Slow food and slow clothing TEDxQUT

TEDxQUT talkBelow 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. 

We make choices every day:  Fast – or slow.  More – or less.

Over centuries we’ve progressed from hunter-gathering to now sourcing food and clothing from industrial supply chains.

Fast food and fast fashion might be cheap and easy – but it’s not good for us, or the ecosystem in which we all live.

Slow Food began in 1986 in Italy as a response to fast food.

Today we’re back in gardens and kitchens, preparing meals from scratch, because we’ve realised processed food is unhealthy and unsatisfying.

It’s time to think about clothing in the same way.

Slow Clothing has emerged as a response to cheap fast fashion because what we wear affects our health, the health of others and the health of our planet.

The fact is – there’s been a transformational shift in the way we buy, use and discard clothing that has major social and environmental implications.

Accept it or not, dangerous climate change is here.

People are experiencing it locally and globally.

We need to make changes to the way we live. NOW.

Living sustainably, means knowing how to grow and cook – AND – make and mend.

When you think about it – fashion and clothing are two different things.

Fashion* doesn’t last – clothing is timeless.

I wonder what YOU chose to wear today.

Old – or new? Natural or synthetic? Fashion or clothing?

Will you be wearing it next year?

We tend to wear ‘new’ more than ever before.

There are still only 365 days in the year, yet we buy up to four times what we once did.

Apparel fibre consumption has nearly doubled from 7kg per person per year 20 years ago, to 13kgs now. That’s the global average.

In Australia we’re buying 27kg worth of new clothing and textiles each year (that’s twice the global average) – in north America … it’s 37 kilos each.

We’ve been “seduced” by marketing and cheap prices into the habit of wearing clothes a few times before throwing them away.

You may remember the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013.

From the safety of our lounge rooms, we were shocked by that tragedy.

We need to ask more questions about where and how our clothes are made.

And have you thought about WHAT you’re actually wearing?

Two thirds of new clothes are now made from synthetic fibres derived from petroleum – mainly polyester, acrylic and nylon.

Only one-third are natural fibres.

A decade ago it was half synthetic – half natural – now it’s 2/3 and 1/3.

Research shows these ‘plastic’ clothes are shedding microplastic particles into the environment with every wash.

Rivers and oceans are contaminated with microplastic – as well as dyes and other toxic substances that don’t disappear – they enter the food chain and come back in our sushi.

Even in landfill – where many of our cast-offs are buried – synthetic fibres never breakdown.

And yes … natural fibres also have an environmental cost but they biodegrade and there are eco options available that don’t ‘cost the Earth’ to produce.

Waste, pollution, exploitation – that’s where fast fashion has taken us.

Fashion* doesn’t last ……… clothing is timeless

You have choices.

The Slow Clothing Manifesto offers 10 ways to survive and thrive in a material world – and become more conscious of what you’re wearing.

5 ways – are about switching on

The other 5 get you more hands-on, when you can make time.

The first 5 are ‘easy’ solutions you might already be doing.

Think before you buy anything – Do you need it? How often will you wear it? Is it a responsible purchase?

Quality – Buy the best you can afford – buy things you love 100% and wear them for a lifetime.

Natural – Treasure fibres from nature like wool, linen, sustainable cotton, silk, bamboo, wood

Buy Local – Support designers and makers who show you they are ethical and sustainable.

Have Few – Choose a signature style, live with less, simplify your choices.

The next five ways to survive and thrive in a material world get you more engaged

Care – Get more life out of what you already own. Sort and repair. Sponge spills immediately. Wash less. Wash in cold water. Hang on the line to dry.

Make and mend – Anyone can buy clothes, yet few know the satisfaction of making something for themselves to wear. Start simple, learn how to sew on a button and do some stitching.

Revive – embrace secondhand as a winning strategy – swap with friends, search for treasure in op shops, markets, vintage stores … or, the back of your own wardrobe.

Make every effort to Salvage – turn worn-out clothing into cleaning rags, or put natural-fibres into your compost. Pass on what you aren’t wearing to charities – being mindful that about half of all donations go into the global second-hand trade (which has good and bad impacts), only about 15% are resold in local opshops  while the rest become industrial rags –  or landfill a place of last resort.

The most creative and playful way to survive and thrive in a material world is to:

Adapt existing clothing to suit yourself – upcycle garments already in circulation to create something new from old.

YOUR TEDxQUT shirts were created this way – sourced from op shops then overprinted.

So when you THINK you need something new to wear, look around and see what you can restyle, restitch or recreate.

Today I’m wearing:

  • An upcycled TEDxQUT shirt, thank you
  • A necklace – from a cotton singlet
  • denim pinny – from jeans and a jacket which is a celebration of imperfection.

Change takes time.

Don’t feel pressured to adopt all these actions into your busy lifestyle straight away.

Start easy – buy well, have few, and feel a conscious connection to those clothes.

Slow clothing is a philosophy.

It’s about owning YOUR style and ensuring it doesn’t cost the Earth.

Be bold, have fun – learn to survive, and thrive, in a material world.

Fashion* used in the context of fashion being ever-changing ie “latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour”

Special thanks to Karyn Gonano and Ann Burbrook for speech prep and TEDxQUT for the opportunity.