Category Archives: consumption issues

Textile Beat leads change

Few people sew their own clothes these days because factory-made options are cheap and plentiful, yet this trend creates a clothing surplus that requires creative solutions to keep it out of landfill.

Textile Beat is celebrating four years of upcycling and helping influence a more sustainable clothing culture based on using natural fibres and applying traditional skills in innovative ways.

Jane Milburn of Textile Beat

Sustainability consultant Jane Milburn of Textile Beat

Textile Beat founder Jane Milburn said the Slow Clothing Manifesto identifies 10 actions we can take to thrive in a material world: think, natural, quality, local, care, few, make, adapt, revive and salvage.

“Clothes do for us on the outside what food does inside – nourish and warm our body and soul. Fast and processed industrial food has had a dramatic impact on health in recent years and similarly the shift to industrial clothing has social and environmental impacts we are only now learning,” Jane said.

“It is troubling that synthetic fibres made from petroleum now dominate the clothing market at a time when research shows these plastic clothes are shedding millions of microplastic particles into the ecosystem with every wash.”

Being more hands-on and engaged with our clothing by making and upcycling involves experimentation and play-based sewing that can be implemented on kitchen-tables at home, in creative workshops, and in design studios such as those of fashion artists Victor & Rolf.

“I started this work after being selected for the Australian Rural Leadership Program in 2009, and reflecting on the impacts of the transformational shift in the way we now buy, use and discard clothing. The global average consumption has doubled in the past two decades from 7kg per person up to 13kg – while the Australia average is twice that at 27kg per person.”

Jane created Textile Beat in 2013 based on social-enterprise principles as part of a journey into creativity, empowerment, sustainability, ecological health and wellbeing – woven with threads of childhood, education, professional expertise, networks and nature.

Textile Beat is now a national platform to discuss ethical issues around contemporary clothing culture which include: escalating consumption; changing fibres; waste and pollution; modern-day slavery; and a loss of understanding and knowledge about how clothes are made.

“The incredible waste of textiles is seeing 6000kg of clothing and textiles going to landfill every 10 minutes in Australia – this visual image forms part of an upcoming ABC TV series War on Waste hosted by Craig Reucassel (from The Checkout and The Chaser). We have to change our ways, and upcycling is one way we can do that.”

Engage in slow clothing

There is a huge excess of clothing in society 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 up to 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.

jane-milburn-in-brisbane

“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.

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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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Aussies send 85% of textiles to landfill

Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year and then discard 23 kilograms into landfill – and two-thirds of those discards are manmade fibres that take decades to rot.

Sustainability consultant Jane 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. These figures are sourced from north American magazine Textile World.

Textile World graphic of per capita consumption

“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 purchasing of excessive new clothing, often discarded after a few wears,” Ms Milburn said.

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Eclectic sustainable style – Kate Fletcher

Kate Fletcher from Tasmania has been involved with making and recycling clothing as long as she can remember. For the past 10 years she has organised a sustainable clothing show at the Local Sustainable Living event in Hobart, motivated by growing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the global clothing industry.

Tasmania's Kate Fletcher wears her story-filled garment hand-stitched as part of The Slow Clothing Project

Tasmania’s Kate Fletcher wears her story-filled garment hand-stitched for The Slow Clothing Project

Kate’s individual style is influenced by people at home and abroad, many of whom she is connected with through the volunteer program Willing Workers on Organic Farms.

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Upcycling activism – Cathy Stuart

Cathy Stuart from Newcastle in New South Wales believes that the act of making something, particularly from reused or old stuff, can create a deep sense of satisfaction, achievement and self-worth for the maker. Resourcefulness and resilience are enhanced. Being able to re-use and re-purpose an object is, in Cathy’s view, a key skill in becoming more environmentally sustainable. It reduces our need to consume new resources as well as makes us responsible for managing our own waste.

Jasmine wears an upcycled couture creation made by her mother Cathy Stuart for The Slow Clothing Project

Jasmine wears an upcycled couture creation made by her mother Cathy Stuart for The Slow Clothing Project

Cathy is increasingly disturbed by the new ‘normal’ in how our society of planned and perceived obsolescence operates, driving totally unsustainable levels of consumption. “We are somehow lulled into believing that this is the only way our economy and therefore society can survive. I worry about the world my teenage daughters are growing up in, where cheap fashion is close to worthless one season after it is bought, and op shops are even now struggling to cope with the deluge of clothing and homewares they receive,” she said.

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Creative eco-fashion – Mariana Kirova

Mariana Kirova is a professional upcycler, an eco-fashion educator and an agent for change. She  transforms rescued clothing into unique timeless pieces through her Perth-based business Eco Fashion Sewing which she established after studying fashion design in Western Australia.

Mariana Kirova creates an eco-fashion statement ensemble for The Slow Clothing Project.

Mariana Kirova wears an eco-fashion statement ensemble she created for The Slow Clothing Project.

Mariana said it is sad to see lots of fashion students graduating in Australia each year yet only a few stay and work in the fashion industry. “If Australian fashion brands have their production at home, this wouldn’t be happening,” she said.

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