Shropshire dairy saves doomed dress

A Shropshire company has stepped in to save the day after a textile student’s recycled materials project was threatened by, of all things, unexpected improvements in supermarket recycling strategies.

Mawley Milk, a leading dairy in Cleobury Mortimer, supplied 477 used milk bottle caps to A-level student Jasmine Bish to enable her to complete her design project. But surprisingly, Jasmine lives, not in Shropshire, but in far-away Lincolnshire.

“When our supermarkets switched to clear caps on milk bottles to help with recycling them, it was good news for the planet, but terrible news for me,” Jasmine said. “I wasn’t even half-way through making a dress from the used blue caps and I literally didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Fortunately, Jasmine’s aunt Gill lives in Shropshire, and has milk delivered by Mawley Milk − who were still using coloured caps.

“I’d been saving blue caps for Jas all summer,’ Gill explained. ‘So when she told me about the issue with the supermarkets, I thought the dress was doomed. Then I had the idea of contacting Rachel Robinson at Mawley Milk to see if she could help. I hoped that she’d be able to give me the name of her cap supplier, and that they’d still be making coloured caps so that we might buy some.”

“It rather went against the whole idea of recycled fashion, but it seemed like it was that, or face the doomed dress scenario. So when Rachel said something along the lines of ‘No problem, how many do you need?’ I was so stunned and thrilled I didn’t know what to say.”

Rachel went on to explain that Mawley Milk keep the caps that come off the production line where the bottle might be leaking or it’s a reject for some reason, for recycling. And that since the recycling man didn’t come very often, she had, at that moment, two enormous bin bags full of rejected milk bottle tops in every conceivable colour. In a trice, Gill arranged to collect them and very soon 477 dishwashed and sorted caps were winging their way to Lincolnshire, and a delighted Jasmine.

Many months of painstaking work later – each cap had to be first pierced with a central hole, before being decorated with a spiderweb of embroidery threads then, finally, joined to neighbouring caps – the once-doomed dress was complete. Inspired by Paco Rabanne’s famous disc dress, the completed garment boasted a closefitting bottle top bodice with sleeves based on a milking cluster. This is the part of a milking machine that attaches to the cow, which Jasmine had seen at an exhibition on milk at the Wellcome Foundation in London. She constructed these unique dairy themed sleeves using earring wiring techniques she learned on work experience at Aloe Earrings in Liverpool.

By now, Jas had taken to calling the garment ‘the Mawley dress’, which was a reference both to the dairy and to another historic Mawley garment she had researched for her project, the Mawley Chasuble, once owned by Katherine of Aragon and now in Ludlow Museum.

With the bottle top dress, at last, finished, only two things remained to be done – a photoshoot, with schoolfriend model Charlotte (PICTURED), and sharing the pictures of the finished garment with Mawley Milk. A dairy far away on the other side of the country, who came to the rescue and made its construction possible.

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