Cherished Pieces - the fashion label up-cycling pre-loved garments
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 May 2020
Meet the woman turning treasured heirloom clothing into gorgeous garments for the little people in your life.
It was a lightbulb moment for Marple’s Sarah Parish. The former primary school and head teacher was looking for a new career. And when plans for a children’s day nursery didn’t work out, a friend suggested she might want to do things a little differently. “I thought about going back to teaching, but my friend Louise Latham, who is a children’s clothing agent for Spanish designer wear, suggested an online children’s clothing store,” says Sarah. “I didn’t have a clue about the impacts of textile waste.
“As I started researching, I came across the issues with fast fashion and the detrimental effect it is having on the environment. I hadn’t realised how huge it is.
“I thought maybe the angle I should be taking is a move to support this mission to stop textile waste.”
The recycled – or rather, upcycled notion – is at the heart of Sarah’s company, Cherished Pieces. Because wouldn’t it be special – and kinder to the environment – if we could turn our own, pre-loved and cherished garments into a dress for our little girl or a romper for our baby boy?
Or how about buying one-of-a-kind children’s clothing straight off the shelf, made from hidden charity shop gems or gorgeous vintage fabrics?
The initial idea was to focus on the cherished piece –perhaps your grandad’s old shirt or your mum’s favourite cardigan – with the thinking it’d be a greener way to add new life to your youngster’s wardrobe – and with meaning. One of Cherished Piece’s favourite orders was for the re-design of a jumpsuit, worn on the morning of the customer’s wedding, into a romper for her baby girl.
The old-to-new process is carried out by Sarah’s in-house team from the comfort of the converted garage-cum-studio in her garden. With the help of her daughter’s best friend, Rebecca (Becca) Morris, who has a degree in fashion design and technology, Sarah’s mum Kim, and seamstress Audrey Pye, it’s smooth work.
“Becca did her dissertation on textile waste,” Sarah says. “It’s about reusing those items so they are not just dumped in landfill but rather kept out there, even if as something different.
“We want to show fashion how childrenswear should be done, with both ethical and sustainable designs. I do think it’s where the industry will go.”
Sarah is the first to admit the business wouldn’t be what it is today without the help and ideas of her Granny Rona.
Her tales of how they used to live, upcycling and sharing clothes, have been influential in Sarah’s education on the topic, be it as hand-me-downs or through creating something new and beautiful out of old garments or fabrics. Newspaper articles were a big help, too.
Sarah’s mum, Kim Parish, says: “We would all recycle for my mum’s sister-in-law, Auntie Eileen, so any clothing we didn’t wear or no longer wanted, we’d pass on.
“I send a WhatsApp message even now to my three children and our grandchildren asking if anyone has any unwanted clothing for her. It’s been the way since I was little; we’ve always had a bag for Auntie Eileen.”
And widening awareness of fast fashion is one of Sarah’s key objectives. She’s keen to use her teaching experience to help educate people and their children on its impact.
She wants to design a Where’s Wally-style children’s book, using the business mascot, Wonky Rabbit (made from fabric off-cuts) hidden among piles of textile waste in different scenarios.
“We want to help reduce textile waste and introduce people to the slow clothing movement,” Sarah says. It’s something she’s achieving through beautifully designed, handmade heritage pieces with customisable options.
“People are starting to move with it; there’s just not a lot of awareness. It’s about attitude.”
The store sells everything from dresses and skirts to shirts, shorts and trousers. There are also rompers, hair scrunchies and comforters – and of course, Wonky Rabbit. And it’s expanding. Customers will soon be able to buy clothing direct from Sarah and her cousin Tia Robinson’s quality own-brand Alf-Phi, a slow and sustainable upcycled label. Tia will be selling from her home in Los Angeles. “They’ll be one-of-a-kind, bespoke items,” Sarah says. “But more of an everyday, accessible option. The handmade process will be exactly the same.
“We’ve found the mentality of a lot of shoppers, especially those who are used to fast fashion, is that they want something there and then. Hopefully in time – and with education – that will change, and people will become more conscious of the effects their thrown-out clothes are having.
“I’ve had some of the most amazing things to upcycle from charity shops – curtains, shirts, pillowcases. They have made beautiful things.
“And that’s an achievement in itself to see what we’ve made from something that was going to the tip.”
Get in touch via Instagram @cherishedpiecesltd or the website cherishedpieces.co.uk and receive your pre-paid postage label to send over your cherished piece. Bespoke orders are available if requested.