I am proud to feature Lucy Tammam, pioneer of sustainable couture fashion and womens rights champion. Atelier Tammam was one of the first ethical fashion houses, trailblazing the way for the future of fashion. I first met Lucy in 2015, and I was taken by her passion and commitment to changing the conversation in fashion. This energy gave me confidence to keep pushing sustainable best practice with Deborah Campbell Atelier which has ultimately led to Future Female. Lucy is being the change she wishes to see in the world by supporting like minded Women in the process. Lucy continues to push against the fast fashion system with ‘One Dress’
“I vowed this year that I would make only One Dress that needs as much effort, (wo)man power and time to create as a whole collection” – Ms Tammam
“One Dress is a textiles art work offering a voice to women around the world, embroidered in the UK, India and Kenya by women, with words that define feminism and women’s empowerment”. To sign up and have your word on the ‘One Dress’ project sign up here. One Dress
FF: Can you tell us a bit about your background?
LT: I’d say I’m an artist, couturier, sustainability expert and activist. I don’t like to limit myself! I’ve spent years researching and developing fully monitored ethical supply chains, which track the whole process of creation from fibre to finishing to ensure sustainability, ethical standards for workers and cruelty free production for my, and other designers, fashion labels. I’m a Fashion alumna of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, though they didn’t appreciate my ethics at the time (sustainability is part of the syllabus now). As a kid I used to skip school to go to fox hunting protests and hand Mclibel flyers out on the high street. My passion for animal rights developed into passions for ecology and human rights. I hate anything that isn’t fair so now I’ve dedicate myself to “saving the world, in style”.
FF: What does Future Female mean to you?
LT: Empowerment. I want women to know they can do and be anything.
FF: The recent #MeToo hash tag caught the attention of many women who joined the conversation, what is your view and have you been affected by misogynistic behaviour during your lifetime and is it something you feel comfortable discussing?
LT: I don’t know one woman who can’t say me too. What an insane world we live in. I’ve tried to not let misogyny affect me, but even in that act of trying, it means it has!
FF: Describe your current work role and your creative process
LT: I’m currently immersing myself in couture art projects and feminist exhibition curation. I’m aiming to use my fashion skills but I want to create less – and I don’t want to create anything in the hope it might be used, so I’m only making bespoke designs for private clients and one off art pieces now. There are far too many clothes in the world already, but making clothes is what I do. So my aim, for now, is to make very few, very detailed pieces that tell the story of their creation, are made for a purpose and made to last. My supply chains are intrinsic to my creative process. I’ve always found a way to source or create a material I want to make a design work and I love bringing unique and unusual skills and crafts together to create something innovative and new.
FF:What do you love about being your own boss, and what are the challenges?
LT: I love travelling, meeting and working with incredible artisans who I would otherwise have no access to. Not having restrictions, it’s so important to me, I don’t work well with rules – I always bend them until they break… so it’s best for me to be free. It makes it hard to work within certain settings, especially with bigger businesses and institutions. I tend to be seen as an outsider and rebel… I wouldn’t have it any other way!
FF: Can you tell us about a project that is inspiring you at the moment?
LT: My current labour of love is One Dress. It came about at the end of 2016 – I was so fed up of the waste in the fashion industry, I was feeling despondent about the state of the design world and overwhelmed by the impact of fast fashion. I had just started curating the annual art show for FiLiA (previously Feminism in London) and I wanted to show one of my pieces. For years I have been working with incredibly skilled women across India and Nepal – yet they rarely got any credit for the work they did – occasionally a mention on my website or a blog post. So for this project I really wanted to raise the value of the people throughout the supply chain. On the One Dress page you can see the artisans who have worked on the dress – their names are next to the word they embroidered.
It’s been a project in bringing creators and consumers together, while giving voices to women. All the words on the dress mean “feminism” and have been contributed by people from around the world, in over 10 languages, and counting.
The project has taken so much longer than I anticipated but has led to many wonderful things happening – I’m planning FiLiA art shows for this year in India, Manchester and London. FiLiA has close links to some incredible women’s organisations including 50:50 parliament, who invited us to be part of their “Modern Suffragettes” feature in Stylist.
And Women in Prison – who I’m currently working with to create a commemorative 100 years since women got the vote banner.
I’m heading to Kenya to work with a fair trade factory to continue the embroidery and I still need to collect another few hundred words so I have some events and promotions planned. It is so unbelievably inspiring to work with the women doing the embroidery for the dress, and so heartening to have had so much support from all over the world for the project.
FF:There is a shift in how and where women work, was it a natural progression for you to go it alone and why?
LT: I’ve always worked alone, it would have been odd for me to be employed by someone, doing what I was told, it would never have worked. I started up my first label while still at college and launched Tammam a few years later. I’ve done plenty of collaborations and lots of freelancing for bigger companies, lecturing for universities – but always on my terms. The patriarchy relies on subservience, and I won’t be part of that.
FF: If there was one thing you would change about your life as a woman what would it be?
LT: Nothing really! I love being a woman. I even love my period (now) – what an amazing thing to happen each month! I loved breastfeeding. I adore being a mother. Perhaps I would change the vulnerability – in truth I didn’t feel it when I was younger, but more so now.
FF: Are there key messages you are passing on to your children when it comes to gender equality, how important do you think it is to change your story around gender?
LT: If anyone dares to call my daughter or nieces “pretty” I tell them how talented, clever and incredible they are. Bollox to being “pretty”. I’m in fashion, so I do like to notice and compliment an outfit – I try really hard to say “you look stylish and fabulous” instead of “you look beautiful”. I think it makes a difference. I am loving the fantastic feminist kids literature around at the moment – we’re currently reading “Women in Science – 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world”.
I’m happy to concede to differences between genders, but I won’t accept that gender is a reason to stop someone from doing what they want to do, ever.
FF: What are you reading at the moment?
LT: See above! And I need to read Megan Hine’s “Mind of a Survivor”
FF:How would you describe your style?
LT: Classic, minimalist, style over fashion, utility.
A huge thanks to Lucy Tammam who continues to inspire me with her projects, focussed on giving a voice to the women who make our clothes, helping them earn a fair wage and supporting ethical best practice. You can sign up to the ‘One Dress’ project and have your word embroidered on the dress. Link to the page is here. One Dress