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Creating a Thing of Beauty from Potential Landfill Waste

Tuesday

Female sitting at sewing machine

Marie Nancarrow doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk and has an award-winning sustainable fashion company, Titanic Denim, to show for it. Speaking to Art and Design students at Northern Regional College in Ballymena about the challenges she faces as an entrepreneur and her company’s future goals, Marie encouraged them to follow their dreams and to create their own niche. She said studying art and design could open doors to wonderful experiences and exciting careers but with an important caveat – be prepared to work hard and make the most of every opportunity.

As an enthusiastic advocate of sustainable fashion, Marie explained how she turned her passion for fashion and eye for design into a successful business. Outlining her own career trajectory, she said although her background was in textiles and fashion, she had many different careers which combined to give her the strength, skills and confidence to become an entrepreneur. She also had valuable contacts and made the most of opportunities that came her way.   

“I have been blessed to have had an opportunity to work in wardrobe and costume for some of the world’s greatest music artists like Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Muse, Neil Diamond, Def Leppard, White Snake to namedrop a few,” adding that she had also been commissioned to create bespoke pieces for some of them.  

Coming from a family steeped in music and the creative industries - her father played with Van Morrison and her brother was in a rock band - Maria’s first foray into the fashion world was sewing patches on her brother’s jeans and denim jackets. Keeping in step with fashion at the time, she progressed to remodelling flared trousers to make drainpipes for family and friends. After leaving Art College, she lived in Italy working in a variety of different jobs, including English language teacher, translator, model, barista and airline steward before returning to Northern Ireland and her first love - sewing and creating fashion.  

Having identified a growing market for sustainable fashion, Marie established Titanic Denim in 2015 to create bespoke luxury designs using recycled denim and other fabrics.  

She explained how Titanic Denim breathes new life and attitude into old garments,  customising them into wearable pieces of art with the addition of vibrant coloured material. Alternatively, the items can be taken apart and made into something completely different, like an apron or handbag. The upsurge in demand for facemasks due to the pandemic lead to the introduction of a new range of fun reusable facemasks, exemplifying how to make the most of opportunities to reuse, repurpose and recycle materials that would otherwise have gone to landfill sites.  

Urging the students to always keep the concept of sustainability in mind when designing anything new, Marie said: “There is growing concern about the environmental and ethical impact of ‘fast fashion’ and the textile industry and designers are all looking at new ways to be sustainable. Initiatives need to go beyond production, distribution, marketing and recycling practices.  

“To create a more sustainable future, we need to become  more conscious consumers. We need to revolutionise our relationship with how we buy and use clothes. Educating people about sustainability is key to this.” 

Marie added that she was impressed by the standard of students’ work  at Northern Regional College and that she enjoyed hearing about their career aspirations.    

“It was a real pleasure to speak to them and find out what areas of art and design they are most attracted to. There is so much talent here from first year students to mature students and they are all on different paths and at different stages of their journey, with some already running their own business.   

“From my own experience, it is only when you are out working in the real world that you see what careers are available and the huge opportunities that already exist here in Northern Ireland.  

She said there is huge potential to integrate sustainability in aspects of wardrobe, costume and set design in the film industry.  

“There are opportunities out there, it’s just about finding them or creating them yourself. I never thought I would be the owner of a luxury sustainable denim company, but I was very aware about how ‘fast fashion’ is damaging our environment and, with my background knowledge and skills learnt along the way, I created my own niche. You can do the same.  

“Studying art and design can open so many doors, doors to wonderful experiences and exciting careers. This is all achievable if you are prepared to work hard and keep the faith. The opportunities are there, it’s just about finding them or creating them yourself.” 

Paul Wilson, art lecturer at Northern Regional College said the students had been inspired by Marie’s success story: “It was brilliant for them hear first-hand from a renowned design professional like Marie who was able to give a real insight into what is required to succeed in the creative industries and they took great inspiration from seeing her amazing designs.” 

Applications are now being accepted the new full time Level 2 Art and Design course at the College’s Ballymena campus. The course is aimed at people seeking to learn core skills like painting and drawing, graphic design, 2D and 3D design, colour theory photography, working to creative design briefs. For further information on all full time and part time courses at Northern Regional College, go to www.nrc.ac.uk or register your interest to receive an email reminder and direct link to the College’s virtual Open Day on Monday March 1.