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.
Genevieve Manhal made a resolution to buy nothing new this year (except a few items of underwear when necessary) and she’s noticing even more the media stream of fast fashion that is in her face all the time, on television, in magazines and on social media. “No wonder there are so many people struggling with body image issues and the notion of not ‘fitting in’ when this consumerist image is constantly being shown and targeted at every age group,” said Genevieve who lives in the Bass Coast area of south Gippsland in Victoria.
Genevieve Manhal from south Gippsland in Victoria made this versatile pinafore/skirt for The Slow Clothing Project.
Growing up in a household that valued being sustainable and repurposing items, building your own from scratch and thinking environmentally, the idea of fast fashion has always been an issue of concern for Genevieve. “Also studying design at TAFE it was always in your face, what was in ‘trend’, what you needed to look ‘cool’ and I have always felt, even after being out of secondary school for 10 years, that a big factor with peer pressure and fitting in is by wearing ‘correct’ fashion.
After more than a decade of ‘disposable’ fast fashion, there’s growing interest in ethical and sustainable clothing with a good story to tell.
The Slow Clothing Project is about people choosing to make or upcycle their own clothes – read our maker stories here.
The Slow Clothing Project aims to spark a national conversation about clothing use and reuse by creating a digital collection of stories and garments handmade by local makers. The focus is on natural fibres, textile reuse and making our own, where possible. The garments – made between February to November – each tell a different story about mindful and sustainable resource. These stories reflect 10 actions to enable us to thrive in a material world. Continue reading →
People use double the clothing they did two decades ago, with average global apparel fibre consumption* rising from 7 kilograms each in 1992 to 13 kilograms per person in 2013.
This has occurred as part of a transformational shift in the way we source clothing and the substance from which those clothes are made. Most clothing is now produced in factories for global supply chains and two-thirds of it is made using synthetic fibres derived from petroleum, according to Jane Milburn of Textile Beat.
Did you know that synthetic fibres derived from petroleum now dominate the clothing market at a time when research finds these plastic clothes each shed 1900 microplastic particles into the ecosystem with every wash?
The trend towards cheaper synthetic materials accelerated during the past two decades with biodegradable natural fibres making up half of global fibre apparel consumption in 1992 then declining to about one-third by 2013.
A troubling consequence of the rise of synthetics is 2011 shoreline research at 18 sites across the planet led by ecologist Dr Mark Browne which found the majority of accumulated plastic pollution was microplastic fibres that matched the materials found in synthetic clothing.
Clothing consumption figures collated from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Fibre Report (see graph below) show in 1992 natural fibre consumption of 22 million tonnes from a global apparel fibre total of 39 million tonnes – compared with 2013 and 32 million tonnes of natural fibres from the global total consumption of 92 million tonnes. These figures reflect in increasingly bulging wardrobes, with average individual consumption rising from 7kg/person in 1992 compared with 13kg/person in 2013.
Dressing is an everyday action that defines us. Clothes envelop our body to provide protection and privacy. They do for us on the outside what food does on the inside—nourish, warm, engage body and soul. Preferred garments vary with our age, stage, work and wallet—they impact how we feel and how we present to the world.
Clothing changes over time as new designs, techniques and materials become available. We expect a modicum of change in the product itself: that is fashion. Yet in recent decades, the transformational shift in the process of sourcing and shedding clothing has brought changes to substance as well as style.
Most clothing is now made in factories in developing nations where supply chain transparency is limited and workers can be exploited. Fast, cheap food influenced dining in the same way that fast, cheap fashion has changed dressing. As there is rising interest in home cooking and food growing for health and wellbeing, there are pressing ethical and ecological reasons for rethinking our approach to textiles and fashion. It is time to look more closely at where our clothes are coming from, question why they are so cheap, and consider what actions we can take to dress with good conscience. Read more in the Journal of the Home Economics Institute of Australia Journal Vol. 22, No. 1, 2015 Milburn, Jane FINAL Making a material difference
At Textile Beat, we love natural, simple, handmade things that don’t cost the Earth. We are endlessly refining the message about mindful, thoughtful ways of dressing that align with our values of authenticity and individuality. In the same way we endlessly upcycle our clothes, here’s the latest version of our slow clothing manifesto!
Textile Beat founder Jane Milburn was invited to present a WOW Bite session at the recent Women of the World Festival in Brisbane. Below is an extract from her speech.
Today you are either wearing natural-fibre clothes – or more likely plastic clothes derived from petroleum or coal. Only 1/3 of new clothing is natural and 2/3 is synthetic, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation figures. It’s changed from half and half two decades ago. I’m wearing natural fibres that I’ve refashioned – turning a $4 wool blanket from the opshop into a poncho. This is my style of slow fashion – there are many other ways.
Every day we eat and we dress. We are now more conscious of our food – it is time to be more conscious of our clothing.
Jane Milburn was immersed in slow fashion for 365 days during 2014 with a personal undertaking to upcycle existing natural fibre garments for the Sew it Again project. It proved to be a lesson in contemporary dress culture, making Jane more aware of how little we know about the back story of garments that wrap our bodies 24/7.
This awakening informs a reshaped future for Textile Beat. What began as a simple textile upcycling initiative now evolves into a more holistic approach to dressing. Jane dreams of making every garment story a good one – good for the wearer, society and planet.
There are many ways for individuals to dress with conscience. It begins with knowing more than what is visible from the outside. The art of dressing well is embodied in the character of what you wear, not just the look. Your options for mindful dressing might encompass the following characteristics: local, quality, pre-loved, handmade, good and fair, repair and care, zero textile waste, know your style, natural fibres, sentimental, upcycled or classic. Dress well to live well.