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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Australians buy an average of 27 kilograms of new textiles each year and then discard about 23 kilograms* into landfill – and two-thirds of those discards are manmade synthetic/plastic fibres that may never breakdown.
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.
Jane Milburn wears eco-dyed merino at ABC 702 Sydney
A transformational shift during the past two decades in the way we source, use and discard our clothing has major social and environmental implications caused by increasing volumes, changing fibres and loss of repair skills.
These changes in clothing culture brought Jane Milburn of Textile Beat to Ku-Ring-Gai Council in Sydney on Saturday (June 25) to workshop more sustainable approaches, including reviving garments in your wardrobe. Jane was also interviewed by ABC 702’s Wendy Harmer about slow clothing, audio link below.
“Local councils report that about 4 percent of the household waste is textiles and most people know they can donate unwanted clothing for charitable recycling,” Ms Milburn said.
“Charities says about 15 percent of these donations are on-sold through op shops, 15 percent are ragged, 15 percent go to landfill and 55 percent are exported into the second-hand clothing trade.”