I rescue natural fibres. I already have many, yet I bought a $2 wool blanket with holes at an RSPCA op shop recently. It has no label, just remnants of blanket-stitched edges. I know it is wool by the feel of the fibres which glow in the sunlight after I wash it. I admire the texture and beauty of the old woven threads. There is life there. I will upcycle this ‘dog blanket’ into a garment with a story to tell about how it came to be.
All my clothes are handmade or secondhand and they feel good on many levels. My clothes are imprinted with individual spirit, my kansei. I refashion existing garments to suit my body shape, or completely transform discarded resources into something of my own making. I buy almost nothing new, except underwear and shoes.
Even though I have bought secondhand on and off forever, I did not talk about it. There was a stigma of poverty, of less than, in secondhand although vintage was OK if slightly quirky.
That was before I stepped up, before I did leadership study and learned about self-actualisation, before I upcycled my career as a rural advocate and communications manager to found a start-up called Textile Beat in 2013. Now I champion slow clothing, raise awareness of textile waste and the potential for upcycling old natural fibres into new.
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Textiles are the biggest product segment at Reverse Garbage Queensland, prompting the launch of Worn OUT as an exhibition to celebrate refashion and creative upcycling.
At the RGQ warehouse in Woolloongabba on October 28, Worn OUT showcased 35 refashioned garments made by a dozen creatives from around Australia.
Co-curators Jane Milburn, left, and Elizabeth Kingston, right with a Karen Benjamin plastic dress.
Coordinator Bill Ennals said textiles had easily become RGQ’s fastest-growing segment in the past few years with local businesses diverting excess stock to the warehouse for resale rather than sending it to landfill. Continue Reading →
Brisbane is the first city in the world to host a pop-up secondhand fashion festival as a waste minimization strategy, to the best of my knowledge. I (Jane Milburn) checked with New York refashion academic Sass Brown and Sass knows of no other. Do tell if you know of another.
Stiltwalkers showcase refashion at the 2016 Revive event in the heart of Brisbane. Photo by Brisbane City Council
Revive is in its second year and pops up again on 18 August 2017 at South Bank Forecourt from noon to 9pm. Hats off to Brisbane City Council, Cr Peter Matic and Cr David McLachlan for leadership. With textiles being one of the fastest growing domestic waste streams, fuelled by fast-fashion turnover, I am proud to have been in the room at its conception. Thank you to Cr Matic for acknowledging my contribution.
The advent of Revive followed a 2015 opportunity I had to address a council meeting on a matter of public importance. Here’s the link to my 2015 address (including Hansard pdf) when I spoke of the need to develop a more sustainable clothing culture. Revive is a huge step in this direction. Continue Reading →
You know the eco tagline is truly authentic when upcycled garments are included on the runway, as they will be at Eco Fashion Week Australia on November 23-27.
Sceptics might think eco fashion is a branding exercise, another way to sell you things you don’t really need, because fashion is by definition the latest fad or trend – ever-changing and therefore by implication unsustainable.
Eco is short for ecology, ecosystem or environment – so upcycling garments that already exist (another 100 billion* new garments are added to the supply chain each year) lends credibility to this inaugural eco fashion event in Fremantle.
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By Jane Milburn Textile Beat founder and sustainability consultant
Textile Beat founder Jane Milburn clothed in wool garments given a second life using eco-dye. Photo by Ele Cook
My campaign on clothing waste has been a lifetime in the making. It began as a child learning hand-making skills and continued as a student upcycling big old dresses and thrifted finds.
I made many of my clothes for decades then rediscovered op shops in 2011 after a Fashion for Flood fundraiser. I began visiting op shops and particularly seeking out natural-fibre garments – wool jumpers with a hole, linen shirts with a missing button. The waste of resources troubled me because I grew up on a farm and have an agricultural science degree. What was happening to our clothing culture I wondered?
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Mended garments carry a story of care. They reflect the triumph of imperfection over pretension while the act of mending itself brings transformation in both mender and mended.
By embracing repair as a valid and useful act we, the menders, are stitching new life-energy into something others step over in the scrabble onwards and upwards. To pause, apply creative problem-solving and add a mark of care to our clothes, we extend their life and bring meaning to our own.
The clothes we wear are a statement of values. We may go through stages of searching for newer, sharper images and think clothes, like makeup and leopard spots, can camouflage and attract the right sort of attention. Alas, the pipe dream. Continue Reading →
Below is original script from Jane Milburn’s TEDxQUT talk on April 8, 2017.
This suitcase weighs 23kgs – it’s overweight if you’re flying. And it represents the amount of leather and textiles that each Australian sends to landfill every year.
Every one of us … every year.
We know about food waste and that a third of food is never eaten – clothing waste runs parallel to that.
Every day we eat and dress to survive and thrive.
Our clothes do for us on the outside what food does inside. They warm and protect our body – and influence the way we feel. Continue Reading →
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
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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 →
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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