~ (8) In Conversation with Madi Swain:
On Starting a Revolution with Youthquake

Photography Lily StimpsonModels Charlie Giles, Ciro Mosti, Emily Mobbs, Jasmine GillandersMaisy Humphries
Styling Youthquake ~ Latest Collection
Words Lara Coassin

Madi Swain is the co-founder of Youthquake, a London-based sustainable fashion brand channeling self-awareness and individuality. We touched on the brand’s early stages, their move into a new studio, why it’s imporant to not only source fabrics but also furniture second-hand, and the need for a fashion revolution.

Madi Swain How did I start? I was bored in lockdown and depressed because university left me in the most secluded, isolated state of mind. I just burned out at the end of my year from looking at the computer.
I basically deleted Instagram, and then the idea came when me and Valentine took a day trip to Rickmansworth which is a little river part of London. We went into this charity shop and saw these Spiderman pants, no not Spiderman pants, it was a Spiderman duvet. And I really wanted to make them into trousers. How cool would that be? Because a couple of months before that in May, I made a music video and I’d made my first pair of trousers for it, they weren’t Dozerz or anything, they were just random scraps of fabric. And then I saw this spiderman fabric... I thought about the longevity of these fabrics and how I could give them a new life for another five, six years instead of all these synthetics going to burn in big landfills. That’s why I still have the scraps from every single part of the project that I’ve done since I started, I haven’t actually created any waste during this project, I’ve used everything for a purpose. Because that’s the point of sustainability, everything does have a purpose. That’s why I started, and then I just got obsessed and I couldn’t stop. So, I made a full rail, and then I stopped, sold them for a bit of cash, and then carried on. I didn’t even intend to sell them I just liked doing it and then I’d made so many, [chuckling] I had nowhere to put them and I’m definitely not going to wear them for every day of my life. It’s 40 pairs that’s even more than a week’s rotation! ︎︎︎
Lara Coassin Did you start selling to friends or through Instagram?

MS I just started selling to friends, [they] would come over and I would just [sell] them for cheap. People started asking on Instagram for them as well so I started selling them through that. Then that pop-up [last summer] but I haven’t posted since. It doesn’t feel like I haven’t touched the project for a year, but I actually haven’t. So, now I’ve got the space for it, I can just start making again, just roll with it. I think it will be interesting to see what I can come up with. ︎︎︎
LC You get sunshine in here too! It’s such a great space.

MS Yeah, it’s really cool!

LC Do you plan on moving all of the stock that you have in the flat into here?

MS Yeah, I’m just waiting to find a second-hand storage unit. I’m not buying anything brand new for the studio I’m just slowly building it from second-hand stuff. It slows the process down a little bit but it’s what we’re meant to do.
And all of our materials [in the studio] are sustainable as well. We don’t have a general waste bin, we just have a recycling bin which is this bag.

LC Before having the studio, how long did you do the screen printing in your flat?

MS Two years, yeah, there’s a lot of permanent stains in the flat but hey. ︎︎︎
LC How did you get into screenprinting?

MS I learned how to do it in uni, it’s really easy, to be honest.

LC Your materials, are they mostly upcycled, or are you thinking about using new fabrics?

MS Yeah, pretty much everything is upcycled.

MS Uhm, I source them all the time from either Facebook Marketplace or eBay. And I made a list when I started the project with charity shops with different supplies. For example, there are a few charity shops in Central London that had second-hand buttons and zips and South London had quite a lot of kids’ stuff like these Looney Tunes sleeping bags I use for Dozerz.
Only recently I’ve been starting to look at fabrics but I’m going to have to order them. I wish there was a world where someone organised second-hand stuff into bulk wholesale market. ︎︎︎
MS I’ve been thinking of a feature on our website or a QR code label on each garment that our customers could scan. It would essentially be a list of questions such as: Is your garment still wearable? Is it ripped? Do you want it repaired? You would just get a free shipping label to send it off. So, it would either be to a charity or back to us to be repurposed.

LC That’s a great idea! Especially nowadays, QR codes are so easy to make.

MS Yes! It’s just figuring out how to prepay for all the shipping and then you obviously don’t want to contribute to CO2 emissions.
LC Maybe if you figure out a drop-off point for London-based people. If you could maybe get into a skate shop …

MS There’s this company called Neat Streets that I’m talking to at the minute and I want to do a collaborative collection bin with them. A Youthquake bin that can be left in Central London, that people can just dash all their textiles into. ︎︎︎
LC Do you think you’ll continue both [brands]?

MS I think so, just over time, I don’t know. I’ve got so much fabric that I kind of can’t stop until it’s gone.

LC So, is that second-hand fabric that you sourced that is waiting to be used?

MS Oh yes, this is more fabric. Most of it is Dozerz stuff like the bedsheets. And then at the moment, there’s quite a lot of tartan that we’re buying second-hand for the new [Youthquake] collection.
We’re trying to work on a Sex Pistols punk collection right now, inspired by Vivienne Westwood.

LC How come you’re looking at the Sex Pistols and punk?

MS Because right now it pains me to not see some sort of revolution or some sort of revolt from people; I don’t even think they remember how to or know how to. It’s like giving them the fuel to be angry. I want to create a collection that’s beautiful and comfortable to wear and sustainable but the message is: Why aren’t you fucking screaming?!
So we’re just slowly getting copious amounts of tartan. What I’m going to do is measure up all of the fabric that I have to see the possibility; because you can come up with an idea and then you don’t even have enough fabric to execute it, so I’m just going to make sure I have enough.

LC In terms of sizes does it depend on how much fabric you have, or do you try and have a certain range of sizes?

MS I try and go for a middle size with everything I do, like an average size. But everything I make, I try and make unisex. But I think most clothing is unisex it’s just been categorised into: This is women’s clothing, this is men’s clothing. They still think everything is gendered, it’s fucking strange.

~ (London, March 2022)