Category Archives: slow clothing

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.”

Slow clothing philosophy

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Using observation and instinct, Jane Milburn and Textile Beat join the dots and explore a science-based narrative about clothing.

Clothes do for us on the outside what food does on the inside – they nourish and warm our body and soul. In the same way that conscious eaters are sourcing fresh whole food and returning to the kitchen, conscious dressers are seeking to know more about the provenance and ethics of clothing and curious about how it is made. Every day we eat and we dress to survive and thrive, and it is not just the style that matters, substance does too.

War on Waste interview with Craig Reucassel web

War on Waste with Craig Reucassel, coming to ABC TV in 2017

Fast and processed industrial food has had a dramatic impact on our health in recent years and similarly there has been transformational shift to industrial factory-made clothing, the social and environmental impacts of which we are only now coming to understand.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that at least one-third of food produced is never eaten and creative solutions are emerging to divert and reduce that waste. In the same way, there is growing evidence a third of clothing is wasted, with much potential to upcycle and redeploy it. My purposeful work is bringing awareness to these and other material issues.

More than 90 percent of garments sold in Australia are now made overseas, mostly in Asian factories. Most people buy off-the-rack or online, with very few making anything for themselves to wear. As a natural-fibre champion, I am troubled 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.

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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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Lifestyles of simplicity – Dr Nicola Smith

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 a comfortable and buttonless top made in her own style for The Slow Clothing Project.

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.

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Making for meaning – Jennifer Bain

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

Jennifer Bain shows how she brings meaning to quilts and garments as part of The Slow Clothing Project

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Handing on skills – Michelle McRae

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

With help from mum Michelle, Grace McRae created her own overalls as part of The Slow Clothing Project

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Coining a garment – Vivienne Poon

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.

Vivienne Poon wears the garment she created for The Slow Clothing Project.

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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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