Thanks to Christopher Carter Photography and Groundwork South Yorkshire for our Video Kay Rose Hatteric for our story.
Who are we?
Dread Funky sells unique handmade garments; provides a dread locking service and funky hair design; using inspiration from art, music, festivals and the underground rave scene. Dread Funky’s designs are exquisite and vibrant, using bold colour and beautifully tactile fabrics to create a completely individual look. It is about inspiring people to express their own opinions and their personal freedom through ethically made and environmentally friendly clothes and accessories.
Why we need support?
Clothing has the fourth largest environmental impact after housing, transport and food, according to Wrap (the UK government’s waste advisory body), with the majority of clothes being thrown out and ending up in landfill. It is for this reason, that Dread Funky makes garments out of 100% recycled materials, targeting this ‘throw away culture’ and thereby reducing their carbon footprint.
All garments are made by a self-taught local designer who started out selling her products at festivals. Dread Funky currently has two shops in Sheffield, but in addition sells online through Etsy and has sold garments at festivals all over the UK for the past six years. There is also a rising interest from shops in Birmingham, London, Bristol and Brighton. Therefore, Dread Funky needs your support, to help keep up with this potential high demand and grow the business, in order to allow more time to support the community through the development of a Social Enterprise.
The aim is to source a Fair-trade base in India; teaching people to make Dread Funky's products as our patents are inspired by the colours and local fabric from India and offering individuals a job as part of the “Dread Funky” wholesale. Dread Funky believes that Fairtrade is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of the people who make our products, thereby ensuring producers a secure and sustainable livelihood.
The director of Dread Funky, Lauren Dowling will stay in India for a number of weeks, not only teaching people how to sew & make garments, but also ensuring that all fabrics used in production are ethically made and sourced from recycled materials. The aim is to have the first batch of Dread Funky designs made while in India. These will then be ready to be sold in shops throughout the UK and also at festival stalls.
Dread Funky needs your support to help fund the cost of buying materials, training costs and salaries to producers in India for the first batch of products. With their designs being made in India, Dread Funky will have time and generate profits to give back to their local community in Sheffield, through their Social Enterprise – Dread Full Arts CIC – a Community Interest Company.
Dread Full Arts CIC will share their knowledge and skills, delivering Upcycling Workshops in the local community; helping to teach others, especially young people who are not in education, employment or training, how to make their own garments from recycled materials. Ultimately, it will provide a platform for local artists and designers to source materials and sell their products. Dread Funky are passionate about the environment, recycling and making a difference to people’s lives and this strongly underpins the work that they do.
Please support Dread Funky and help them to achieve their goals and succeed in vision for a more sustainable environment and a better future for individuals, both at home and abroad.
Picture- Family bonding workshop making Dreamcatchers using recycled materials one of many workshops we run.
And a journey to begin with
Lauren Dowling has been the inspiration behind ‘Dread Funky’ following an epiphany she had on a bus six years ago. Lauren was travelling back to Sheffield from her job in youth work in Rotherham and during the long bus journey she fell asleep. Lauren describes the dream, “From the bus I could clearly see myself standing next to a rail of funky clothes doing someone’s dreads, there was artwork on the walls, decks in the corner playing some cool tunes, and good coffee smells. The shop was called Dread Funky.” She said that she had never considered a job in fashion before, but saw it as a vision.
Lauren had built up a good reputation in youth work, but government funding had dried up and services cut. Not long later she was made redundant and remembered her dream which she was determined to follow. This was the birth of Dread Funky and her dream; to inspire young people, her goal; to create an opportunity for struggling young artists and designers, help develop their skills and be who they aspire to be.
Lauren knows only too well about struggle, born in 1986, the eldest of two, she was brought up by her mum in the second largest council estate in Sheffield. She was always a bit different and stood out with her big glasses and ginger hair, but despite being a tearaway teenager, she was a highly creative child. She was brought up on fairy tales and her designs reflect that drama. When she was five years old she started Irish dancing encouraged by her Irish grandparents. Her dance dress was made by her mum and gran, but Lauren remembers picking out the fabric and embroidery. She went on to dance at competition level until she was 14 and the dresses were always homemade. She recalls “My family always recycled clothes, we had a make do and mend attitude as money was very tight for mum as a single parent. My mum has always been my biggest inspiration as a painter and sculpture.” She continued, “my gran too who was a big stable influence on my life and it really hit me hard when she died in my early twenties.”
Lauren was not an academic child, using her creative, right hand side of the brain more efficiently! Her school years were turbulent; she felt out of place, unable to express herself and dropped out of school when she was 14. This was a difficult time for Lauren. She was angry, misguided and misunderstood, fleeing an abusive relationship at 18, she volunteered for youth work at Wybourn Community Centre. Her youth work career started here, eventually getting paid work once she had achieved her qualifications. She also reached Level 3 in Counselling and is proficient in BSL, as her grandma was deaf.
She bought a sewing machine with her redundancy money and started a sewing group in May 2011 with a couple of friends. By October 2011, she had a showcase window displaying five outfits and a write up in the Sheffield Star newspaper describing her as an ‘up and coming local fashion designer’. That summer she went to COSMOS festival and sold some of her own designs, inciting interest from designer Techno Dolly and others. She knew that her designs would go down well on the festival scene. The following year she was invited to sell her outfits by a friend Steve, who sells ethically sourced garments from India and joined him that summer touring the country.
She has followed the festival scene ever since and has been solo for three years, having a ‘Dread Funky’ stall at the Eden Festival, COSMOS, Willowman, Beat Herder, Magicana and the Beautiful Days festival in Exeter. The first year she hitchhiked from the Beautiful Days festival to Cornwall and spent the rest of the summer in Newquay braiding hair and living in a van community by the sea. “This is when I felt at my freest!” explains Lauren “and when I fell in love with Cornwall, the life on the road and doing something I love!”
This year she made her yearly pilgrimage from Beautiful Days to Cornwall in her own van ‘Molly’ and partner Henry, from Holland, whom she had met in Cornwall 2 years earlier. Lauren recalls how after meeting Henry in Cornwall, a month later they headed to Europe, hitchhiking around Spain with just a tent and spending Christmas and New Year in Tarifa, living free with some money from hair braiding and rising and sleeping with the sun. “I felt so free and I’d love to do more travelling and bring Dread Funky to Europe!” “My dream would be to live half my time in Cornwall and Sheffield and to have shops along the way in Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter and Newquay”, she muses.
It is very difficult just relying on seasonal work and my own experience of setting up a shop and workshop is that the rent is just too high and I couldn’t keep up with the payments. I now have to work from home”, in her high rise one bedroom flat, only a stone throw from where she was brought up.
Her vision for Dread Funky is stronger than ever, through adversity and experience and real passion for making this work. “Dread Funky is no longer about me anymore; it is about helping others make their dreams a reality. When I dropped out of school, I had a mentor who I could really talk to and be myself. That is why I went into youth work; to help someone like myself. I want to inspire the young to be who they want to be and help develop their skills by delivering workshops and mentoring them and supporting them through the pitfalls of the fashion industry.”
“That is not why I come to you now”, explains Lauren. “As Dread Funky has developed from my own dream, this is now no longer about working solo, I cannot keep up with production. I am asking for your help in setting up a Fairtrade network in India. I have already set up contacts with India through my old colleague Steve, producing beautiful recycled scarves, jewellery and ponchos I sold on my Christmas market together with my own bespoke and unique jackets, dresses and hats. I can no longer do this on my own. My dream would be to spend 4 – 6 weeks in India, following up contacts and establishing my own, developing a working partnership with a family or group of people who would be happy to produce my designs for a good wage using self-sustaining, ethically produced, recycled, local fabric. I would share my skills and expertise to produce my clothes at a fair price and high quality to my customers as well as investing in a community project both in India and back home. Helping local artists who would never have an opportunity to develop themselves in this industry. After everything that has happened to me and my life experiences I want to give back to the community and offer a platform and opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved.”
Please help Lauren and others develop their potential and follow their dreams! I have known Lauren for more than a decade and, from a distance, I have observed the start of Dread Funky and seen her passion and steadfast determination in making it happen. Her designs are exquisite and vibrant, using bold colour and beautifully tactile fabrics to create a completely individual look. Lauren’s bright orange hair, reflects her personality. With such a joie de vivre, she talks with passion about Dread Funky and her vision for the future. I believe in her abilities to secure a successful partnership and Fairtrade links with India. I am happy to help her achieve her goals and be part of her community vision. Kay Rose-Hattrick