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Isle Of Dogs: How TLZ Movement is tackling waste in fashion from Craft Central

Founder Nadia Piechestein repairs, reworks, alters and creates clothes at The Forge in east London

Nadia Piechestein of TLZ Movement

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At the heart of TLZ Movement is the joy of taking something that already exists and changing it to make something new.

Nadia Piechestein studied fashion in Buenos Aires before going on to found one of the first ethical fashion brands in Argentina. 

Her clothes were made with sustainable khadi cotton, made by a cooperative, with the clothes produced by another cooperative in the city that offered classes to former prisoners to help with their rehabilitation.

As a dancer herself, her styles focused on costumes for performance as well as pieces to exercise in.

Relocating to London a few years ago, with her husband Herman, she arrived with her collection in the UK, bought a sewing machine and initially started making clothes here.

“But then I decided not to make any more clothes at all, because I think we already have enough on this planet,” said Nadia. 

“My idea was to make existing clothes better so people can keep them rather than throwing them away.

“So I stopped making clothes and I started repairing, customising and altering them. 

“That’s what I do for customers, but I also teach people how to do it themselves.”

Nadia at work in her Craft Central studio on the Isle Of Dogs

TLZ Movement is now located at The Forge on the Isle Of Dogs’ Westferry Road and is a member of Craft Central, the charity that runs the facility.

Nadia essentially offers three core services.

She reworks existing garments, using up-cycling and dead stock materials from other producers that would otherwise go to waste.

She uses these to refresh and customise clothes for their owners to give them a new lease of life.

Nadia also offers a more standard alterations and repairs service to ensure clothes fit correctly to start with or to rescue damaged garments.

For this she is happy to create visible or invisible repairs depending on her customers’ desires.

Then there are her workshops at The Forge, where participants can learn mending techniques, how to use a sewing machine, copy their favourite clothes, weave and rework. 

“I’m not against the theme of having a bright new garment – that’s my inspiration,” said Nadia.

“If you’re bored with a piece in your wardrobe, you can bring it to me and I will put something new into it.

Nadia uses scraps of fabric to create new clothes

“That way you get the feeling of having a new piece of clothing again.

“The best way is to think of it as caring for your clothes, as keeping them and continuing to love them. It’s also something nobody else will have.

“For Christmas this year, I asked friends for garments they no longer wore – I didn’t tell them what I was doing.

“Then I reworked them, gave them back and my friends were amazed. When they wore them, they had that story to tell.

“When I make visible repairs or additions, the more people can see the time and effort that has been put into something.

“It connects the owner with the maker and shows how much you care about a garment.

“Here at Craft Central and in London, I collaborate with other makers and textile businesses a lot, using pieces and scraps of fabric that would otherwise go to waste.”

Nadia also sells iron-on patches to repair of customise garments with

In a world of ceaseless pressure and communication, the convenience and discount pricing of fast fashion is an ever-present temptation.

Never in the UK have so many garments been available to consumers so cheaply. 

But at what cost to those engaged elsewhere in the world making them – or for the planet in terms of the resources necessary to produce them and the inevitable waste mountain they create?

To help address some of these issues, Nadia has created iron-on patches that can be used both to repair and customise clothes.

Made with khadi cotton sourced from India, they can be applied with a normal household iron, so no need to get out the thimble.

Available in a variety of designs with prices starting at £18 for six, they are aimed at time-poor individuals looking for a rapid fix or update to their apparel.

“Patches can go in the washing machine at less than 40ºC and should last a long time,” said Nadia.

“I would encourage people to think that wearing them is a statement about Planet Earth.

“It shows that you care about the environment and it spices you up as a person.

“People can buy them online and use them to create any shape they want – they just need to cut them.

“It’s something that can be really creative and they are great for kids too who are always putting holes in things.

“With TLZ I’m really happy with what I’m building here now.

TLZ Movement’s patches can simply be ironed on to clothes

“I’ve been part of London Fashion Week and London Craft Week – I really want to boost what I’m doing now and expand in east London and into the City. 

“It would be great to see the patches stocked in small shops so that people can embrace repairing and customising their clothes.

“The majority of my customers are from the Isle Of Dogs and I have so much gratitude for that – there are no words. I love them.

“I also want to reach a new audience through teaching so people can understand all the good things they can do.

“That’s why I’ve started creating team building events for businesses and organisations. 

“People can come with their colleagues, have some drinks and learn the basics of sewing before being challenged to repair a garment that they can then take away.”

Nadia also works with arts companies to give performance costumes new lives after their stints on stage.

TLZ Movement’s next event is set to take place on February 18.

People are invited to bring damaged garments to The Forge for a free mending session using her signature patches between 11am and 4pm. 

Read more: How Dishoom Canary Wharf is all about a story

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: Why Craft Central’s director is reaching out to the local community

Jo McLean says she’s excited to play her part in building the makers charity back up after Covid

Jo McLean has taken over as director of Craft Central
Jo McLean has taken over as director of Craft Central

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BY LAURA ENFIELD

For the last two years it has been heads down at Craft Central to keep things ticking over.

The creative charity on the Isle of Dogs had to bring in outside funding for the first time as the effects of the pandemic took hold.

But there is a new director at the helm – Jo McLean – who is ready to build the organisation back up and is looking around her to find its future direction.

“I took the job because I was really excited by the idea of a creative hub,” said the former professional musician, who knits and silversmiths in her spare time.

“I’m very much driven by community engagement. I think artists should sit at the heart of communities and be a really great resource for them. I see the potential for that to happen at Craft Central.”

A classically trained French Horn player, Jo spent 12 years touring internationally before packing away her instrument and starting a career in arts organisations.

“My first proper job was at Cove Park, an artist residency centre in Scotland,” said the 52-year-old.

“I was in charge of a capital project bringing in more accommodation and supporting the visual arts and crafts residences. That was when I first got interested in design and craft.”

A graduate of the Royal Northern College Of Music in Manchester, Jo lived in Scotland for 25 years working for organisations such as Uz Arts and The Touring Network and overseeing the creation of her own home, which gave her a new appreciation of architecture and buildings.

“I’ve always been really interested in good design and craft,” she said.

“So that’s kind of where my path into this area has come from.

Craft Central is based at The Forge on Westferry Road
Craft Central is based at The Forge on Westferry Road

“I’ve led organisations across all genres of arts, from performance through to visual arts, theatre, literature and lots of consultancy work as well around organisational development, which is, I suppose, where my real interest lies.

“This job brings together my two passions, which is great.

“It’s been a turbulent few years and the charity wanted somebody who was going to come and build up the organisation again and I have the skills to do that.”

It was love as well as work that brought Jo to the capital as she met her husband, a Londoner, and they tied the knot a few years ago.

“We had a long-distance relationship for quite a long time and decided we needed to come together,” said Jo, who recently dusted off her French horn to play on a new album by The Bluebells’ of Young At Heart fame.

She first moved to London just before the pandemic to work for Clod Ensemble, based on Greenwich Peninsula, but returned to Scotland after a year. When she saw the role at Craft Central she knew it was her chance to move down here for good.

“I was ready for a challenge, said Jo, who now lives in north London. “I’ve done organisation internally in CEO type roles but this role was very much building based, which I’d never done.

“The pandemic has left its financial mark on the organisation. 

“It’s always been self-sustaining, but the next couple of years are slightly trickier in terms of how we make the business model work as well as it used to.

“All the parts are there, it just sort of needed an architect to put them all together and help everybody to make it work, which is what hopefully I’ll do.”

She had never set foot in the area before, but had heard of Craft Central from friends who have studios there.

Formed in 1970, the arts organisation spent 40 years in Clerkenwell, but in 2017 moved to The Forge on the Isle Of Dogs – one of the last buildings from the golden age of shipbuilding in the area. 

Located on Westferry Road, it was built in 1860 for CJ Mare And Company and constructed the keel for battleship HMS Northumberland.

It fell into decline in the 1900s, but was restored and transformed into studios and workspaces used by Craft Central, by the construction of a virtually freestanding two-storey birch plywood structure within the existing Flemish bond brick walls.

“I was blown away – it’s a stunning, incredible building,” said Jo, who is currently hunting for a facilities manager to help take care of the site.

“What I really liked about it is there’s a connection to the west coast of Scotland, which has a really rich shipbuilding heritage and I’ve been told that a lot of Scottish people moved to the Isle Of Dogs for the shipbuilding industry down there. 

“So being in that sort of very heavy industrial building feels quite comforting to me.”

The Forge's studios are home to more than 70 makers
The Forge’s studios are home to more than 70 makers

With around 77 makers based there, the studios are almost full, but Jo is concerned about the effect the cost of living crisis will have this autumn.

“Artists are going to be really hard pushed to afford the luxury of having a studio,” she said.

“I am anticipating people will have some very difficult decisions to make and I’m thinking about how we can make sure that we have a full space and keep the business model working.

“Our rent review will be due next year and I’m sure the utilities will go up. We are going to have to face some harsh realities about increases to our costs. 

“I’m going to do my very best to make sure we don’t pass those on to our studio holders, but it will largely depend on whether we can find some support to help us.”

The pandemic already saw bosses seek outside funding for the first time, from the Foyle Foundation and Garfield Western Foundation. Jo said more would be needed this year to make the figures work.

“My ambition is that in two years we won’t be relying on any sort of trust, foundation or public funding in order to operate as a centre for craft, but we would be looking for funding to run programmes with the community,” she said.

Jo is hoping to forge relationships with companies in Canary Wharf and beyond to help spread its work further into the Island.

“Craft Central isn’t just about the building – it’s going to be really important to take the brand beyond that,” she said.

“I’m trying to find as many places to connect to as I can, locally and more widely. I’ve inherited a really fantastic team and we’re looking forward to the future.

“For a while its been head-down, let’s hold this together and the team did a fantastic job of that. Going forward, it’s our ambition to be much more embedded in the community. 

“Ways we can work with residents and local groups is going to be a definite focus.”

 Jo already plans to register Craft Central as an Arts Awards venue to help broaden its work with young people.

“I think it’s really important that we engage with children,” she said. 

“Craft isn’t taught so much in schools any more and I think a part of what we can offer is a window into another world for young people.

“We want to work more with older people, because the motor skills associated with craft are a recognized benefit in ageing as well.

“There are so many benefits associated with art of any type, but particularly in craft. It connects you to yourself.”

Craft Central's makers work in a range of different areas
Craft Central’s makers work in a wide range of different areas

Read more: How Canary Wharf’s Junior Board is shaping the estate

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- Laura Enfield is a regular contributor to Wharf Life, writing about a wide range of subjects across Docklands and east London 
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