It’s time men were part of the fast fashion conversation

(Raph Dilhan)

One of the things I get asked most about from my time on BBC One’s fabulous The Great British Sewing Bee last year, is the denim dress I fashioned from recycled old jeans in Episode Six. In the interest of sustainability, fans of the show have reached out to me and shared that it inspired them to dig out their old clothes (often from their husband’s wardrobes), and have a go at recycling themselves.

But I have noticed a pattern – the vast majority are women. While we are all aware by now of the need to wean ourselves off our fast fashion addiction, the emphasis is often on making women’s wardrobes more sustainable.

Refashioning and upcycling are a wonderful by-product of being able to sew, but I worry that the cultural perceptions around sewing still put men off.

All too often, traditionally “feminine” creative aspirations that boys may naturally feel when they’re young are suppressed. I was fortunate enough to grow up in an environment that encouraged me and my brothers to value our creativity – most boys are not so lucky and miss out hugely in life as a result. Male sewing role models are, unfortunately, few and far between.

A lot of men I talk to still turn their nose up at the idea of taking up sewing. I found that when I first started out in the industry, there were countless books and articles aimed at helping women recycle their clothes fashionably, but few targeted at younger men. This year’s edition of the Great British Sewing Bee book is case in point: undoubtedly a fabulous resource for sewing womenswear, but it features just one pattern out of 24 for men – four down from last year’s edition.

It would be wonderful to see a show entirely dedicated to refashioning old clothes, but with a gender-neutral approach that doesn’t leave men feeling isolated. I despair that men are missing out on all the benefits that come from sewing, simply because they don’t see themselves reflected in the industry. Not only can it be transformative for mental wellbeing and the environment – and the wallet, of course – but men are missing a trick when it comes to career opportunities. I have had the opportunity to work on some amazing films and the UK’s rocketing film industry is always crying out for people with sewing skills.

And it seems that, whether consciously or not, in terms of openness to sustainable fashion in general, men are already ahead of the game: 53 per cent of men compared with 47 per cent of women buy from sustainable brands, according to Statista.

As a gender, we have a responsibility to destroy this stigma, not only for the sake of the planet, but for young boys everywhere.

Raph Dilhan was finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee

@raph_sew_and_so