Engage in slow clothing

We have reached peak clothing due to the transformational shift in the way we buy, use and dispose of our garments these days, which is leaving us less engaged and wasteful.

We are buying four times more clothes than we did two decades ago, exploiting people and resources as well as creating environmental problems because of the trend towards synthetic clothes derived from petroleum.

We need to think more about whether we need new clothing, then choose to buy quality, natural, local and just a few.

Alternatively, we can get creative and learn to care, repair, adapt and revive existing clothing.

The Slow Clothing Manifesto is a summary of ways to thrive in a material world. Be more conscious about our clothing, in the same way we have become conscious of our food.

Slow clothing manifesto

More clothing, fewer skills

Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms worth of new clothing and textiles each year, two-thirds of which are made from manmade fibres derived from petroleum according to sustainability consultant Jane Milburn.

Ms Milburn said Australians are the second-largest consumers* of new textiles after north Americans who annually buy 37kg each, and ahead of Western Europeans at 22kg while consumption in Africa, the Middle East and India averages just 5 kg per person.


“There’s been a transformational shift in the way we source, use and discard our clothing which has major social and environmental implications. Fast fashion produced from global supply chains is driving excessive purchasing of affordable new clothing often discarded after a few wears,” she said.

Ms Milburn will be in Melbourne this week to present an upcycling workshop (January 12) and keynote address (January 13) Valuing old skills in a new world at the Home Economics Institute of Australia conference at Rydges Melbourne.

“Outsourcing clothing requirements has led to a loss of knowledge and skills associated with making clothes, and fostered disregard for the time and resources involved,” Ms Milburn said.

“In the same way we have become aware of what we eat and want to know more about cooking and growing food, we are becoming more conscious about what we wear. If we know the basics about how clothes are made, we value them and can make running repairs to extend their lifespan.”

Ms Milburn runs Textile Beat which has developed a Slow Clothing Manifesto to inspire change in the way we engage with clothing for the good of ourselves, society and the planet. The manifesto is based on 10 actions: think, natural, quality, local, care, few, make, adapt, revive and salvage.

Textile Beat’s aim to conserve natural resources, foster ethical consumption and empower individuals to be aware of clothing impacts – for example, research has shown manmade fibres which constitute two-thirds of clothing shed microplastic particles into the ecosystem with every wash.

Local council waste departments report about 4% of the household waste is textiles and most people donate unwanted clothing for charitable recycling.

In turn, charities say about 15% of donations are on-sold through op shops, 15% percent become industrial rags, 15-25% go to landfill and about 50% are exported into the second-hand clothing trade to UAE, Pakistan and Malaysia.

For more information, contact Jane Milburn on 0408 787 964

See conference details here  and * view consumption graphs here

Lifestyles of simplicity – Dr Nicola Smith

During 2016, The Slow Clothing Project published 40 stories of people who make items of clothing for themselves to wear. It is fabulous to be able to conclude with a story from someone who has both personal and academic insights into our desire to make and create.

After five years of research into creativity and DIY, and many years of ‘hands on’ engagement with design-build projects, Dr Nicola Dawn Smith from Yallingup in Western Australia said her experience indicates the enormous personal and environmental value in becoming a bricoleur.

Dr Nicola Smith wears a comfortable and buttonless top made in her own style for The Slow Clothing Project.

Dr Nicola Smith wears her comforable and buttonless top made in her style for The Slow Clothing Project.

“A bricoleur (as interpreted in my study) is someone who uses whatever is to hand (not buying more tools/materials) with whatever skills they have (and can learn); someone who becomes immersed in the moment, the practice, the doing,” Nicola said.

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Making for meaning – Jennifer Bain

Jennifer Bain has been sewing most of her life. Her mother taught Jenny to sew and her Dad taught her to knit. And her commitment to sewing has become more earnest since 1987 when she took to patchwork.

“In 1987, I did a quilt-making course in Hunter Street, Newcastle where I made an Amish-style quilt – Sunlight and Shadows – and since then I have made more than 100 quilts. After discovering the Modern Quilt Movement, I have focused on challenging myself by sewing in meaningful ways,” Jenny said.

Jennifer Bain shows how she brings meaning to quilts and garments as part of The Slow Clothing Project

Jennifer Bain shows how she brings meaning to quilts and garments as part of The Slow Clothing Project

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Handing on skills – Michelle McRae

Michelle McRae from Orange in New South Wales believes handmade skills – such as sewing, knitting/crocheting, gardening, cooking – are important for many reasons. They provide an outlet for creativity and sense of accomplishment. In turn this improves self-worth, independence and resilience. They also provide a connection to others, family and community, as skills can be taught and shared. In addition handmade skills provide for a sustainable community, both financially and emotionally.

With help from mum Michelle, Grace McRae created her own overalls as part of The Slow Clothing Project

With help from mum Michelle, Grace McRae created her own overalls as part of The Slow Clothing Project

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Coining a garment – Vivienne Poon

Knowing the story behind the garment is a certainty when you’ve made it yourself, and when you’ve been creative and resourceful in the making then you are wearing something totally unique. Such was the case when a friend gave Vivienne Poon some 1936 Fiji pennies and she set about developing a design to incorporated them – in a bodice featuring two-coin tassels which chink when she walks, and a hemline with one-coin tassels that are not too weighty.

Vivienne Poon wears the garment she created for The Slow Clothing Project.

Vivienne Poon wears the garment she created for The Slow Clothing Project.

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The numbers on textile waste

20161124_sydney_textilerecovery-final-webAt the Circular Textiles Workshop in Sydney, Jane Milburn presented on the waste consequences of fast fashion.

Watching the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh unfolding on television in April 2013 opened my eyes to fast fashion, industrial supply chains and modern-day slavery. I’m a member of Fashion Revolution – a global movement in 80 countries working to increase transparency along the clothing supply chain. And I’ve set up Textile Beat as a vehicle to talk about slow clothing.

Journalist Lucy Siegle says 80 billion new garments are produced globally every year and fashion is the second-most polluting industry after oil. Clothing is so cheap it is almost disposable, discarded after only a few wears.

The United Nations reports at least 1/3 of food produced is never eaten – it is likely a similar amount of clothing is wasted too. There are ethical issues – impacting on people, places and the planet.  Continue reading

Coat of many colours – Jenny Jackett

Slow clothing is a grassroots response to fast fashion that considers the ethics and sustainability of garments, values provenance and artisan skills while focusing on timeless style, comfort and connection.

Brisbane-based textile artisan Jenny Jackett is the latest maker to feature as part of The Slow Clothing Project and she knows all about slow making! Jenny spins natural fibres, dyes with natural dyes and hand-weaves her own and purchased yarns on a foot-powered loom to make unique handmade creations – such as this spectacular coat of many colours made from offcuts.

Jenny Jacket wears her coat of many colours handmade for The Slow Clothing Project.

Textile artisan Jenny Jacket wears her coat of many colours handmade as part of The Slow Clothing Project.

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Making special pieces – Jemma Edwards

Having once been a part of the fashion scene, West Australian maker Jemma Edwards is uniquely placed to comment on contemporary clothing culture which she left behind a decade ago due to the influx of poorly made cheap alternatives.

Jemma Edwards created a jacket embellished with bespoke floral prints for The Slow Clothing Project.

Jemma Edwards created a jacket embellished with bespoke floral prints for The Slow Clothing Project.

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Upcycled with love – Deborah Palmer

Deborah Palmer believed the 50th anniversary year of the Battle of Long Tan was an appropriate time to move along the regulation shirt and jacket her father Damien Gainer wore in Vietnam during service to Australia.

Helen Gainer wears the especially meaningful garments upcycled by her daughter Deborah Palmer.

The serviceman’s uniform had been retained unworn through the intervening years and after Mr Gainer passed away two years ago, their only purpose was in holding memories of what had been.

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