Our Human Kind series for Collection 07 concludes with Jaimus Tailor, the multi-talented creative behind Greater Goods who’s adopted a radical approach to the problem of waste - total reconstruction.
What to do with a garment when it reaches the end of its lifespan is a fundamental issue for the clothing industry. While repair is one approach, there is a more radical solution. By taking second hand outdoor gear and completely deconstructing it, Jaimus Tailor, the brain behind Greater Goods, is perfecting the process of turning unwanted clothing into something altogether new.
After launching Greater Goods in 2018, Jaimus has built up a loyal following of fans and customers. Drops of his handmade water bottle bags, individually constructed from upcycled fabrics, have been quickly snapped up. He’s also worked in collaboration with some of the biggest outdoor and sportswear brands on the planet including Nike and Arc'teryx, as well as with forward-thinking social initiatives like Flock Together - the birdwatching collective founded by and for people of colour.
We visited Jaimus in his Tottenham studio to talk about his approach to deconstruction, the benefits of working on a smaller scale and what he imagines is next for his rapidly growing young brand.
Hi Jaimus. Thank you for inviting us to your studio. Can you walk us through the quick history of Greater Goods?
Before Greater Goods my main job was badminton coaching. I’d done that since I was 16. At the same time I studied graphic design, graduated, then did bits and bobs of freelance, but not enough to survive on. Then I was freelancing at Goodhood, doing editing, retouching, all that stuff, and I was like: ‘I like clothes, let me just get a sewing machine’. I made it my new year's resolution for 2019 to learn and I started sewing.
You’d never sewn anything before then?
It was my first time when I bought the machine, but Tailor is my second name so it’s in the family. I was doing a lot of carpentry and woodwork before, making really simple benches, desks and chairs out of wood from my local area that was thrown away. That’s what Greater Goods was at first, upcycled furniture, mainly woodwork. I had the logo and a playful, more lighthearted aesthetic. Then, when I learned to sew I migrated to that. I cut up a jacket, made it into a bag and it all snowballed from there.
Our Human Kind series has focused on the theme of repair, but you have a different approach to creating from waste, not repair but reconstruction.
I can do repair, if it’s simple, but I never really trash things so nothing really breaks. It’s more like total reconstruction. The jacket I started with was a beaten up North Face jacket. It wasn’t waterproof any more, the lining had gone, but I bought it second hand anyway. No one wanted it, so I cut it up and used the fabric to make a bag. From there I kept doing the same and made a little collection, photographed it nicely and made sure it was presentable, then put it out there.
I’d like to learn that level of repair where you can’t even tell it’s been done. Or, with Greater Goods, I’d go the other way where all the repair and damage is visible and it becomes part of the product.
Your practice is all about upcycling and reconstructing second hand clothing. Where do you source your pieces from?
eBay! From my experience, you can’t find anything good in vintage shops. I’m a bit of a lazy guy; with eBay, I can just sit at home and do it. I’m good at ebay as well, I can say that. I can find things really easily, get the typos and the spelling mistakes that other people miss.
Are there any particular pieces that you look out for?
Back in early 2000 there was a Gore-Tex called XCR. It was really thick and crispy, but then technology improved, things got thinner and more lightweight, but I always prefer that older, heavier stuff, it feels really nice to work with.
It must be quite therapeutic to take things apart?
It is good. I don’t even know how many things I’ve taken apart, probably hundreds. It does get repetitive though. I’m making these bottle bags at the moment and it’s just the same shape over and over. I’m a one man factory.
When you are deconstructing things do you notice a difference in quality?
100%, especially in waterproofs. There’s a hefty difference between a £50 and a £200 jacket. I can rip apart a £50 jacket with my hands pretty easily, but with a £200 one it really takes a while - the stitching is tighter, the quality of material is better. It has been really interesting deconstructing things, you see everything - how different brands put things together, what they’ve hidden in there.
One theme we’ve picked up on in this series is that older things are made to last and newer things are made to wear out. Is that something you’ve found?
Yes, the model today is that you’ve got to have the new version. I guess things were simpler back then, in terms of engineering. Things are way more complex now. Modern technical clothing is a nightmare to repair, not many places repair waterproofs because it’s so hard to do.
We loved the workshop you did with Nike. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
I really enjoyed it. People brought old jackets in with them and we turned them into new bags. No one who came to that workshop had used a machine before, it was all totally new. That’s my main goal when Covid is more chill: more workshops. I want to run them in here, in my studio. Really small three-person workshops.
You mentioned scale there. Is keeping things small and personal important to you?
Yes. I work with brands a lot more now and do collections for them, but it’s still very small scale, very small numbers. There are other avenues I could go down: do I get a factory involved, or do I make loads of numbers? But then I think, ‘what’s the point?’ I want to keep it small and simple. I don’t want to be a manager. I want to be making stuff.
As a small business we appreciate that approach. Scale can bring its own problems.
And it doesn’t necessarily result in a better outcome. The best photoshoots I’ve done have been with my girlfriend, a model, a photographer - that’s it. We don’t have to explain it to anyone, if it looks good it looks good. There’s no marketing department that needs sign off. Plus, I like doing the graphics, I like doing the edits and stuff like that. You don’t need that much: a scanner, a laptop and a phone.
Outdoor clothing is undeniably having a moment. Have you thought about what comes next for Greater Goods when fashion moves on to its next trend?
I’ve got to be aware that the climate and the fashion world will change, develop and move. If you’re working on a small scale that doesn’t really matter. You can always adapt and you’ll have your core audience when fashion moves on, but as soon as you go big and you have bigger costs, bigger outgoings, and you have to move with what’s going on. That’s when problems happen. As long as I can feed my dog, eat and pay my rent I’m good.
Special thanks to Jaimus. Visit the Greater Goods website to find out more, with drops of unique bottle bags and other special products landing throughout the year.
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Photography by Léa Campbell
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