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