A sustainably creative wardrobe

Fashion tips through theatre and politics? Sign us up! Cally Phillips allows us to rummage through her sustainably creative wardrobe and offers insight into how to express ourselves, protect the planet and form meaningful connections with others.

In a world which I am led to believe is dominated by fast food and fast fashion, I have clothes that are older than many of you reading this. Much of my writing is even older. So I do know something about sustainability.  I also know something about creativity.  I’d go so far as to say these are the staples of my creative wardrobe.

First, a word about creativity. In the world of finite resources, creativity is a non-tangible infinite resource. Perhaps it is the only one. The great thing is, creative ideas come from everywhere. Despite the general belief that drama is an ephemeral medium, my sustainable creative wardrobe favours the dramatic. I’ve been wearing some of this creativity for the last twenty five years.   Most of it I still wear with pride.  Of course, there have been some wardrobe malfunctions along the way. Being creative is, after all, about taking risks. I’ll take one now and invite you to have a rummage through some of my creative wardrobe:

We Wove a Web in Childhood (fashion 1847 and 1993)

We Wove a Web in Childhood (fashion 1847 and 1993)

1.Second hand clothes:

Vintage: 1989-1993.

This was my first play, ‘We Wove a Web in Childhood’. I wasn’t brave enough to write using my own words so I edited the juvenilia of the Brontes and turned it into a stage play. In those days I thought that creativity required external validation so I sent it out to ‘the usual places’ hoping it, and I, would find a place to fit. I was told repeatedly it was ‘un-performable’.  So, I produced it myself.

Lesson One for creativity:  Don’t worry if people laugh at your fashion-sense.  Live and learn.

Sustainability link HERE

2. A really cool hat.

Vintage: 1996.

The project/play was called ‘The Truth About Hats.’ This was less about hats and more about identity. It was a youth project which gave a bunch of teens a load of confidence in creativity (even though they didn’t win the ‘prize’)

Lesson Two for creativity: while collaboration in creativity is positive, the concept of creative competition is more problematic.

Sustainability link HERE


3. Wrap Up Warm/Scarf and gloves.

Vintage 1999.

This was before Homeland Security and the War on Terror, but the world was far from a peaceful place. The fashion of the day was a government pamphlet titled ‘Protect and Survive.’ I used it as a key component in my stage play ‘Love is an Urban Myth.’ It took for inspiration the Lebanon Hostage Crisis, and involved the invention of a game involving chocolate. It also gives a creative insight into the London Underground. Like all ‘good’ plays, it had a beginning, middle and end, just not in that order.

Lesson Three for creativity: don’t be afraid to be subversive and go out on a limb.

Sustainability link HERE


4. Fat pants and trainers:

Vintage 2005:

Who doesn’t love pizza? (I don’t, actually.) ‘Life’s a Pizza’ was a youth project which explored healthy eating and the strange paradox that a pizza contains all the food groups necessary for a healthy diet - just not necessarily arranged in that order. It also has the honour of being the first play performed at the Scottish Parliament.

Lesson Four for creativity: To avoid embarrassment, remember one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to titles.

Sustainability link HERE


5. A tea shirt for every occasion.

Vintage: 2006. 

I first got sustainable with Fairtrade with a local project ‘FairPlay Drama’, featuring two plays; ‘Go Bananas’ and ‘Wake up and Smell the Coffee.’  In 2007 they were performed countrywide during Fairtrade Fortnight. In 2012 they came out of the wardrobe again as an ebook ‘FairTrade Dramas’ and in 2013 they morphed into prose format as an ebook, ‘FairTrade Fiction.’  I also used them as the backbone for an online Festival of Fairtrade Flash Fiction. That year I won a Special Innovation Award from the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. In 2016 I republished them, with additions, as a paperback.

Lesson Five for creativity: You can win prizes for eating chocolate and drinking coffee!

Sustainability link HERE 


6. A plastic raincoat.

Vintage 2007:

‘The End of the Age of Oil’ was a drama project which featured the innovative concept of a ‘reverse tour.’ Put simply, the audience came to the venue. This was a creative way of getting round some particular ‘issues’ we faced when working with a group of adults with learning disabilities.

Lesson six for creativity: disability is no barrier to creative participation.

Sustainability link HERE


7. The classic little black dress.

Vintage: Timeless:

Of all the stories in all the world, this one walked into mine. It is ‘A Fishing Line.’  I first heard a version of it in a Glasgow car-park circa 1996, told by a friend (now dead) who had heard it in darkest Africa. It is an archetypal story which I have re-imagined and re-purposed many times. It’s to be found in works as diverse as ‘Brand Loyalty’ and ‘The One That Got Away.’  If I were to define my creativity by relationship to one story, this would be it. It has sustained me through the last twenty five years and I will never throw it out of my wardrobe.

Lesson seven for creativity: look after your creative wardrobe and it will look after you.

Sustainability links HERE, HERE and HERE

As I close the door of the wardrobe the final thought to leave you with is this: If you live creatively, nothing is wasted.

The end of the Fishing line (fashion 2018)

The end of the Fishing line (fashion 2018)