Based in Newcastle, England, Study 34 is a knitwear label with ethical practices and sustainability firmly at its heart. It’s founder, writer, designer and maker, Eleanor O’Neill, splits her time between creating made to order pieces for the label, running its accompanying blog and writing about ethical fashion for The Huffington Post.
We caught up with her to talk knitwear, a growing movement and the challenges that come with launching a fashion brand.
What inspired you to become a knitwear designer?
I loved the concept of ‘knitwear’ from the moment I understood what it was and how big a reach it had over the whole fashion spectrum. From chunky sweaters to fine jersey and sportswear. You can be so involved in the creative process from start to finish with knitwear, you’re able to create something totally unique.
Sustainability is at the heart of the brand, what turned your attention to these issues and why is it so important to you?
There was no ideological driving force initially – the strategy was reactionary. Study 34 was simply born out of frustrations with the industry.
Why is it so important? Generally speaking because we simply cannot continue making, consuming and discarding clothing at the pace we are today – the environment cannot sustain it.
On a personal level, there is really nothing more exciting than discovering and being able to talk to a person or group of people doing things a little differently while producing some of the most beautiful garments ever I’ve seen.
What were the biggest obstacles in finding suppliers and manufacturers who fit with your brand ethos?
There are not a lot of them around, so that’s the first challenge, finding them. Then you need to be compatible. You need to value the same things as well as offer value to each other. You have to be confident, persistent and willing to step out of your comfort zone to find the right one.
How do you combat the inevitable wastefulness of the fashion industry such as overstock and unused yarn?
Until now, overstock has not been an issue, I’ve made everything to order in the studio. I only make it if you order it. The study 34 collections, as of this autumn, will be produced in a British factory but they will still be produced in very limited qualities, in order to combat waste. And I’m starting with a classic crew, which never goes out of style…
As well as a brand founder and designer, you write about sustainable fashion for the Huffington Post. How does this inform your own practise?
Writing for such a prominent platform allows me to meet and talk to some very interesting people. Their thoughts and practices always inspire me to challenge my ways of working and to always keep learning.
Do you think the industry and its consumers are gaining awareness of the issues surrounding fast fashion and if so, is the change quick enough?
Yes and then sadly, no. Yes people are gaining an awareness into the issues, in 2016 I think it would be really hard not to be aware even if you chose to do nothing about it. But no, the change is not quick enough however, it is growing.
Describe the 2016 collection in 3 words.
Versatile, Constant, Evergreen
What’s next for Study 34?
Some very exciting collaborations on the making and blogging side of things and hopefully an opportunity to work with students who are just starting out, wondering if the fashion industry is the right industry for them…
Something you couldn’t live without?
Motto you live by?
When everything feels like shit… remember how luck you are!
3 words to describe yourself?
Urmmm contemplative, passionate and in love.
Favourite thing to do on a Sunday?
Read my book, eat a large breakfast and cycle to the local grocers.
Favourite responsible brand?
New York, no contenders.
Minimalism or maximalism?
Obviously the first!
Photography Elizabeth Cooney