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.”