Duo who worked for TopShop and New Look ditch fast fashion to launch brand made from plastic bottles – Daily Mail

A duo who carved their careers around major high street brands including Topshop and New Look have told how they turned their back on the fast fashion culture to launch a brand that helps save the planet.

Emily Hutchison and Victoria Windle, who met at their children’s nursery in 2012 after they both moved to Duffield in Derbyshire, spent 15 years working for and selling products to big brand chains.

But after meeting they decided to launch their own clothing brand to challenge the ‘throw-away culture’ by making garments from recycled plastic bottles.

The women secured a five-figure loan to launch Kit Change, their own brand which is made from plastic bottles ground into pellets and spun into yarn, and overcame all the obstacles lockdown hurled at them to finally launch in October last year.

Emily Hutchison (right) and Victoria Windle (left), who met after they both moved to a Derbyshire village, spent 15 years working for and selling products to big brand chains until they launched their own clothing line

Emily Hutchison (right) and Victoria Windle (left), who met after they both moved to a Derbyshire village, spent 15 years working for and selling products to big brand chains until they launched their own clothing line

Three months later Kit Change – which makes activewear clothing – has quadrupled its turnover to £25,000 a month, sold out of some of their products almost overnight, picked up a handful of celebrity fans and even supply a couple of the local WAGs.

Emily told FEMAIL: ‘We couldn’t be more thrilled to be in the position we are now, having spent so long working towards creating our own business, having overcome all the hurdles and challenges we’ve had to face due to lockdown. We’re really excited about the future.

‘We learned our trade from the fast-fashion industry, but the market is changing, and our brand reflects our own personal values and commitment to giving our customers what they want at the same time as making sure it’s sustainable.’

Emily climbed the career ladder after starting work at New Look’s buying office a year after graduating from Manchester University, and ended up at Topshop Head Office where she worked as a buyer.

Vicky also graduated from Manchester with a degree in textile design and was a design director for a high street fashion supplier in Hong Kong for 15 years before she moved back to the UK with her family.

Victoria and Emily decided to launch their own clothing brand to challenge the 'throw-away culture' by making garments from recycled plastic bottles

Victoria and Emily decided to launch their own clothing brand to challenge the ‘throw-away culture’ by making garments from recycled plastic bottles

When the pair met they quickly realised they shared an interest in challenging the ‘throw-away culture’. They agreed to join forces to create a range of stylish, environmentally conscious sports and leisurewear.

But their plans were ruined when the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March 2020; their mill which turns used plastic bottles into fabric in China shut, and their development ground to a halt.

The second lockdown and the subsequent Government restrictions on travelling between Tiers then put paid to their plans for a photoshoot to showcase the range.

The plan was always to use a range models of different ages and sizes, but when lockdown hit, they had to narrow their search to willing locals.

So the resourceful friends decided to put a shout out locally on social media asking for anyone who fancied helping their fledgling business by posing for pictures in the range to get in touch.

The women secured a five-figure loan to launch Kit Change, their own brand which is made from plastic bottles ground into pellets and spun into yarn, and overcame all the obstacles lockdown hurled at them to finally launch in October last year. Pictured: model Mel, an emergency services worker, showing off the range

The women secured a five-figure loan to launch Kit Change, their own brand which is made from plastic bottles ground into pellets and spun into yarn, and overcame all the obstacles lockdown hurled at them to finally launch in October last year. Pictured: model Mel, an emergency services worker, showing off the range

Model Kam, an artist

Model Tabitha, a yoga and Pilates instructor

Victoria and Emily put a shout out on social media last year to recruit local women as models. Pictured: left is Kam, an artist, and right is Tabitha, a yoga and Pilates instructor

Emily and Victoria sold out of some of their products almost overnight and have picked up a handful of celebrity fans. Pictured: model Kristina, a special needs teacher

Emily and Victoria sold out of some of their products almost overnight and have picked up a handful of celebrity fans. Pictured: model Kristina, a special needs teacher

They were inundated with replies and of the 200 people who got in touch, they chose 20 including a kickboxer, a teacher, a nurse, a local female police officer and a pole-dance instructor.

They sold out of some of their products almost overnight and have picked up a handful of celebrity fans and even supply a couple of the local WAGs. 

Emily said: ‘Our support locally has been so much stronger than we expected. Because people have been on social media a lot more, people have got to hear about Kit Change and the support for our business has been massive.

‘We put a shout out to local women to come and be our models and the response we had was amazing.

Emily said: 'Our support locally has been so much stronger than we expected. Because people have been on social media a lot more, people have got to hear about Kit Change and the support for our business has been massive.' Pictured: models Terri, a data specialist (left) and Amber (right), a hair salon owner and pole dancer

Emily said: ‘Our support locally has been so much stronger than we expected. Because people have been on social media a lot more, people have got to hear about Kit Change and the support for our business has been massive.’ Pictured: models Terri, a data specialist (left) and Amber (right), a hair salon owner and pole dancer

Many of the volunteers who modelled the range said it was a very positive experience for them, especially during lockdown. Pictured left: Terri, and Sharlena (right), an NHS worker

Many of the volunteers who modelled the range said it was a very positive experience for them, especially during lockdown. Pictured left: Terri, and Sharlena (right), an NHS worker

‘We always said we wanted to represent real women, but never considered looking to our local community, assuming no one would dare – but women who came to us and said they would do it, who put themselves out there, were brilliant and were really up for it.

‘All of them said they really enjoyed the experience of modelling; lockdown led them to believe they needed to try something new and challenge themselves, and this was it.

‘There were a couple of women who said they felt it had been a brilliant positive thing for them and their mental well-being during such strange times.’  

Now business orders for Kit Change pieces are piling up and the women have even been featured on Radio 6 with Lauren Laverne.

Emily said: ‘We started off making sustainable bags for one of the brands we were working with, and just thought, “Why don’t we do this for ourselves, it would be amazing to run our own brand”.

The duo wanted to create good quality long lasting products and encourage people to wear their items with existing activewear and clothing, so that the 'buy new dump old' attitude starts to change. Pictured: model Laura, a recruiter

The duo wanted to create good quality long lasting products and encourage people to wear their items with existing activewear and clothing, so that the ‘buy new dump old’ attitude starts to change. Pictured: model Laura, a recruiter

‘We wanted to create something we could be proud of, something that cared equally about the environment, the partners we work with, as well as the quality and design.’

They had visited a fabric mill near Shanghai where used plastic bottles were being ground down into pellets and spun into new polyester yarn.

Vicky said: ‘It was a massive plant, a family-owned business, where they had developed the technology to turn waste plastic into a range of good quality fabrics, saving water and energy in the process compared to the manufacture of traditional polyester.

‘It blew us away how interested they were in moving fabric forward and making a difference, and it just got us thinking.

‘We have loads of experience in fast fashion. Back in the day, there was no real thought to the environmental impact, of workers’ well-being, or the long-term effects of throw-away culture.

Now business orders for Kit Change pieces are piling up and the women have even been featured on Radio 6 with Lauren Laverne. Pictured: model Laura, a recruiter

Now business orders for Kit Change pieces are piling up and the women have even been featured on Radio 6 with Lauren Laverne. Pictured: model Laura, a recruiter

Emily and Vicky design, plan and develop the range together and want it to be for everybody, regardless of age or size

Emily and Vicky design, plan and develop the range together and want it to be for everybody, regardless of age or size

‘As fitness lovers interested in a wide range of activities, we felt there still wasn’t a huge range of sustainable activewear out there to choose from. Sports clothing is one of the largest users of man-made fibres so there was an obvious need for change in our eyes.’

Emily added: ‘We wanted to create good quality long lasting products and encourage you to wear our items with existing activewear and clothing, so that the “buy new dump old” attitude starts to change.

‘We have promised ourselves and our customers that everything will be well designed, long lasting and always using the best sustainable fabrics we can find. 

‘It is also very important to us that our sportwear is fit for purpose; our leggings are squat proof, they do not fall down, they have pockets and have been rigorously tested for performance.’

Emily and Vicky design, plan and develop the range together. ‘This is activewear for everybody, regardless of your age, size or what activity you want to do,’ Vicky said.

Vicky and Emily were inspired after visiting a family-owned fabric mill near Shanghai where used plastic bottles were being ground down into pellets and spun into new polyester yarn

Vicky and Emily were inspired after visiting a family-owned fabric mill near Shanghai where used plastic bottles were being ground down into pellets and spun into new polyester yarn

Vicky and Emily were inspired after visiting a family-owned fabric mill near Shanghai where used plastic bottles were being ground down into pellets and spun into new polyester yarn (pictured)

‘We launched with size XS-XXL, and included petite fit and junior sizing, and will be expanding our size range further.

‘If we are offering something sustainable, we shouldn’t be pigeonholing who can buy it. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in it, you don’t have to be in the gym. 

‘You could be playing netball, doing Pilates, going for a run or taking your dog for a walk in it.’

For more information visit https://kitchange.co.uk/ 

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