Dressing for health and wellbeing

We can leave home without eating occasionally but never without dressing!

Dressing is integral to life but what we wear is so often discussed in a fashion context of colour, shape and style. The broader view considers health and wellbeing aspects that respond to fashion waste, pollution, and exploitation issues.

Australian social entrepreneur Jane Milburn, founder of Textile Beat, has spent five years studying the need to transform a culture of fashion excess to a more thoughtful and engaged approach.

Jane’s new book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear was launched in Canberra at the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation by economist Richard Dennis who, in his own book (Curing Affluenza) proposes buying less stuff as a way to save the world.

Jane Milburn at Frank Fenner Foundation event and Canberra book launch with Richard Denniss

Slow Clothing was also the subject of a Fenner Foundation talk at ANU’s Acton campus where the focus was on ways of dressing with planetary health and wellbeing in mind.

Slow Clothing presents a compelling case for wearers to change the way we dress to live lightly on Earth as a response to waste and pollution that sees 6000kg of textiles going to landfill every 10 minutes in Australia.

‘With Slow Clothing, we reflect our own style and spirit, independent of fashion cycles. We buy carefully, gain skills, and care for what we wear as an embodiment of ourselves. Through this action we, the wearers, become original, authentic and resourceful,’ Jane said.

‘Australians consume double the global average and are the world’s second-largest consumers after north Americans, based on annual apparel fibre estimates.

‘And two-thirds of new clothing is now made from synthetic (ie plastic) fibres, derived from petroleum, which research has shown to be shedding microplastic particles into the ecosystem.’

Rethinking clothing culture is also essential to turning the tide on the exploitation of garment workers caught within global supply-chain empires that foster fast-consumption attitudes.

‘We eat and dress every day to survive and thrive, and in the same way we have become conscious of food and its impact on health and wellbeing, we are becoming conscious of the substance and origins of what we wear,’ Jane said.

‘Slow Clothing is based on individuals gaining autonomy and agency through 10 conscious beliefs and actions—think, natural, quality, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt and salvage. It is part of the revaluation of material things through minimalism, mending and tinkering.

You can purchase a copy of Slow Clothing in Australia here, or overseas via Book Depository here

On the Textile Beat

Textile Beat is a leadership initiative that responds to ecological and social issues associated with contemporary clothing culture in developed nations. Our regular enews On the Textile Beat includes a range of news and views, including details about our advocacy work, talks and workshops. If you are interested in slow clothing, natural fibres, dressing with conscience and reducing textile waste, then you might like to sign up to our newsletter, on the right hand side of this webpage. Meanwhile, here’s the link to our latest enews, which includes photos from the Sydney and Brisbane launches of Jane Milburn’s new book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear

Living lightly in everyday practice

Clothes do not fall from the sky and meals do not gush out of the earth. Our food and clothing must come from our own labour: Master Zi Bai, Ming Dynasty.

This 14th century philosophy is far removed from the 21st century when many people order a look or a meal with the click of a finger on a phone. Global supply chains have become so efficient at meeting our food and clothing needs for a handful of dollars that we’ve lost touch with their source.

Fast food and fast fashion is convenient but ultimately unsatisfying. We’re concerned about the ethics and waste. There is growing hunger for something more substantial, something real, something crafted with our own hands and effort.

Jane Milburn at Lantau Blue studio and wearing handmade in Hong Kong

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Slow Clothing book launches

Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear presents a compelling case for wearers to change the way we dress and encapsulates a philosophy that is the antithesis of fast fashion.

Based on Jane Milburn’s five-year journey into natural fibres and upcycling, the book was launched recently in Sydney by ABC-TV’s War on Waste crusader Craig Reucassel and in Brisbane by ABC broadcaster Rebecca Levingston.

ABC-TV’s War on Waste crusader Craig Reucassel and Jane Milburn at The Happenstore.

Rebecca Levingston with Jane Milburn, photo left, and with Brisbane City Council’s Field Services Chairman Cr Peter Matic, Robyn Sheptooha and Peter Lewis at the Brisbane launch of Slow Clothing.

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Revive style for planetary health

Brisbane is the first city in the world to host a pop-up secondhand fashion festival as a waste minimization strategy, to the best of my knowledge. I (Jane Milburn) checked with New York refashion academic Sass Brown and Sass knows of no other.  Do tell if you know of another.

Stiltwalkers showcase refashion at the 2016 Revive event in the heart of Brisbane. Photo by Brisbane City Council

Stiltwalkers showcase refashion at the 2016 Revive event in the heart of Brisbane. Photo by Brisbane City Council

Revive is in its second year and pops up again on 18 August 2017 at South Bank Forecourt from noon to 9pm. Hats off to Brisbane City Council, Cr Peter Matic and Cr David McLachlan for leadership. With textiles being one of the fastest growing domestic waste streams, fuelled by fast-fashion turnover, I am proud to have been in the room at its conception. Thank you to Cr Matic for acknowledging my contribution.

The advent of Revive followed a 2015 opportunity I had to address a council meeting on a matter of public importance.  Here’s the link to my 2015 address (including Hansard pdf) when I spoke of the need to develop a more sustainable clothing culture. Revive is a huge step in this direction.  Continue Reading →

Clothing changes too fast

By Ari Balle-Bowness

ariClothing of today changes faster than the weather. Buying clothes, wearing them once and leaving them in the cupboard is commonplace. This is not an assumption, it is a regular observation.

I am a 19-year-old journalism student at Griffith University sharing a male perspective on contemporary clothing culture and how to combat the fashion monster that has come to dominate our thinking.

My clothing choices are independent as I try to stay away from the fast-fashion options and prefer to develop my own style. My solution is op-shopping and second-hand stores which are increasingly popular among younger generations. For many my age, the vintage revival is booming and op shops are becoming trendy places which also happen to provide a more sustainable way to dress.  Continue Reading →

Rethinking clothing culture

By Jane Milburn Textile Beat founder and sustainability consultant

Textile Beat founder Jane Milburn clothed in wool garments given a second life using eco-dye. Photo by Ele Cook

Textile Beat founder Jane Milburn clothed in wool garments given a second life using eco-dye. Photo by Ele Cook

My campaign on clothing waste has been a lifetime in the making. It began as a child learning hand-making skills and continued as a student upcycling big old dresses and thrifted finds.

I made many of my clothes for decades then rediscovered op shops in 2011 after a Fashion for Flood fundraiser. I began visiting op shops and particularly seeking out natural-fibre garments – wool jumpers with a hole, linen shirts with a missing button. The waste of resources troubled me because I grew up on a farm and have an agricultural science degree. What was happening to our clothing culture I wondered?

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Mendful, mindful stitches

Mended garments carry a story of care. They reflect the triumph of imperfection over pretension while the act of mending itself brings transformation in both mender and mended.

By embracing repair as a valid and useful act we, the menders, are stitching new life-energy into something others step over in the scrabble onwards and upwards. To pause, apply creative problem-solving and add a mark of care to our clothes, we extend their life and bring meaning to our own.

The clothes we wear are a statement of values. We may go through stages of searching for newer, sharper images and think clothes, like makeup and leopard spots, can camouflage and attract the right sort of attention. Alas, the pipe dream.  Continue Reading →

Slow Clothing at 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.  Continue Reading →

Slow clothing philosophy

Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Using observation and instinct, Jane Milburn and Textile Beat join the dots and explore a science-based narrative about clothing.

Clothes do for us on the outside what food does on the inside – they nourish and warm our body and soul. In the same way that conscious eaters are sourcing fresh whole food and returning to the kitchen, conscious dressers are seeking to know more about the provenance and ethics of clothing and curious about how it is made. Every day we eat and we dress to survive and thrive, and it is not just the style that matters, substance does too.

War on Waste interview with Craig Reucassel web

War on Waste with Craig Reucassel, coming to ABC TV in 2017

Fast and processed industrial food has had a dramatic impact on our health in recent years and similarly there has been transformational shift to industrial factory-made clothing, the social and environmental impacts of which we are only now coming to understand.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that at least one-third of food produced is never eaten and creative solutions are emerging to divert and reduce that waste. In the same way, there is growing evidence a third of clothing is wasted, with much potential to upcycle and redeploy it. My purposeful work is bringing awareness to these and other material issues.

More than 90 percent of garments sold in Australia are now made overseas, mostly in Asian factories. Most people buy off-the-rack or online, with very few making anything for themselves to wear. As a natural-fibre champion, I am troubled 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.

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