Highlands College Arts students will be staging a Sustainable Fashion Show celebrating their creative talent, this evening at Cooper's International Finance Centre coffee shop.


It’s the culmination of a project initiated by an article I read in a Sunday Times magazine. It was about the enormous amount of clothing being dumped in the waterways of a West African country. Clothing that had been discarded in Europe. Despite all efforts to re-cycle as much clothing as possible, the quantities were so overwhelming that containers were literally rusting away full of unusable clothing left to rot out of sight of those who had once worn them.

I reflected on this abomination - what if those very containers could be seen on our coast? What would happen if container after container disgorging their contents onto the beach of St Ouen started to appear.? Would we simply shrug our collective shoulders in the belief that nothing could be done? I don’t think so, there would be an outcry and very quickly solutions would be found. This Times article highlighted the old adage “out of sight, out of mind”.

By coincidence soon after reading the article I was emailed by a company called Teemill. Initially I thought they were just another company promoting personalised t-shirts, but after research I discovered this truly original idea whereby you design your own t-shirt which when worn out gets sent back to them for re-purposing. Genius!

Cooper's coffee business is very much community led and although we sell significant amounts of coffee, I’ve always thought of ourselves in a much broader sense. Who can we work with that creates something that is bigger than the sum of its parts? Whilst promoting our products can we also tell stories that raise our customers' awareness of subjects that are of local and international importance?

Here was a great example, working with young people in education. Not only telling a very important story but also developing their talent and exposing them to the world of commerce. 

To make matters more complicated I’m also on a political journey. As Housing Minister in the Government of Jersey I’ve become very aware of the corrosive effect of empty homes. In a society where homes have become unaffordable it has struck me as bizarre that we have so many long-term vacant properties. An example this time of wasted resource in full view.

I approached Highlands College, and they enthusiastically took on board my suggestion that students design t-shirts with a message around sustainability and market them using the Teemill platform. 

I’m really looking forward to the Show; the students have come up with some amazing designs and demonstrate the depth of talent that exists in our tiny Island. The story moves to their generation and maybe just slowly we will change hearts and minds. As they say, there is no Planet B.

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