Belfast-born founder of Titanic Denim, Marie Nancarrow talks about sustainable fashion, aspirations her creations will be recognised globally, and her focus on shining a spotlight on the damage fast-fashion has caused to our environment.
Describing Titanic Denim as ‘a crafted combination of 200 years of Belfast’s shipyard history with a rock’n’roll’ attitude’, the edgy designer shares how each unique design is created with love and conscience and where she gets her inspiration. Speaking with Marie Nancarrow ahead her latest range of bags being launched, she tells us more on the journey to her dream job.
LM: When did this all start?
Marie Nancarrow: Well, let’s just say I was always very good with a needle and thread. I studied A level Textiles and Clothing and went on to do a degree in Textiles and Fashion. In the early years, I used to do alterations for neighbours and friends. I was frequently asked to also sew patches onto my brother’s jeans and repair his jackets. He was quite the ‘rocker’. Being a singer in a rock band, my handy work was all part of the image.
It was the time when people used to go around with their denim jacket and jeans smothered in AC/DC and Iron maiden patches. I vividly remember sewing fabric bar mats across the bottom of his jeans. I used to love creating very cool designs for him using all the different patches and introducing pieces of fabrics of my own. He was very good to experiment my unique designs on!
LM: You were born in Belfast, but you’ve ventured far and wide. What is the favourite place you’ve lived?
MN: Yes, I was born in Belfast and grew up in a small town just outside the city. A little place by the sea called Holywood. But my favourite place to live, without a doubt, is Italy. I lived and worked in Italy for eight years.
It is incredibly diverse and so beautiful. History and art are abundant everywhere, and the food is simple, fresh and delicious. I lived near Milan, so it was easy to go skiing in the winter and go to the sea in the summer in a matter of hours. I had various jobs whilst living there.
I was an English language teacher, translator, model, barista, waitress and exhibition stand assistant at the Fiera di Milano. I also worked in fashion as a pattern cutter and sample designer for a small funky sportswear company in Gallarate.
LM: You were also a flight attendant with Lauda Air. Many would think being a flight attendant to be the ‘dream job’, travelling all over the world, but for you, sewing recycled denim is the best job you could dream of …why?
MN: Oh… being a flight attendant was a dream job. At the time, I had no children and no responsibilities. It was magical. Lauda Air was a chartered airline, and I was blessed to have flown to some of the most amazing destinations around the world. I was fortunate to stay in many places for a week at a time…for the most part, I stayed in 5-star hotels, all-inclusive. I was lucky to visit Punta Cana, Santa Domingo, Cuba, Jamaica, Aruba, St Martin, Bangkok, Australia, Brazil, Kenya…just unbelievable.
Then I had my first child, Shea and I felt that as a Mum I felt I couldn’t leave him for the weeks that I would be away, so opted for a career change. I went back to University as a mature student, studied computers, interactive multimedia and web design.
I had many great jobs before life took me back to my passion…sewing and creating. It was not something I had always planned, and it has taken me a long time to create the “dream job”, but it is something that happened completely organically and gradually.
LM: You have obviously got your feet firmly on the ground now, but have you any plans for expansion? Are you a ‘sky’s the limit’ businesswoman or are you content with what you’ve built and consciously keeping it to the size of the operation as it is today?
MN: I have huge plans for expansion. I have recently connected with a social enterprise in Belfast called USEL, who only work with sustainable companies. They will be making my new range of sustainable denim bags and artisan-style aprons. Their quality and expertise are outstanding. The plan is to collaborate with them long term, which will free up some of my time so I can work on one-off pieces that are labour intensive.
This is just the beginning of Titanic Denim. This time next year, I expect Titanic Denim to be known worldwide. Not just for the awesome designs but also for the work I intend to raise awareness for sustainable fashion and the huge damage fast-fashion has caused to our environment, denim being one of the main contributors!
LM: What type of products are in your range? All handmade?
MN: All Titanic Denim products are handmade. We do bespoke made to order garments for kids and adults as well as for pets. There is also a range of accessories and furniture. I am just about to launch a new range of sustainable denim bags which also incorporate reclaimed seatbelts in their design.
We currently also create a range of sustainable denim facemasks, plain and ‘fun’ lip designs. These masks are eco-friendly, can be washed and reused over and over again. They are created using reclaimed denim and t-shirts. The mask itself is made using denim, and the lining and ties are made using t-shirt fabric.
LM: Your work is quite ‘edgy’. How would you describe your designs and where do you get the inspiration?
MN: My designs burst with colour. There is a lot of red and yellow in there, two of my favourite colours and a mix of animal prints and textures. Completely labour intensive but on completion, each piece is a work of art, edgy and most definitely not for those who don’t want to stand out from the crowd. There is a signature design throughout all my garments and products, which makes it unique and instantly recognisable.
I believe my inspiration comes from my life, my travels, my experiences, my past, my new love for sustainability in fashion and a passion for practising the principles of a circular economy.
LM: Do you see a growing demand for sustainable fashion, and do you think it is linked to climate change?
MN: Most definitely, there is a huge new shift towards sustainable fashion. The younger generation is now very well educated in being eco-friendly. With the help of social media and the internet, it is much easier for everyone to have a greater awareness of the huge damage fast-fashion has on our society.
With celebrities endorsing sustainable brands and becoming ambassadors for sustainable fashion, it will encourage this shift and create the awareness that we need to make this world a better place and hopefully reduce the textile landfill. I recently did a workshop with climate activist students, where I showed them how to make their own denim tote bag from an old pair of jeans. They loved it.
LM: How do you source the denim and fabrics?
MN: Most of the denim comes from items I’ve bought from charity and vintage stores. People also very generously give me denim that they no longer want. I also have a relationship with a textile recycling depot, where I purchase denim in bulk.
LM: Any famous names – you can tell us about – wearing any of your designs?
MN: I have worked with many top music artists who I have created some bespoke pieces for including Katy Perry, her hairstylist Clyde Haygood and her personal stylist Johnny Wujeck. One of my many dreams would be to be commissioned to create a range of extraordinary sustainable denim pieces for their music tour.
LM: What’s the most popular product? I expect given the times we are living in, masks must be popular right now?
MN: Yes, at the moment, sustainable denim facemasks are very popular, especially the fun lip range that I do. However, I am excited to launch the new bag range. I’m sure they will top the list.
Titanic Denim – Where and How?
To get in contact with Marie Nancarrow and to view the full range of Titanic Denim products, visit their official website www.titanicdenim.com.
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