#FootwearFocus - A Chat with Niki Taylor
For our February campaign, we reached out to the wonderful Niki Taylor, who is an Educator in Sustainable Design, Fashion & Textiles at Remode Youth & Edinburgh College of Art and Coordinator at Fashion Revolution Scotland. You can find Niki on Instagram @thetopproject, and Fashion Revolution Scotland @fash_rev_scotland.
Read our interview below, as Niki tells us about her love/hate relationship with footwear and the fashion industry, her thoughts on second-hand shoes, and what she hopes will change for a better, more sustainable future that cares for people and the planet!
ApparelXchange: Can you tell us a little about your connection to footwear?
Niki Taylor: I worked in the fashion industry as a designer for over 20 years, originally studying fashion at Heriot Watt University and then designing for both the UK high street and my own fashion label Olanic. I was always obsessed with vintage and had amassed a collection of about 100 pairs of shoes. This was an addiction to fashion, it was crazy to have so many! This love for shoes eventually led to a change in career direction and I started designing shoes for the high street for about 16 years! I recently changed career and am now focused on educating and running workshops on how to make positive changes using design thinking as a method for change.
AXC: How do you feel about preloved or second-hand shoes?
NT: I feel very passionate about preloved garments and shoes! I have a vintage collection of clothes and shoes which I treasure. A lot of people don’t realise the effect that the fashion industry has from over production to very harmful working practices. Even working within the industry it wasn’t always visible. Every shoe made has a huge carbon footprint! I have learnt a lot in recent years and the more you learn the more you care and want to create less of an impact. It was only recently that I read that it can take some shoes 1000 years to decompose in landfill! This horrified me. A lot of people don’t realise that footwear is such a huge polluter and also harms the people that make our shoes, through the harmful chemicals and toxins used in both the materials and construction of our shoes. These and are released into the environment. It is very difficult, near impossible for shoes to be recycled and broken down due to the many components that make up our shoes. This leads them to landfill or incineration, which exposes our environment to these toxic chemicals.
I was always interested in second hand as for me it was and still is a way to create a more individual look. whereas, the high street and big brands all look the same. But now it is ethics and the industry’s effects on the environment that drive my purchasing choices. I try to limit my impact on the environment by buying second hand and swapping as much as I can and treasure all the clothes and shoes that I already have.
AXC: Do you have any second-hand favourites in your own or in your kid’s wardrobe? Could you tell us a wee bit about how you got them and why they're loved?
NT: I have soo many favourites!! Fortunately, my son also loves second hand! He loves when he gets clothes from his big cousins as he can then be ‘just like them’. We also love to buy from ApparelXchange! His favourite is his Pokemon t-shirt. It looked like it had never been worn before. But now has a happy home and wearer.
AXC: What do you see for the future of footwear? Do you think we’re doing enough to care for people and the planet?
NT: Currently, there is not enough being done to care for people and the planet. Fortunately, there is lots that we can do! We all need to care, repair and love the shoes we have a little bit more. Making small changes to what we buy can have a big impact. We can buy better quality shoes that will last longer, also good to look at more sustainable footwear options. The best and cheapest option of course is to buy second hand, which creates less of an impact all round.
For the future of footwear there are a growing number of exciting designers and brands working on how to create better footwear and systems. Shoes that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. There are recycled leathers and new materials that are less harmful to people, animals and the environment. There are materials that will biodegrade, such as leathers made from pineapple and algae! It is important to learn more, make better choices and push brands to also make better choices, to let them know that we care about what we wear.
AXC: What’s your one top tip to look after our shoes and make them look better for longer?
NT: I love going an old fashioned cobbler!! There are still a few in Glasgow, they have great skills for repair and it’s so nice to get that service and a wee bit of banter on the side. It’s great that there are so many growing options in repair now too, like Repairel Hub, Rekicked and Sneakers ER in Glasgow. There’s definitely some pride and feel good factor in getting things repaired that’s quite satisfying, knowing that you are preventing the shoes from going to landfill and doing something for the planet at the same time.
Thank you so much to Niki for taking the time to contribute to our #FootwearFocus month! You're a Sustainability Superstar and this conversation taught us a lot.