made from cloth that is 100% silk and the print on the top was inspired by my mum’s dress, the print on it is called the Tree Of Peace.
At the event I was so proud of myself to be up in front of the Mayor of Manchester, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, and all the people from across the whole area who were there that night. The event was amazing and helped me to meet new people who are helping me to make my vision become a reality!
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