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.”
Fast buying of fast fashion equates to a lack of thought, says Barbara Sherlock who believes many people buy for the moment, without really considering whether the style or the colour or the fit of a garment really suits them. That means these clothes are likely to be thrown away after a short wearing time not just because they aren’t the latest trend, but because the wearer knows deep within themselves that the clothing doesn’t really help them look their best.
Barbara Sherlock upcycled a wool skirt into a sleeveless vest for The Slow Clothing Project.
“If people shopped slowly and more carefully, they would buy garments they could use for a longer time. This doesn’t mean we can’t add some garments for ‘flash’ but it does mean less waste in both eco terms and the consumer’s budget,” Barbara says. Continue Reading →
Cath Jarvis is a busy sonographer and mother of three who with partner Kevin runs a sheep property at Tottenham in central New South Wales. When growing up in the country a few decades ago, Cath’s Mum encouraged her and two sisters to step away from learning ‘domestic’ tasks and get more into professional and untraditional work. This meant Cath only learned to sew later in life when she realised these skills were useful for sustainable living.
Cath Jarvis wears the pinny she created for The Slow Clothing Project from discarded jeans and work shorts
“We all rode motorbikes and horses, and generally mucked around on the farm, we might have been a bit wild. Then when we went off to high school we were sent to an agricultural high school and these subjects weren’t offered. I didn’t ever think it was a great loss until my late 30s when I realised being able to sew could be very handy.
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.
When you dressed this morning, did you spare a thought for how your clothes came into the world? Do you know what country they were made in, from what type of material or who stitched them together?
Most likely not – too busy rushing breakfast, timelines, meetings, commitments, social media, what’s for dinner, first-world problems, shopping for more, weekend planning …
The disconnection between ourselves and our clothing has grown in direct proportion to the amount of affordable, ever-changing garments on offer through global supply chains. The majority is sewn in third-world factories then presented in all sizes and shapes in a store near you.
Jane Milburn in eco-dyed t-shirt dress. Photo by Darcy Milburn at South Mossman River in north Queensland
Clothing is as essential as food for our health and wellbeing because clothes do for us on the outside what food does inside – they nourish, warm, and engage body and soul. What we choose to wear impacts how we feel and how we present to the world.
As conscious eaters are now aware of sourcing fresh whole food and returning to the kitchen – conscious dressers are engaging in the process of learning where and how their clothes are made. Our choices have profound influence – yet sometimes we are too busy to think much about them.
Fast, processed food has had a dramatic impact on health across the population in recent decades and similarly the transformational shift to fast, manufactured clothing is having impacts we are only now coming to understand.
Without doubt there are thousands of wonderful designers and billions of beautiful clothes available for purchase through the trillion dollar global garment industry. Yet this industry flourishes through the hard work of garment workers in developing countries who may, or may not, be paid appropriately for their efforts. Read about the global garment industry here from Clean Clothes Campaign.
Meanwhile in Australia and other developed nations, two generations have largely missed the opportunity to learn to sew and 70% of millennials don’t even know how to sew on a button. Continue Reading →
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 →
“In the same way we’ve become aware of our food – we are becoming more conscious of our clothing.
Today you are either wearing natural-fibres – or synthetic fibres derived from petroleum. I’m wearing a shift created with rescued wool suits that were one step away from becoming landfill. As a natural-fibre champion with a background in issues-based communication, I am seeking to help create a more sustainable clothing culture.
Thank you for this opportunity to raise the matter at this Brisbane City Council meeting.The past decade has seen a transformational shift in where and how our clothing is made – which raises ethical issues such as:
Consumption increase – in two decades, individual annual fibre use across the globe has doubled from 7 to 13 kg each
Fibre change – a decade ago, half of new clothes were natural fibres and half synthetics. Now 2/3 of new clothing are synthetic – and research shows they shed microplastic particles with every wash.
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.