Emily Miller-Sharma really cares. A leader in the local fashion industry, she’s the general manager at Ruby, designer for Liam and co-founder of Mindful Fashion NZ.
Her response to the challenges of Covid-19 was the definition of the ‘let’s just try it’ attitude required to deal with 2020. Throughout lockdowns, she and the business adapted with various projects - including a Ruby time capsule, a vintage collection, and sewing classes that Emily hosted for customers on Zoom.
It was the success of those that led to her latest project: Liam Patterns, a collection of paper patterns for people to make themselves at home. It plays into the ideas of sustainability and circularity that Emily has been passionate about for some time, and also her background in sewing and craft.
Made up of 16 patterns, for varying skill levels, each is made with the waste or by-products from timber production. They’re all recyclable, but Emily hopes they will be used repeatedly, kept for years and passed on - think of the box of Vogue Patterns that your Mum used to have.
We asked her to share some thoughts on the development of the Liam Patterns concept - and reflect on the joy of sewing and DIY.
In the early stages of lockdown, I found it difficult to think. Each time I sat down to work, my brain turned to concrete. After a while, I got my embroidery needles and threads out, and started stitching.
Making things with my hands centres me inside my body and produces the good chemicals in my brain. Ideas started to flow, my shoulders relaxed and I realised I had been spending most of my time with my jaw clenched.
I have always had this thing that no matter what, I am connected to the natural environment, and that it loves me. I seek out a special tree or beach when I am having a hard time and I am regenerated.
The night before lockdown though, I was looking at a beautiful plant my sister had given me and this voice in my head said, “the plants don’t care about you”. It feels a bit embarrassing to type this as being some kind of profound experience, but it truly was one of the loneliest thoughts I have ever had in my life.
This sense though - thinking that the world as I thought I knew it was completely over - is one of the greatest gifts the first lockdown gave me. The feeling was so radical that it propelled me to act more quickly and decisively to contribute to positive change.
When trying to find answers to the complex questions around sustainability, a useful tool is to look to how my grandmother and great grandmothers' generations lived, used and consumed.
The problems we as a society have created, particularly with regards to the environment, have massively accelerated over the past couple of generations. I am therefore convinced that so many of the answers are actually sitting right there in our history - we just need to connect with it.
Overconsumption creates an unnecessary demand for resources, and puts price pressure on producers which drives down wages. I believe overconsumption happens, in part, because we are disconnected from the actual making process. We don’t fully appreciate how long it takes to make a garment, or the resource required to grow enough cotton for a T-shirt.
My ancestors made their own clothes. It took them TIME! As a result, they valued their clothes more - took care of them, washed them more carefully, and mended them so they could be worn and kept beautiful for a long time.
So, in addition to wanting to share the experience of joy I get from playing with colour, texture and shape when I make clothes, I wanted our customers to experience the level of skill it takes to sew something.
My thinking was that if more of us understand this, clothing in general will be valued more - and we will waste less.
The first drop of Liam Patterns is available from Friday October 23, but you can see the lookbook here - and some of our favourite looks, below.