Embroiderer Tracy Tuckett wanted to help the planet. And so, she created clothing brand POP, a range of garments made from recycled fabrics and plastics. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey finds out more.
More than 15 years ago as a single mum of two small children living in South Africa, Tracy was eager for a career that gave her the freedom to work from home while generating an income.
Along with her retired mum Liz, who was looking for something to fill her time, the pair formed Creative Embroiders, a small family-run embroidery business.
“I taught myself to digitise and naturally we had some training on how to run industrial embroidery machines,” explains Tracy.
Eventually Tracy sold the business and moved to the UK. Loving what she did Tracy started the business all over again five years ago. “Embroidery is like colouring in for adults, it’s fascinating watching the machine work. ‘Colouring in’ a design I created never gets old. I love a challenge and get a buzz from my clients’ reaction when they see the finished item. Embroidery makes me happy,” she adds.
A growing yearning
But Tracy had a growing yearning to do something more worthwhile with her skills. To help the planet. To protect the planet.
Warwick-based Tracy explains: “After watching documentaries on what state our world is in, I wanted to do something about the plastic problem taking over our oceans. As I don’t live near the ocean and wasn’t able to partake in actively doing beach clean ups, I thought about my own industry and how I could utilise that in a positive way to fight against the plastic crisis.”
It was around three years ago that garments made from recycled fabrics and plastics began to become available from various suppliers within the printwear industry. Tracy took note of this and saw this as her answer. And so, POP was launched.
“I was fascinated by the texture of the recycled garments I’d received as samples for the range. They are incredibly soft and really feel lovely against your skin. When you tell someone that a POP shirt is made using six plastic bottles, the imagination doesn’t think comfort and softness – I found this amazing and the reaction by customers has been the same. The launch came about because I want people to know that there is an alternative range of everyday garments available and that by choosing to purchase recycled plastic and organic cotton options this helps our planet. Fashion will not change the world – people’s choices will.”
POP stands for Protect Our Planet or Playing Our Part. The POP range is primarily a leisure range of garments including hoodies, sweaters, joggers, T shirts, dresses and bags. It is designed to be comfortable, eco-friendly and easy to wear.
The products in the collection are made from recycled polyester made from plastic bottles and other sustainably sourced materials. In simple terms the plastic goes through a process whereby it is washed, shredded, melted and then spun into thread. This thread is then used to make a fabric. Tracy also chooses to use garments made from organic cotton. Organic fabrics are grown using natural resources, no pesticides, or chemicals. The process of these fabrics is very well monitored and uses less water, electricity, and harmful processes than usual – thus having a much less negative impact on the planet.
Tracy says that one of her family’s favourite pieces in the range is the sports T shirt, because it feels incredibly soft, is flexible, comfortable and breathable. It also washes and dries really fast. “We all wear these”, she laughs. “I also like the modal T shirts and the scuba hoodie and I often wear the T shirt dress,” she adds.
Each item in the POP range bears the jelly fish logo and incorporates the word POP somewhere on the garment or bag. Given that Tracy is an experienced embroiderer, embroidery was her natural go-to when it came to branding the POP range. All the thread used is made from 100% recycled polyester and all garments are packaged and posted using eco-friendly options too.
The response that Tracy has received so far for the brand has been really positive. “Customers are amazed at the texture and quality of the garments, they enjoy the variety of garments and colour choices we offer,” she says. “We’ve had quite a few return customers buying POP items as gifts for others which is a wonderful thing. A happy customer wants to share a good thing with others which we absolutely love… spreading the word.”
Tracy’s other business Creative Embroiderers, which sources garments for clients, also offers eco-friendly alternatives and more and more customers are interested in exploring that route. Tracy says it’s about creating an awareness of what’s available.
Tracy has big plans for the brand. Ultimately, she would like to see the brand on sale in local independent clothing stores, particularly those that lean towards sustainability themselves. Tracy explains: “We’re aiming to get the range into independent costal boutique stores too, especially where activewear and scuba hoodies are prevalent. The range really has something to offer everyone of all ages.”
Ways to grow
Like any entrepreneur Tracy is always looking for ways to grow and develop. She explains that as more people become aware of recycled and sustainable garments, she will expand upon the current POP range. “We try to offer something for everyone, but there’s always room for more,” she adds.
It can be quite daunting when starting a new clothing brand, but Tracy has some wise words of wisdom to pass on. “Work with people who have a similar vision as yourself who you can knock ideas around with. Start small but allow for growth. Not everyone will agree with you or your choices, don’t let that stop you but heed their words and advice, you may need it at some point. I’m always learning, you never know everything. I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I outsourced a company to create the POP website and got a lawyer to help me trademark the logo, that saved me a lot of time and allowed me to focus on the brand, designs and the stuff that I am good at.”
And finally, Tracy concludes: “Next time you need to purchase an item of clothing, choose sustainable and eco-friendly options… don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I feel I am making small steps towards making a big difference.”