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.
Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year and then discard about 23 kilograms* into landfill – and two-thirds of those discards are manmade synthetic/plastic fibres that may never breakdown.
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.
“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.
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 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.
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
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.
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 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.
Most thinking people know of the waste and exploitation involved in globalised fast-fashion consumption that annually generates up to 80 billion garments worldwide, yet few are in a position to step up with an alternative.
Divergent thinker, risk taker and change maker Bert van Son, right, has pioneered an ethical and sustainable model by leasing garments so that his European-based company Mud Jeans retains and recycles the raw materials.
After 30 years in the textile industry, Bert knows the downside inherent in the traditional supply-demand model. In the Netherlands alone, 135 million kilograms of discarded clothing are burned each year, diminishing these resources to ash while fuelling climate-change with more CO2 discharged to the atmosphere. An appalling waste that’s replicated around the world.
In 2010, Bert decided to use his experience, money and networks to fashion a kinder clothing model that values resources and people at the same time as reducing waste and pollution. How good is that? A circular model, like a wheel, with resources going ‘round and ‘round. Beginning with the end in mind.
Jane Milburn wears eco-dyed merino at ABC 702 Sydney
A transformational shift during the past two decades in the way we source, use and discard our clothing has major social and environmental implications caused by increasing volumes, changing fibres and loss of repair skills.
These changes in clothing culture brought Jane Milburn of Textile Beat to Ku-Ring-Gai Council in Sydney on Saturday (June 25) to workshop more sustainable approaches, including reviving garments in your wardrobe. Jane was also interviewed by ABC 702’s Wendy Harmer about slow clothing, audio link below.
“Local councils report that about 4 percent of the household waste is textiles and most people know they can donate unwanted clothing for charitable recycling,” Ms Milburn said.
“Charities says about 15 percent of these donations are on-sold through op shops, 15 percent are ragged, 15 percent go to landfill and 55 percent are exported into the second-hand clothing trade.”
Fast buying of fast fashion equates to a lack of thought, says Barbara Sherlock who believes many people buy for the moment, without really considering whether the style or the colour or the fit of a garment really suits them. That means these clothes are likely to be thrown away after a short wearing time not just because they aren’t the latest trend, but because the wearer knows deep within themselves that the clothing doesn’t really help them look their best.
Barbara Sherlock upcycled a wool skirt into a sleeveless vest for The Slow Clothing Project.
“If people shopped slowly and more carefully, they would buy garments they could use for a longer time. This doesn’t mean we can’t add some garments for ‘flash’ but it does mean less waste in both eco terms and the consumer’s budget,” Barbara says. Continue reading →