In November, we published our Social Conscience programme, setting out our roadmap to enrich and educate, contribute through collaboration, cherish our materials and minimise our waste. While community and longevity have been intrinsic to us from the early days of TOAST, we realise that the transparency of these efforts and sharing the progress is just as important as the groundwork.
Enrich & Educate
In 2020, as we adapted to the new normal, we launched a series of virtual workshops to connect with our community and enrich the digital experience by learning and doing. Our aim was to provide a rich roster of inspiring makers showcasing their crafts and sharing how these practices can be created at home. During the AW20 season we explored a range of topics, from sashiko repair and knitwear darning to basket weaving, natural indigo dyeing and suminagashi. Our repair workshops in 2021 will continue to demonstrate craft, heritage techniques and offer environmentally sustainable solutions to repair, reuse and recycle. These workshops not only prompt lively discussion with attendees but the hope is that these skills and learnings will be passed on to friends and family encouraging our extended community to play an active part in conscious consumption.
Our annual Creative Residency became a three-day series of virtual events, bringing people together with inspiring talks, live demonstrations and studio tours online.
On IGTV we launched Time to Make and this video series has been a way to inspire, to get working with our hands again, and to bring people together, whilst collaborating with a roster of talented makers, designers, craftsmen and artisans. This was another way to offer tutorials at home, from a pickled watermelon salad and crostata di marmellata to colourful coiled coasters and alphabet wrapping paper.
The digital format has widened our circle to include international customers and artists alike, and our Zoom appointment service, kept our communities connected to their local TOAST Shop. This service is ongoing and virtual appointments can be made with your local shopkeeper for advice, styling or just for a chat.Contribute through Collaboration
During this pandemic, we remain focused on supporting creative communities through long-term commitments to global and local charities and organisations. Through our virtual events programme and face covering kits, we have raised over £20,000 for Crafts Council UK, helping to fund their Let’s Craft Appeal creating craft packs for children most in need of support.
Our contribution to date has funded more than 1,600 Let’s Craft boxes, containing basic art and craft materials for disadvantaged children across England. We are proud to be helping Crafts Council reach their target of funding packs for 10,000 children. We will continue to support the Let’s Craft Appeal throughout 2021.
Since the launch of our virtual events programme, we have also supported No Kid Hungry to help provide emergency funding to schools and community groups across the USA feeding children during the pandemic. And Gardens Not Guns, a fundraising platform for BIPOC farmers, community gardens, healers and mutual aid initiatives in NYC, placing donations directly into the hands of those who need it most.
During the Creative Residency, we partnered with the Textile Arts Center in New York, donating to their Artist in Residence Scholarship Fund, which grants free tuition to one artist or designer working with textiles. Scholarship recipients demonstrate commitment to their art practice, identify with a historically underrepresented community in the arts and state the need for financial assistance to participate in the programme and advance their artistic practice.
We support emerging artists and makers and are committed to fostering an inclusive setting where we celebrate and nurture a growing community of thoughtful, diverse creatives. For our Spring Summer collection we collaborated with photographer Delali Ayivi and set designer Bubby Nurse who both graduated from London College of Fashion last July. With the mentorship of the TOAST creative team, they worked together to create vivid sets, cast the model and shoot the seasonal collection. The resulting images offer a vibrant energy and fresh perspective, which bring our Spring Summer ’21 collection to life. In an interview for the Magazine, we spoke to Delali and Bubby after the shoot to discuss navigating the world of fashion photography and set design as fresh graduates during a global pandemic and why on-the-job mentoring is so valuable as they begin their journey in the creative industry. Read their thoughts on working collaboratively with TOAST this season in the first of our Emerging Artists profiles.Cherish Materials & Make
We have strengthened design, expanded the supply chain and added new sustainable fabrics whilst maintaining the high quality inherent in our collections. We are also working with exciting new suppliers for our SS21 collection. We are committed to seeking out seasonal collaborations with makers, supporting the diverse global craft community:
Mohinders is a small business working with heritage shoe makers in Northern Karnataka, India. They work collaboratively on the design process with families of fourth generation shoe makers and use heritage materials such as water buffalo produced in local tanneries with natural processes.
URI works with indigenous crafts from the Philippines to create hand woven baskets. They work with organisations in the Philippines to promote labour practices for artisanal crafts. They strive to minimise environmental impact. Natural Abaca is grown organically hand sewn and grown within two miles from where the finished product is made.
Wax Atelier produce small batches of hand-dipped beeswax candles. Their colour palette of soft pinks and mossy greens are created using a range of natural plant-based dyes including madder and green tea — each with their own distinctive, natural scent. Wax Atelier has a cooperative working model, an initiative that supports members of the local community, providing mentorship and employment whilst keeping the skills of traditional candle making alive. Read our recent interview with founders Lola Lely and Yesenia Thibault-Picazo.
Yvonne Waska is dedicated to ancient craftsmanship. They create beautiful raffia shoes and accessories woven by hand in a small women’s cooperative in Morocco. The organisation that supports the cooperative provides the women with materials and a studio from which to work. This season we have developed a crochet bag, each has been individually dyed by hand resulting in pleasing variations.
Karakoram are a small German knitwear label creating contemporary, hand crafted hats and bags. Each piece is hand knitted or crocheted in Bosnia and Herzegovina by a social project that supports women. We have worked with Karakoram to create our Crochet Paper Bag and Hat; the differing colours of twisted raffia yarn arranged in a spontaneous, collage-like effect were inspired by our seasonal concept, Rhythm. All of Karakoram’s accessories are handmade using natural fibres and they share our ethos for creating timeless, long lasting products as sustainably as possible.
We will continue to produce leaner, more focused collections to reduce our levels of surplus stock. Our AW20 collection produced 20% fewer styles than previous seasons. This year, we have reduced our collection drops from six to four. Beginning in Spring 2022, we will be producing three drops, returning to the natural rhythm of the seasons. The strategy has already resulted in higher sell-throughs, reducing surplus products that have detrimental effects on the planet.
We have begun mapping out the production miles used in the creation of our core womenswear products allowing us to identify where we can increase our locally sourced materials and lower our production miles. We are working continually with our suppliers to obtain documentation certifying origin of raw materials and proof of end to end manufacturing.
We have made significant progress in this area with our core lightweight denim. This cloth was previously woven in Pakistan, finished in Portugal and then delivered to our garment manufacturing partner in Turkey. We are delighted to share that our new cloth is fully spun, woven and finished in Turkey, achieving better locality and reducing our carbon footprint. Six percent of this denim cloth is yarn made from CCS certified repurposed cotton waste. This collaborative process with the mill has enabled us greater visibility on their approach to sustainability.
Last month we launched TOAST Made to Order, a new collection designed to meet demand, which will significantly reduce surplus. The initial launch includes a small edit of hero pieces, including an Ikat jacket, dress and trouser along with two accessories, with newly designed products across both Womenswear and House&Home added each season.The long lasting and low-impact principles continue to guide every facet of the business from product design and choice of materials to manufacturing. The considered approach of a new bespoke Made to Order collection takes this one step further, reducing surplus whilst offering a seasonless edit of transitional pieces to be worn for years to come.Our progress is an ongoing journey. While we have made great strides, we still have work to do to further reduce our impact. The transparency of these efforts as well as acknowledging the shortfalls, is important. Some of the challenges we are currently looking at and are committed to tackling include the use of virgin materials, supply chain mapping, production miles, and product lifecycle management. These significant shifts will not be instant and our goals will continue to evolve as we learn more along this journey. However, we have confidence that in celebrating the small wins we will maintain momentum; improving our environment and enriching our community.
A detailed report further outlining the steps we are taking this year along with goals for the future will be published in May 2021.