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.

Vivienne enjoys making new from old, the challenge of using remnants and found bits of materials, and the opportunity to create and recreate in limitless ways. She claims to be a real dunce at sewing when she began learning during school days. “I did not understand that paper patterns were produced in halves and that ‘cut two’ was conceptually a left and a right side!,” Vivienne said.

“Years later, textiles was a compulsory learning area in my undergraduate Art course and I enjoyed learning about tailoring and technical aspects, embroidery and creating items. Furthermore as a teacher in schools, I always insisted on teaching in both Textiles and Art as they were so complementary.”

“Both my grandmothers sewed, and I still have the family treadle machine. My mother, who lived through WW II on ration cards, taught me to unpick hand-knitted garments to reknit, and salvage all dress fabrics which were made into polishing cloths and floor cloths. I still have Mum’s 1940s skirts, which, when not usable any more, Mum converted into utility bags by securing at the hem.

“I have always been interested in following the Australian fashion/designer scene and love to frequent designers’ workshops sales to purchase the most interesting remnants at the cheapest prices. After sewing for two sons, which was fun but limited, I had unlimited years of sewing for my twin daughters. This was so exciting, creating ‘same but different’ clothing in mix and match colours, from casual to ‘good’ clothes, plus creating a huge wardrobe of dress-up clothing for them from pre-school age to adulthood.

Vivienne became involved in The Slow Clothing Project as a way to influence positive change. She believes that “making” will be the new “doing”.

“I want to spark or reignite interest amongst family and friends to re-create beauty and personal items especially from old fabrics and to encourage others to be creators. Last year I was a finalist in a design competition in New Zealand. It was all about reviving and recycling from old materials to create a contemporary garment. The concept of using old materials and remaking them into a new garment was conceptually the same as The Slow Clothing project, but a little more complicated as it had a design brief attached. I found this a challenging concept and enjoyed the experience,” she said.

“About 30 per cent of my wardrobe is manufactured, bought mainly from manufacturer’s workshop sales. The remainder is from op shops (a passionate pastime), or hand made. I rarely buy from mainstream stores & in the search for interesting fabrics I mainly source remnants from manufacturers’ workshop sales.

“My latest trend is to create an entire outfit after purchasing one element (at discounted prices of course), and use this piece as a starting point for my own story. This provides me with a good springboard for ideas, and allows me scope to divert and create.


“The process to make this garment for The Slow Clothing Project Process was slow! I researched designers and played with design lines and colours in search for inspiration. Then some structure appeared when a friend (who was born and had grown up in Fiji) gave me her collection of treasured Fijian coins. So there were now two bits of history to fit into this project … my friend’s coins and selected yardage from my Apore’s stash (Apore is the Cantonese title for maternal grandmother). This recycling project would provide an interface into the history of two family’s heritage and an incorporation of two cultures. I was fortunate to find a vintage hat (originally made by the mother of an artist colleague), which transforms the outfit from ordinary to extra-ordinary!”

“Research was required to work out how to incorporate the coins from a designer’s viewpoint and the method of attaching the coins. In my research, I found that coins needed to dangle from their own string; an insertion into a seam was the obvious place. But I didn’t want coins dangling at a hem edge or looking like a Bollywood outfit. I adapted a contemporary pattern, instead of purchasing a new pattern – which is all part of the slow clothing ideal.


“The polished cotton fabric I used was originally bought from Buckley & Nunn (a then department store in Melbourne), chosen for its versatility and neutral colour scheme to provide as backdrop for the silver-coloured coins. Craft wire and acrylic yarn that I had been using for knitted and crocheted body pieces and small sculptures were selected as the medium to attach coin to tunic. Making samples and experimenting with technical crochet aspects were now necessary to find the best practice for coins to neatly dangle. Constructing the garment with coins attached was a trial. Coins are not lightweight tassels … .they’re noisy, clumsy and weighty, and drag the fabric this way and that.”

Vivienne said that within her lifetime, fast fashion has deteriorated in quality. “Garments are not necessarily well made despite advances in the versatility of the sewing machine, overlocker etc. The consumer today is not necessarily a selective consumer. The amount of clothing sent to op shops, so much so that op shops find it difficult to move such stock, reflects the supply, demand and cheap cost of today’s clothing. As teenagers, we all wanted quantity rather than quality; that’s the nature of being young with a stock size figure. My mother sewed for me; I wasn’t allowed to buy. And when I was not happy to continue wearing mum’s Enid Gilchrist drafted patterns, I began to make my own gear. Youngsters by and large do not sew for themselves and would purchase. “

For those who missed out learning to sew when they were growing up, what is Vivienne’s advice? “Practise whatever has been learned, Do not just make one item, make more and repeat the learning so that the learning becomes second nature. But whatever you choose to learn/make, you must like it and want to do more.”

Love everything about this Vivienne – thanks for your fabulous contribution :)

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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Making feels good – Julie Livingstone

Although it may not be practical for everybody to go back to making everything for themselves and being completely self-sufficient, Western Australian Julie Livingstone believes it is good for our mental wellbeing to be able to create something.

Julie Livingstone wears a vest she recreated from op-shop-found denim for The Slow Clothing Project.

Julie Livingstone wears a vest she recreated from op-shop-found denim for The Slow Clothing Project.

This is part of what’s described (in Womankind Magazine #9) as ‘living directly’ or facing the world in its raw form, rather than through mediated experiences. Examples of living directly are cooking, sewing, chatting to others in person or patting the cat – whereas mediated living is experiences where someone else (film director, advertising executive or social media tools) is shaping the reality for you.  Continue reading

Upcycling makes unique – Bron Berkin

Bron Berkin’s wardrobe is 100 percent restyled, secondhand clothing, upcycled, and vintage pieces. Her love of vintage fashion, stunning fabrics and workmanship of a bygone era – and her attraction to the unique – led Bron into upcycling and recycling preloved clothes as her work evolved from loving and selling original vintage to hand-making individual pieces using vintage fabrics and material that was retro quirky and different.

Bron Berkin wears her upcycled Wolf Tee Dress for The Slow Clothing Project

Bron Berkin wears her upcycled Wolf Tee Dress for The Slow Clothing Project

She now runs a small business designing, sewing and upcycling at Yeppoon in central Queensland. ‘It has been amazing to see people embracing what I was doing and enjoying the ‘one-off’ pieces!”

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A panel beater – Eliza Kelly

Slow clothing is a different way of dressing and thinking about clothing than the way most of the world sees it, says New South Wales teenager Eliza Kelly. “It is exciting to think that I can dress in a way that uses old, or out-of-fashion clothing to make something new. I love the way that I can create something original, unique and different. Isn’t it awesome when someone says ‘what a nice …… where did you get it?’ and I can say that I made it! It makes me warm on the inside when I know that I have recycled something and given it another life,” Eliza said.

Eliza Kelly from Parkes NSW wears her upcycled denim skirt for The Slow Clothing Project

Eliza Kelly from Parkes NSW wears her upcycled denim skirt for The Slow Clothing Project

“The attitude of the world today seems to be that ‘new is better’, and ‘more, more, more’, but I think that there is so much beauty, uniqueness and stories to be told about recycled and re-modelling clothing. There is so much to be gained by recycling and re-using the materials that we have been given, and changing things with older fit, style or fashion to be useable today and tomorrow,” she said.

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Stitch then bundle – Wendi Trulson

No one is too old or young to learn a new skill. That’s why south-east Queensland textile artist Wendi Trulson believes everyone can learn to create their own garments by just giving it a go.

Wendi Trulson wears her eco-dye upcycled wool and cashmere swing top for The Slow Clothing Project

Wendi Trulson wears her eco-dye upcycled wool and cashmere swing top for The Slow Clothing Project

Wendi’s passion is bundle (eco print) dyeing because of its sustainable and earth-friendly.  It makes one think not only of the material waste but the chemical destruction that poisons the waterways of the world.

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Hand mind creativity – Sarah Lundgren

Sarah Lundgren believes creativity is important for wellbeing and good health – and is stimulated by the work of the hands and mind.


Sarah-Lundgren-wears-her-eco-dyed wool-garment-for-The-Slow-Clothing-Project

She learned the basics of sewing from primary and secondary school, having textile as a subject. Sarah’s grateful now that when growing up, her parents empowered her to mend and hem her own clothes. Reusing and recycling clothes was part of her upbringing, yet in recent years she has become more interested in learning how to make outfits and therefore her sewing skills have improved over time.
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