Yorkshire-based fashion designer Meg J Gardner

Yorkshire-Based Designer, Meg J Gardner, On Sustainable Fashion

Amy Cameron sits down with a Northern creative who's committed to positive change
July 27, 2023

Born and raised in Yorkshire, Meg J Gardner has always had a love for creativity. It was with this love as well as the encouragement of her parents that led Meg to study Fashion Design and Textiles at Huddersfield University, during which she completed a placement year where she was mentored at companies such as White Stuff and M&Co. It was throughout this time that Meg gained an insight into how the fashion industry operates and how sustainability and ethical measures can often be overlooked.

And so, Meg’s namesake brand was born. Meg J Gardner is a sustainable, slow fashion brand that specialises in bespoke fashion and bridal wear. The timeless pieces are designed to be worn for years to come whilst making a positive change in the world by tackling waste and exploitation.

In just 18 months since her graduation, Meg has already achieved great success. From having work displayed on Oxford Street and as part of Graduate Fashion Week to showcasing at both London and York Fashion Weeks. Her work has been featured in over 24 fashion magazines, including Harpers Bazaar. If that isn’t impressive enough, Meg has also created bespoke designs for celebrities on the red carpet.

Thankfully, this is only the start for Meg…

What is your overall mission with your brand?

“My mission first and foremost is to make a positive change. Sustainability is a mindset, and I think that without educating consumers, we can never reach the sustainability goals that we set as brands. My overall mission is to try and create a brand that is transparent, ethical, and responsible with its practices. Without sacrificing on style. I think sustainable fashion has a reputation for being a lot of stiff itchy fabrics that are oversized and frumpy and it doesn’t need to be - my aim is the bring ethical and responsible style to the industry.”

Why is sustainability so important to you?

“Sustainability is a blanket word that is often misunderstood by a lot of people. Sustainability doesn’t just mean the fabrics are recycled, and that the packaging is recyclable. If the answer was that easy we’d all be sustainable. It goes much deeper. The way to think of it, is to go back to basics - can the behaviours of the brand continue in this way? That’s the big question. There’s more to being sustainable than just using deadstock or zero-waste pattern cutting. Take unethical workplaces - if a workplace is overworking or underpaying its workforce, it won’t take long for workers to start leaving or needing to take time off. The other issue with sustainability is that being “sustainable” doesn’t always benefit the planet. Take recycled fibres for example - the process of creating these fibres often creates vast amounts of water waste and that 100% recycled polyester is still non-biodegradable.”

Where are your textiles sourced from?

“I’m always looking for new and different suppliers; different clients have different needs, and suppliers will normally specialise in certain areas. So, to ensure I’m providing clients with the highest quality materials and resources, I’ll always look for a supplier that specialises in their requirements. I also love to come across family-run businesses - I think that’s a great way to source and you know they’ll have ethical working conditions.”

Your designs are trend-less, why is that?

“It extends the life of garments as they’ll be less likely to be thrown away, to be replaced with the new “on-trend” garments. It is one of the key parts of what the industry refers to as ‘Circular Design’. This means that our consumables are created and manufactured in a more considered way. `The importance of sustainable creation is just as important as the end of the product's life. Or to even extend its life cycle and create the opportunity for a new life with a different purpose. I generally take a controversial approach to fashion in that rather than looking forward, I look back. There’s a plethora of information that, as an industry, we can evaluate and learn from. Looking back you can start to see what a truly classic and timeless style is – it’s the silhouettes, shapes, and styles that keep cropping up again and again.”

Why did you choose to keep your business up North?

“A lot of designers end up moving to London as there are more opportunities and prospective clients. The North has a great deal of talent and equal amounts of potential among its creatives ready to be discovered. Some corporations are now starting to realise that fashion extends beyond the capital and are now providing platforms for emerging designers and I have been lucky enough to collaborate with a few of them. There’s the up-and-coming Northern Fashion Week, and of course, York Fashion Week, which I showcased with last year.”

Where do you see Meg J Gardner in 5 years?

“There are some really exciting projects happening at the moment, we’ve had a great start to the year with some major magazine publications and London Fashion Week, and I’ve had a record number of clients in the studio in the last few months. Within the next 5 years, I’m hoping to grow the brand to be recognisable within the creative industry, specifically the North, and provide opportunities for other Northern-based creatives to grow and flourish. The thing about this industry is that it is incredibly fast-paced, it is difficult to predict, and you do have to adapt to keep up with it, but we’ve hit the ground running this year and have no intention of slowing down any time soon.”

You can find out more about Meg’s services HERE, or follow her on Instagram @meg.j.gardner.design