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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Brisbane-based textile enthusiast Denise Traynor believes that how we choose to spend our money ultimately has an impact on how things are made. “If consumers reject exploitative, wasteful production techniques, over packaging and excessive transport models by insisting on locally produced, fair-traded goods, we can lower our carbon footprint and reduce the demand for unfair wages and slavery used to produce them,” Denise said.
Denise also believes that reusing and remaking otherwise obsolete items helps to counteract the wasteful, mass production, mass consumption model that is causing so much environmental and social harm in the world. “I believe our disposable society has contributed to this harm. Plastic fibres, wearing clothes for one or two seasons, produced in third world countries with poor employment and environmental protection records, has made mountains of waste and other pollution.”
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 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.
Nina van Hartskamp loves hand-made things and discovering natural treasures. “When you wear a piece you made yourself (or was made by a friend) it has a story. And I have a big love for natural fibres, which are expensive when you buy them new. Luckily there are op shops! I can spent ages in second-hand stores. It’s such a kick to find hidden treasures,” she said.
When Nina was a little girl growing up in the Netherlands, her grandma used to make her dresses and she loved choosing the fabrics and looking through pattern magazines.