A former outfitter to the stars now has designs on helping disadvantaged Borders women back into work.
Jacqueline Thompson is currently a trainer for an Eyemouth-based social enterprise helping vulnerable women develop skills in craft, design and technology, having moved back to her home town of Berwick from London.
The London College of Fashion graduate, formerly a supplier of outfits for acts appearing on the BBC music show Top of the Pops including Robert Plant and Elton John, has just completed overseeing a second 10-week training course for ReTweed.
ReTweed, launched in Eyemouth in May, has now handed out graduation certificates to a second group of six women, all presented to them by Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Calum Kerr at the town’s Hippodrome.
“I absolutely love doing this as the women are doing some fantastic work and their sense of achievement is unbelievable,” said Jacqueline.
Three women from the first half-dozen graduates have since secured jobs, and two have gone on to further education.
Some of those who have just completed the second course are aiming to set up their own businesses.
“I think I’ve found myself doing this course,” said Erin Inglis, of Eyemouth.
“I had no faith in myself, and this has inspired me to make something of my life.
“I’m going to speak to Business Gateway to see if I can set up a craft business of my own now.”
Sarah McDougal, of Eyemouth, said: “I needed to find a way to get out of the house now that the little ones aren’t so little anymore.
“I needed something or someone to give a nudge to get moving with my life, and ReTweed has been the answer. I’m now going to explore my own options for setting up a business.”
As well as building confidence, teaching skills and helping women into work or further education, Retweed aims to encourage recycling.
“People often don’t realise that textiles are just as bad in landfill as plastics,” said ReTweed founder Hazel Smith, of Cockburnspath.
“We have had textile donations which would fill a house, and the materials which we are not using we have donated to charity shops and small community groups including elderly craft groups.
“We are also using the stories of donations in our branding, labelling and selling. Some of our donations have come with stories, so we are building a real sense of community ownership of ReTweed.
“It is having even better outcomes than we expected.
“There was so much talent that was getting lost because they had no formal qualifications or not had the employment opportunities.
“The project has tremendous potential to promote an aspirational culture for women and the area, promoting creative industry, manufacturing and ethical or environmental practice.
“It is hoped that ReTweed will eventually develop and sell a wide range of fashions, furnishing and crafts made with upcycled and donated fabrics and materials.”
Mr Kerr added: “This was an uplifting, inspiring event. ReTweed is exactly the kind of self-starting initiative that we need in our part of the world.
“Sparking creativity can have a major role to play in reviving places that have struggled with the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the Borders is no exception.
“This project is a reminder that our traditional textile skills base is a remarkable asset, and it’s really encouraging to see those traditions being developed in new ways.”
“Above all, Re-Tweed shows that with the right ingredients, people will take the initiative, and a whole range of benefits will spiral off from that.”