Study 34 is a quintessentially British responsible knitwear brand for the intelligent woman in the know of all things sustainable. Fun fact: it was born from a simple functionality issue - more often than not, functional garments come with all the unnecessary buttons and pockets and keyhole fastenings, leaving little space for beautiful simplicity. We took a glimpse into the world of Eleanor O'Neill, author of Study 34 clothing brand and writer on sustainable fashion, about her latest 'The New Crew' knitwear collection and passion for sustainability...
How did you become interested in all things sustainable? In particular, what led to interest in fashion x sustainability?
The knowledge I have gained has come from talking to lots of people with much more knowledge than me, as well as reading – I do a lot of that!
I’d say I really become interested during my first internship in the fashion industry, which was for the global supply chain manager Li & Fung in New York. Once you’re exposed to the reality of the fashion system, you start to question things more…
What were the main aspects you wanted to improve when starting with your own responsible fashion brand called Study 34?
I think I had quite a few things on my mind at the beginning. Firstly, it was about style. I like simple, timeless, but modern shapes in knitwear and all the pieces I liked were always out of my price range – we’re talking hundreds of pounds. I wanted that aesthetic to be more attainable.
I’m really passionate about the manufacture of clothing, too. I found it quite frustrating sitting at a desk and drawing things, when I was working for larger brands, and never having the chance to improve my knowledge of construction. It seemed silly, I probably always made the same mistakes but never knew because it was someone else’s job to correct them. When I first started STUDY 34, I made everything in my studio with domestic machines and I learnt a great deal about construction during that time.
“The overproduction and consumption of badly made garments has resulted not just in waste but in clothing itself becoming a totally undervalued part of our society. It has become disposable.”
In the intro describing the production process of your new jumper in a British factory you mention many complex issues. In a nutshell, why is it so difficult to get something responsible manufactured in Britain?
It’s not the ‘responsible’ part that’s the problem necessarily; it’s just that when you’re starting out, you’re often working to a factory’s minimums, so it’s hard to get your foot in the door because it doesn’t make you very desirable. You often have to work with what you can get so to speak, which is often not exactly what you wanted…
Who is the woman The New Crew is aimed at?
The STUDY 34 woman is creative, intelligent and interested in the world around her. She’s busy and she needs to be comfortable and look good while she’s going about her day.
“I’m always talking to people and getting their perspective on the fashion industry, as well as meeting people who make amazing things. All of these activities play a huge role in my day.”
What are the main concerns that should be addressed when in comes to fashion industry's irresponsible ways? What personally bothers you the most?
I get asked this a lot and it’s hard to answer because there are so many things to learn and as one person, you can only explore so much at one time. There are a number of things that bother me more than others, though, and the first is working conditions. That anyone can turn a blind eye to what’s happening in a lot of factories I find shocking.
The second is waste. The over production and consumption of badly made garments has resulted not just in waste but in clothing itself becoming a totally undervalued part of our society. It has become disposable.
What's your personal link with leading a sustainable lifestyle? How big is the role it plays in your everyday?
Every day I strive to keep learning and expand my knowledge of different areas of the supply chain, whether it’s to do with materials, water usage, design, washing etc. I’m always talking to people and getting their perspective on the fashion industry, as well as meeting people who make amazing things. All of these activities play a huge role in my day.
What's the best advice you have been given in order not to give up your pursuit of creating clothing Made in Britain?
I’m not sure anyone has ever advised me NOT to give up… our textile industry has so diminished in the UK, it remains very difficult.
How can we make this world a better place and reduce consumption?
Buy thinking before you buy and by valuing the things that you DO buy.