Europe’s largest pooler and manufacturer of sustainable wooden pallets to the fresh produce and FMCG markets has come to the aid of a Miss England finalist by fashioning her eco-winning dress out of wood.
Coventry teenager Sian Healy nailed the competition – literally – with her head-turning design commissioned by Pooling Partners, a company that produces in excess of 20 million wooden pallets for the supply chain every year.
The 17-year-old’s showcase dress secured the prize of ‘The Green Goddess’ for the best eco dress in the competition.
In what can only be described as ‘Beauty and the Beech’, the planks of wood were re-purposed from use in the supply chain into a dress and fascinator to help Sian carve out a powerful statement on the catwalk, a factor that also helped her win the best promotional campaign in the regional heat.
Designed and manufactured by former soldiers at the Royal British Legion’s Industries (RBLI), the charity’s manufacturing wing in Aylesford, Kent, the pallet tells the story of the dangers of neglect and being taken for granted in 21st Century Britain.
Sian used the pallet dress and the Miss England platform to inspire teenagers to fight back against the unvarnished reality of cyber bullying after she became a victim herself and lost all of her confidence at the hands of Internet trolls.
She was hammering home the point with the support of family friends and commercial sponsors including Pooling Partners who have provided the raw materials for this dress with a difference.
“Sian has had a terrible time and as a business that actively promotes sustainability and growing our own young talent, we wanted to help her and the charity she is raising money for,” said Shelley Harris, Head of Commercial for Meriden-based Pooling Partners.
“The pallet is one of the most taken for granted items in the world, yet it moves everything around the globe from the food on our tables to the clothes on our backs. Despite its contribution, it is treated really badly – stolen, abandoned and burned on bonfires.
“It was re-purposed for this reason by Freya Brown, an RBLI volunteer, to highlight its versatility and ability to bounce back – very much like victims of bullying should.”
So severe was the level of Sian’s abuse – she was physically assaulted outside a Coventry hotel as part of a coordinated attack organised online – she shut herself away for weeks at a time.
“She was so traumatised that she would not venture out of her room – her father and I were so worried,” said Sian’s mother Claire.
But with her parent’s support, the determined teenager has turned her fortunes around and used her role as a finalist in Miss England to raise awareness and more than £1,000 for Coventry and Warwickshire MIND, the mental health charity which helps youngsters overcome such anxieties.
“She is now becoming a real ambassador for the charity and raising the issue of cyber bullying and its impact by going into schools to talk to teenagers about the risks of Internet trolls,” added Claire.
Sian, who now works as a business administrator for Rugby-based tool hire specialists GAP, said: “I realised that locking myself away was the wrong approach. If you have issues, you should share the problems with your parents or friends. Talking about it and coming off certain social media platforms really helped me to rebuild my life.
“I have organised various functions to raise the awareness of cyber bullying and the dangers of social media including a charity catwalk event with live music and over 200 attendees where I gave an honest and emotional speech about my past, for the first time. I also took a children’s boxing class with questions and answers at the end and ran 5k on Christmas Day to raise awareness.
“I am going to continue making children aware of cyber bullying as well as taking part in lots of charity work to raise vital funds for Coventry & Warwickshire MIND.
“I have always held back from following my dreams and lacked a lot of confidence but I have fought my battles and came out wanting to help children and young people going through the same thing.”