Interview: Katie Wray on Depop and Upcycling Clothes

We interviewed Cardiff University student Katie Wray about her Depop account, upcycling and how she’s used this to raise donations for Anti-Racism charities.

Why did you start selling clothes you’d made on depop?

I really wanted to take advantage of all my spare time over lockdown and focus on my creative hobbies more. I’ve always hoped to improve my sewing so that I could make money from the things I make and then the Black Lives Matter movement gave me the drive to start. I was saving money by living at home and clearly not going out, so I decided that I could do this for a better cause and to help others. I chose to use Depop just because most people I know use it already and it’s easy.

How do you begin the process of upcycling / designing clothes?

I usually gather all the fabric and old clothes I have available to work with and lay it all out on the floor. I look at which colours/patterns work together and pick a combination to make something out of. I think about other clothes I have in the same fabric (cotton, jersey, wool, silk, chiffon, etc.) and sometimes I just have an immediate picture of what to make with it, but sometimes I brainstorm and sketch ideas. With my clothes on Depop, I started off making bandeaus because they’re super easy and I had the right fabrics already, but I soon started to get bored of making them and I was running out of stretchy fabric. A friend of mine who studies Textiles donated a huge bag of fabric scraps that she no longer wanted and so I continued with halter tops which were more popular! Crop tops were the easiest and quickest to do because I didn’t need to use zips, people can adjust them to fit how they want using the ties, and they don’t require as much fabric.

What inspires you when making clothes?

I am more inspired by other reworked/thrifted clothes that I see on Pinterest, Instagram, or even Depop. It is not that I’m copying those clothes, but that I’m inspired by the fact that other people are doing something that I would enjoy doing and have the skills for. When I have lots of different fabrics in front of me, my ideas come from the fabric rather than designing a dress on paper first and then looking for the perfect fabric. I think this comes from being given hand-me-downs to cut up!

Tips for anyone who wants to start making clothes? How to learn how to sew?

Invest in a sewing machine. Then, maybe ask a family member/friend who knows how to use one to give you a little induction to show you how the different stitches/pedal/dials work. It’s not as complicated as it may look… I’m not an expert and I don’t even know what all the functions are because I’ve never needed to use them. I would recommend going to a class if not, or I’m sure there are loads of Youtube videos! You can also buy magazines that have beginners sewing patterns in with instructions and you can find them on the internet and print them out too.

Has raising donations for Black Lives Matter charities been a motivation to sell clothes?

Definitely. I wanted to make as much as I could to help raise money for the charities that are more equipped to fight the injustice and help those suffering. I just thought that if people could donate to help fight racial injustice and simultaneously get something for themselves out of it, it would be a win-win. We all online shop anyway so I believed it would be a way to get people to donate more than they naturally would if it was just their own direct bank transfer.

I think having a goal pushes you to continue something, but also, I mainly sold my clothes to friends and I let some of them choose their fabrics and style. Having people want to support what I was doing was an incentive to make the clothes I was promising!

With the help of everyone’s support and interest, in two weeks I raised $100 for the Bail Project which is a charity based in the US that helps to prevent mass incarceration and reduce racial and economic inequality in the system. And I raised £80 for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust which is a charity that works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help enable them to succeed in the career of their choice.

How did you learn to make clothes/upcycle?

Since I was little, I was always interested in sketching clothes and putting together outfits. My Nana gave me my first lesson on the sewing machine when I was around 10 (I still have the scrap of fabric with my first stitches on it!). A couple of years later I received my mannequin and sewing machine as a gift from my parents and since then I’ve mostly just taught myself by trial and error. At around the age of 16, I went to a weekly sewing class for a few months and I designed my own prom dress there. That really helped me and I do have a couple of books on Dressmaking, but mainly I prefer to just figure it out myself by designing my own patterns and trying it out!

You can find Katie on instagram @kt.wray or on Depop @kmwray