Tottenham Textiles: the sportswear atelier working with young people

Luis Lopez-Smith started Tottenham Textiles three and a half years ago. They are a small team: Luis, Holly and Megan (who Luis used to teach at Middlesex University) and Jamz their apprentice. They also regularly provide work experience and mentoring opportunities.

Luis says they are a sportswear atelier at their heart. ‘We put the same level of work into our product as high-end makers. Our output is sportswear and streetwear. We do make a lot of clothes but what we’ve been known for is a go-to place for quite reactive projects.’

‘We’re a bit like a sample studio so we’ll do anything from taking garments from drawings or an idea through to a first prototype. We don’t do long runs, so a lot of the time it’s for a one off piece. We do that for garments, branding, printing and other elements. It’s a way of developing products for people rather than mass producing.’

‘The idea is to free up our time by doing commercial work and use it to share our skills and know-how of machinery and process with people who want to learn. We work with Project Future in Northumberland Park and they send us young people on referral who are starting up fashion brands or need branding or design advice.’

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Tottex collection. Photo: Marc Sethi

Our interview took place during the World Cup, when Tottenham Textiles were working on a commission to embellish and customise the tracksuits that the England team wore to fly home. ‘We have the expertise to pull apart 20 tracksuits in an afternoon, print them, embroider them and put them back together. A lot of other places will just slap a logo on something and they haven’t got the deeper clothing knowledge.’

One of Tottenham Textiles’ most widely reported pieces of work to date was Nike’s White Shirt Project. 11 England shirts were given to different individuals and groups to tell their story of ‘Football, fearlessness and overcoming something.’ This included rappers Bugzy Malone and Big Zuu, Football Beyond Borders, Hackney Laces, Hidden Jewels and a group from Alridge Academy (the school that had to relocate due to the Grenfell Tower fire.) ‘We spent six months on negotiation, concept and fine tuning and then about a month in production. We made a zine, a three minute film, 11 shirts, did the creative for the whole project, and designed the whole exhibition that was in Nike Town.’

Tottenham Textiles have worked with artists including Sampha and Skepta (they designed the bags to go with his first shoe) and are in discussions to work with more rappers and musicians in the future. ‘A lot of musicians want to do their own brands. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it.’

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Tottex collection. Photo: Marc Sethi

Luis said, ‘I’ve lived all over: London, Manchester, Wales and I’ve travelled a lot, but Tottenham has always been on my radar ever since my best mate as a kid was obsessed with Spurs. When I moved here and the space came up it all fell into place. I think it’s a really amazing place and it’s been through so much. But the future is bright for Tottenham, there is so much talent and I’m excited to be here and be involved in a postive way.’

Luis explains that Tottenham Textiles value their work in the community as much as their commercial work. ‘Tottenham Textiles is here because there was a need. I met these young, mostly, men who wanted to get off the road, change their situations for the better and have this talent for fashion, styling and design. It’s a bit of a mad thing to say but there are no other facilities that cater to that.’

Luis tells us that apprentice Jamz is doing really well. ‘Jamz didn’t know anything when he came in, he’s been here nearly a year. He’s quite an eloquent young man and he is super thankful for what he’s learnt. He’s got designs and is building his own brand.’

Tottenham Textiles launched their in-house brand at the end of July, Tottex. ‘One of the reasons we started Tottex is that if it’s a success and it grows, we can employ lots of people. We can bring young people, men, girls, boys, everybody, into this brand from Tottenham – something Tottenham can be proud of.’

Instagram: @tottenhamtextiles @tottex

This article first appeared in the Fashion & Beauty issue of Discovering Tottenham which was released in September 2018.

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