Beyond net zero goals: Regenerative fashion design for micro-circular rural ecosystems

Lead Research Organisation: University of the Arts London
Department Name: London College of Fashion


Elvis & Kresse create high quality fashion accessories from rescued waste materials, operating with the highest social and environmental standards. This project documents and supports the company's climate ambition to become Net Regenerative by 2030, diversifying their products through regenerative agriculture and regenerative fashion practices within a rural ecosystem.

Building on successful collaborations during two recent projects Fostering Sustainable Practices (AHRC, 2018 - 2021) and Mapping Sustainable Fashion Opportunities for SMEs (EC COSME, 2019), this project develops a design-led R&D partnership between UAL Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) and the B-Corp certified social enterprise Elvis & Kresse (luxury accessories from rescued materials).

The project embeds a new concept, fashion making in a dynamics of place, creating and piloting innovative possibilities for regenerative fashion practice within rural ecosystems. The project aims to catalyse Elvis & Kresse's current transition from the company's commitment to net zero by 2030 to a more ambitious goal: being net regenerative by 2030. In a business context, this requires a values-based philosophy of work and life that moves beyond reducing harm, to long-term positive impact on local environmental and social ecosystems.


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Description This project developed a timely partnership between UAL Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) and the B-Corp certified social enterprise Elvis & Kresse (E&K), creators of sustainable luxury fashion accessories made from rescued waste materials.
The key objective, successfully met, was to document and help communicate E&K's recent move to a 17-acre agricultural site, and reorientation of their business to diversify into regenerative agriculture and viticulture. E&K's previous sustainability commitment as a B-Corp - aiming for the entire operation to be net zero by 2030 - has transitioned to a more ambitious goal of being net regenerative by 2030. Through collaboration, dialogue and observation, the company's physical transition and transformation of the site from degraded pasture to vineyard, farm and wetland waste system was captured visually and in text through each key stage over an eight month period. This has produced a suite of assets comprising photos and themed texts (including the Regenerative Transition Pamphlet) for the company to strategically use in their regular social media communications and blogs.
E&K's local and regional networks have been expanded with key new contacts and partnerships introduced e.g. Southeast England Fibershed (developers of regional regenerative fibre systems). The project demonstrated the ability for the new E&K venture to become a hub for regenerative practices and knowledge exchange for the local area and beyond.
The experimental materials development objective tested vegetable tanning processes for non-leather materials in collaboration with new UK tannery contacts. A thorough understanding was gained of the vegetable tanning ecosystem in the UK and Europe, although clear limitations were found in employing vegetable tanning for new product development from the waste stream E&K had identified (cellulose-based tea sacks). Other waste materials options will later be experimentally explored by the company based on the learning gained, using the new connections made through the project.
Due to challenges with supplies caused by external factors (Covid-19, Brexit, war in Ukraine and adverse weather conditions), there were delays in constructing the new workshop building and one planned networking event could not be scheduled.
Exploitation Route The findings offer a case study and an evidence base of piloting a micro model of regenerative practice, that has the potential to be adapted to different scales and regional contexts within the UK and beyond. The documentation of Elvis & Kresse's key transition stages of becoming regenerative: rebuilding soil quality, creating infrastructure to be self sufficient in water and wetland waste systems, renewable energy and energy efficient building construction will be invaluable to creating narratives and exemplars for other business wishing to take similar steps. Links have been made evident between running a sustainable fashion business and operating with a dynamic sense of place.
Sectors Agriculture

Food and Drink

Creative Economy




Description The company Elvis & Kresse have used the suite of assets developed during the project in their communications on social media channels. The company has said that project has contributed to their strategy in an unexpected way. Documenting their transition through this project gave the business founders confidence and credibility to become a local hub for regenerative business (and agriculture and viticulture). This is already attracting international and national attention and is likely to bring wide ranging new business in the future. Elvis & Kresse have also become farmers and were introduced to the South East England Fibreshed organisation during the project. The company will become part of the network and activities bringing farmers and designers together through our new project Future Fashion Landscapes (AHRC Design Exchange Project round 2) which is relevant to their small flock of sheep and conservation grazing practices.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Creative Economy
Impact Types Cultural

Policy & public services

Description Future Fashion Landscapes: Fostering biodiversity through collaborations between farmers, designers, and processors of native and rare breed wool
Amount £122,266 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2024 
End 02/2025
Description Presentation at Future Observatory event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 14 projects that took part in the pilot series of Design Exchange Partnerships presented their projects at the Design Museum (Future Observatory) to share the project outcomes and experiences with the funders and other academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022