The Ethical Atelier Brings Sustainable Fashion Brands to Nottingham's Cleaver and Wake

Words: Alfie Beswick
Photos: Alfie Beswick
Tuesday 12 March 2024
reading time: min, words

In a world where we need to be ever so conscious about our impact on the environment, creativity, style and sustainability are equally needed in the modern fashion industry. We went to The Ethical Atelier’s recent event at Cleaver and Wake that brought together makers, brands and speakers around sustainable fashion

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Despite an ironic surname, Derbyshire based artist and environmentalist Abigail Wastie has been proactive in reducing the waste in fashion for years now, and The Ethical Atelier events are just one way she demonstrates the simplicity and accessibility of shopping for sustainable and ethical fashion. 

With all of this in mind and an incentive to become more clued in about the ethical and sustainable fashion world, I decided to check it out for myself and went along to their event at Cleaver and Wake in the Island Quarter on Saturday 2 March. 

Located in a nice open room on the second floor of Cleaver and Wake’s restaurant overlooking the River Trent, from first impression the venue looked fantastic for a vibrant, buzzy event. As I entered the room and looked around to explore what the Ethical Atelier had to offer, I immediately sensed the warmth of community amongst the room - everyone was chatting to each other, engaging with each unique brand and designer, and all in all sharing an interest in the world of sustainable fashion. The instant sense of community was great and relaxed my initial nerves as I realised I had entered such a friendly and welcoming environment. 

The first brand that caught my eye was Reworked 348 with their display of classical workwear jackets in a variation that have their own ‘reworked’ twist. It was their unique  camo themed style that initially drew me into their stall and this is where my discovering sustainable fashion journey began. Reworked 348 told me about their ethos of not producing new clothes to help the environment and sustain fashion, and described how their brand creates a solution by using original military and workwear clothing to give it a new purpose. This inventive way of creating new designs whilst helping save our environment signified to me a great way in countering the toxic industry of fast fashion, and was an impressive introduction to what I had in store for the rest of the day. 

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Shortly after my introduction at Reworked 348, I headed over to an area where Isabelle Capri, the founder of the sustainable swimwear brand Capri Swim, was giving a talk. Isabelle was insightfully informing the audience on the differences of downcycling, recycling, and upcycling fashion, and highlighted her brands involvement in upcycling sustainable fabrics into well-fitting and comfortable swimwear. 

With a spring in my step from an already insightful day into the world of sustainable fashion, I continued on my venture around the event to discover what more amazing brands and designers had to offer. I got chatty with one of the owners/founders of a brand named Retribe, whose clothing and accessories had a certain outerwear feel to them, not too dissimilar from the likes of Patagonia and the North Face. Far more ethically made and sustainable than the mainstream outerwear brands, the owners at Retribe described how their clothing and bags are upcycled from salvaging tents, sleeping bags and materials left behind at festivals. Inspired throughout the years as festival goers, Retribes journeys began in August 2023 where they tackled Creamfields festival. 

By this point into my journey I had already gathered a real sense for what the Ethical Atelier and sustainable fashion was really about. Not only is it about a community of shared interest, Ethical Atelier celebrates the passion and beauty behind local and East Midlands sustainable fashion designers, and gives exposure to the wonderful things these brands are doing.

Each brand at the event had their own individual approach to sustaining fashion

Another brand that grasped my interest was a unique women’s boxers company named Flissie that put sustainability, comfort and women first. The brand intrigued me initially with their sign saying ‘Every three pairs sold, one pair donated to vulnerable women’, which I thought was a superb stance to take and a great incentive to invest in the brand. After a lovely and insightful conversation with Matthew, who is joint owner of Flissie with his partner Felipa, I discovered it was not only vulnerable women their brand was in support of, as they too take a proactive stance on the ethics and sustainability of fashion. Matthew informed me that Flissie boxers were created using bamboo trees and sourced through FFC Forests which makes the process ethical and regenerative with more trees being planted alongside the ones being cut down. Yet, Flissie do not stop there as they also have gone the extra mile to make sure their packaging is also sustainable by using corn-starch which decomposes within 60-90 days. 

Each brand at the event had their own individual approach to sustaining fashion, and when I spoke to Emma the founder of her brand Erosa she told me more about her timeless approach to clothing. With an ethos of ‘designing for the future of our bodies and our planet’, Emma started Erosa in November 2022 with the idea of making sustainable and fashionable clothing that lasts you a lifetime. Emma’s timeless approach to fashion enables consumers to wear her clothing at any age, size or shape as her clothing is made to fit you at any point in your life. Approaching fashion in this way with both inclusivity and sustainability in mind seems very progressive to me and I would love to see more catering towards this in the future. 

One of the most successful and dedicated fashion designers I spoke to that resonated with me most was Leren who owned the brand Bambi’s Den. Leren told me that she started Bambi’s Den in 2018 with a love for funky patterns and designs that she wanted to turn into clothing and accessories of her own. Her approach resonated with me when she told me that she sources many of her products from charity shops as they are a personal favourite of mine and help recycle fashion. Through her dedication of eight years at, Leren was able to purchase the company and now displays her brand Bambi’s Den in her store in Derby amongst other products, highlighting the progression being made in sustainable fashion. 

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There were also many other stalls at the event that specifically focused their brands on sustainable accessories and jewellery with the likes of Priestley’s, Ultra and Amber Cooper-Green. Priestley’s was owned by a lovely couple who currently run their operations from home but have hopes for a physical store in the future, and they focused on customer personalisation of their full grain leather bags, wallets and other accessories. Using UK suppliers, Priestley’s also approach their brand in a sustainable way through natural dyes like tree bark and leaves, highlighting that not just clothing can be made sustainably. 

Brands like Ultra and Amber Cooper-Green have a similar sustainable approach with their jewellery as Kay the founder of Ultra described she uses a mixture of paint and resin to create her earrings, and Amber Cooper-Green told me she creates her wooden and acrylic jewellery from reclaimed materials. I was pleasantly surprised by the vast array and variation of sustainable fashion displayed at the Ethical Atelier and learnt through these wonderful brands that accessories can be made to sustain just as much as fashion.

Overall I loved the event, the atmosphere, the community, and the overall progressive and positive feel of the place was fantastic. What Abigail Wastie has done in bringing and promoting local/East Midlands small businesses through the Ethical Atelier is inspirational and I would love to see more events in the future popping up nationally and hopefully one day even globally. 

Having an environmentally conscious approach to the fashion industry by putting ethics and sustainability first is progressive for our planet, and any brand/business that takes that first step in this direction deserves to be commemorated and celebrated in the same fashion as the Ethical Atelier does. After experiencing what the Ethical Atelier had to offer, it is now safe to say that although it was my first ethical/sustainable fashion event, I promise that it will not be my last!


Read our interview with Abigail Wastie here.

To keep up with Abigail and events by The Ethical Atelier, head to their website


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