Dressing for health and wellbeing

We can leave home without eating occasionally but never without dressing!

Dressing is integral to life but what we wear is so often discussed in a fashion context of colour, shape and style. The broader view considers health and wellbeing aspects that respond to fashion waste, pollution, and exploitation issues.

Australian social entrepreneur Jane Milburn, founder of Textile Beat, has spent five years studying the need to transform a culture of fashion excess to a more thoughtful and engaged approach.

Jane’s new book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear was launched in Canberra at the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation by economist Richard Dennis who, in his own book (Curing Affluenza) proposes buying less stuff as a way to save the world.

Jane Milburn at Frank Fenner Foundation event and Canberra book launch with Richard Denniss

Slow Clothing was also the subject of a Fenner Foundation talk at ANU’s Acton campus where the focus was on ways of dressing with planetary health and wellbeing in mind.

Slow Clothing presents a compelling case for wearers to change the way we dress to live lightly on Earth as a response to waste and pollution that sees 6000kg of textiles going to landfill every 10 minutes in Australia.

‘With Slow Clothing, we reflect our own style and spirit, independent of fashion cycles. We buy carefully, gain skills, and care for what we wear as an embodiment of ourselves. Through this action we, the wearers, become original, authentic and resourceful,’ Jane said.

‘Australians consume double the global average and are the world’s second-largest consumers after north Americans, based on annual apparel fibre estimates.

‘And two-thirds of new clothing is now made from synthetic (ie plastic) fibres, derived from petroleum, which research has shown to be shedding microplastic particles into the ecosystem.’

Rethinking clothing culture is also essential to turning the tide on the exploitation of garment workers caught within global supply-chain empires that foster fast-consumption attitudes.

‘We eat and dress every day to survive and thrive, and in the same way we have become conscious of food and its impact on health and wellbeing, we are becoming conscious of the substance and origins of what we wear,’ Jane said.

‘Slow Clothing is based on individuals gaining autonomy and agency through 10 conscious beliefs and actions—think, natural, quality, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt and salvage. It is part of the revaluation of material things through minimalism, mending and tinkering.

You can purchase a copy of Slow Clothing in Australia here, or overseas via Book Depository here

On the Textile Beat

Textile Beat is a leadership initiative that responds to ecological and social issues associated with contemporary clothing culture in developed nations. Our regular enews On the Textile Beat includes a range of news and views, including details about our advocacy work, talks and workshops. If you are interested in slow clothing, natural fibres, dressing with conscience and reducing textile waste, then you might like to sign up to our newsletter, on the right hand side of this webpage. Meanwhile, here’s the link to our latest enews, which includes photos from the Sydney and Brisbane launches of Jane Milburn’s new book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear

Living lightly in everyday practice

Clothes do not fall from the sky and meals do not gush out of the earth. Our food and clothing must come from our own labour: Master Zi Bai, Ming Dynasty.

This 14th century philosophy is far removed from the 21st century when many people order a look or a meal with the click of a finger on a phone. Global supply chains have become so efficient at meeting our food and clothing needs for a handful of dollars that we’ve lost touch with their source.

Fast food and fast fashion is convenient but ultimately unsatisfying. We’re concerned about the ethics and waste. There is growing hunger for something more substantial, something real, something crafted with our own hands and effort.

Jane Milburn at Lantau Blue studio and wearing handmade in Hong Kong

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Slow Clothing book launches

Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear presents a compelling case for wearers to change the way we dress and encapsulates a philosophy that is the antithesis of fast fashion.

Based on Jane Milburn’s five-year journey into natural fibres and upcycling, the book was launched recently in Sydney by ABC-TV’s War on Waste crusader Craig Reucassel and in Brisbane by ABC broadcaster Rebecca Levingston.

ABC-TV’s War on Waste crusader Craig Reucassel and Jane Milburn at The Happenstore.

Rebecca Levingston with Jane Milburn, photo left, and with Brisbane City Council’s Field Services Chairman Cr Peter Matic, Robyn Sheptooha and Peter Lewis at the Brisbane launch of Slow Clothing.

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Slow Clothing, the book

Slow clothing is following the lead of slow food as a way of responding to waste, pollution, and exploitation issues in the way we dress.

Australian social entrepreneur Jane Milburn, founder of Textile Beat, has spent five years studying the need to transform a culture of excess to a more thoughtful and engaged approach. She believes slow clothing is the antidote to fast fashion.

In her new book, Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear, Jane presents a compelling case for wearers to change the way we dress so that we can live lightly on Earth.

Slow Clothing is being launched in Sydney by ABC-TV’s War on Waste crusader Craig Reucassel who revealed 6000kg of textiles are going to landfill every 10 minutes in Australia.

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Everything old is new again

I rescue natural fibres. I already have many, yet I bought a $2 wool blanket with holes at an RSPCA op shop recently. It has no label, just remnants of blanket-stitched edges. I know it is wool by the feel of the fibres which glow in the sunlight after I wash it. I admire the texture and beauty of the old woven threads. There is life there. I will upcycle this ‘dog blanket’ into a garment with a story to tell about how it came to be.

Jane Milburn with scissors

All my clothes are handmade or secondhand and they feel good on many levels. My clothes are imprinted with individual spirit, my kansei. I refashion existing garments to suit my body shape, or completely transform discarded resources into something of my own making. I buy almost nothing new, except underwear and shoes.

Even though I have bought secondhand on and off forever, I did not talk about it. There was a stigma of poverty, of less than, in secondhand although vintage was OK if slightly quirky.

That was before I stepped up, before I did leadership study and learned about self-actualisation, before I upcycled my career as a rural advocate and communications manager to found a start-up called Textile Beat in 2013. Now I champion slow clothing, raise awareness of textile waste and the potential for upcycling old natural fibres into new.

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Helping divert textiles from landfill

Textiles are the biggest product segment at Reverse Garbage Queensland, prompting the launch of Worn OUT as an exhibition to celebrate refashion and creative upcycling.

At the RGQ warehouse in Woolloongabba on October 28, Worn OUT showcased 35 refashioned garments made by a dozen creatives from around Australia.

Co-curators Jane Milburn, left, and Elizabeth Kingston, right with a Karen Benjamin plastic dress.

Coordinator Bill Ennals said textiles had easily become RGQ’s fastest-growing segment in the past few years with local businesses diverting excess stock to the warehouse for resale rather than sending it to landfill.  Continue Reading →

Revive style for planetary health

Brisbane is the first city in the world to host a pop-up secondhand fashion festival as a waste minimization strategy, to the best of my knowledge. I (Jane Milburn) checked with New York refashion academic Sass Brown and Sass knows of no other.  Do tell if you know of another.

Stiltwalkers showcase refashion at the 2016 Revive event in the heart of Brisbane. Photo by Brisbane City Council

Stiltwalkers showcase refashion at the 2016 Revive event in the heart of Brisbane. Photo by Brisbane City Council

Revive is in its second year and pops up again on 18 August 2017 at South Bank Forecourt from noon to 9pm. Hats off to Brisbane City Council, Cr Peter Matic and Cr David McLachlan for leadership. With textiles being one of the fastest growing domestic waste streams, fuelled by fast-fashion turnover, I am proud to have been in the room at its conception. Thank you to Cr Matic for acknowledging my contribution.

The advent of Revive followed a 2015 opportunity I had to address a council meeting on a matter of public importance.  Here’s the link to my 2015 address (including Hansard pdf) when I spoke of the need to develop a more sustainable clothing culture. Revive is a huge step in this direction.  Continue Reading →

Eco fashion rising in Australia

You know the eco tagline is truly authentic when upcycled garments are included on the runway, as they will be at Eco Fashion Week Australia on November 23-27.

Sceptics might think eco fashion is a branding exercise, another way to sell you things you don’t really need, because fashion is by definition the latest fad or trend – ever-changing and therefore by implication unsustainable.

Eco is short for ecology, ecosystem or environment – so upcycling garments that already exist (another 100 billion* new garments are added to the supply chain each year) lends credibility to this inaugural eco fashion event in Fremantle.

ecofashion photos

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Clothing changes too fast

By Ari Balle-Bowness

ariClothing of today changes faster than the weather. Buying clothes, wearing them once and leaving them in the cupboard is commonplace. This is not an assumption, it is a regular observation.

I am a 19-year-old journalism student at Griffith University sharing a male perspective on contemporary clothing culture and how to combat the fashion monster that has come to dominate our thinking.

My clothing choices are independent as I try to stay away from the fast-fashion options and prefer to develop my own style. My solution is op-shopping and second-hand stores which are increasingly popular among younger generations. For many my age, the vintage revival is booming and op shops are becoming trendy places which also happen to provide a more sustainable way to dress.  Continue Reading →