This week I have been made aware more than once of the impact of fashion on people and the planet., and it is not the first time that I have felt the need to think carefully about key issues around clothes buying and clothes making.
I started blogging around about 18 months ago which was the time when the “Wardrobe Architect” project came onto my radar. I read some of the posts and carried out some of the challenges, because I felt that I had a whole load of clothes which were doing nothing, and also I had a need to know the best things to buy and make for myself. The result was a clear out, trips to the charity bin, and a more focussed approach to what I chose to wear and therefore what to make and buy clothes wise.
Great! Pat myself on the back!
Then I got more into the sewing community, where I saw loads of lovely clothes and patterns which people had made. I was a kid in a candy shop! I bought patterns, borrowed them, created a fabric stash, and generally headed towards another full wardrobe – this time full of me-mades. I still bought some basics such as underwear, jeans and jumpers, as I am not really a good knitter, but I couldn’t resist another new top or Tee.
However, the recurring news of the year has led me to be more circumspect about the whole clothes issue.
We have heard about plastics……. everywhere! We have heard about the problems of growing landfill. We have heard about the economic well-being of the country. And the latest is the damage done to the planet by the clothing industry.
Did you watch Stacey Dooley on Monday night? Fashion’s Dirty Secrets (BBC1 UK). Well I did, and it has really affected me.
I used to think that natural fabrics would be better for the environment, and I tried not to put too many scraps in the dustbin, knowing that many of my fabric buys are synthetic, mainly because they are cheap. I have a bigger box of scraps (big and small) than my stash because I can’t bring myself to throw them away.
The TV programme on Monday turned that notion on its head after learning about the sources of cotton, and the consequences of intensive cotton production. And one of my next projects is a pair of jeans! It was shocking to learn how much water is needed to grow the cotton for one pair of denim jeans!
The next thought provoking moment was when I came across the blog about sustainability in sewing written by Karen Templar from Fringe Asssociation. She referenced a post by Natalie @thetinycloset. I learned from that that the issue is not a new one, and she has been working on “Slow Fashion October” for a few years now. Where have I been ??
The discussion following that blog was very interesting, but I had already decided to write my own blog about it, so decided not to put my own comment in. I may return to it. I don’t know. I fully agree with Karen and Natalie, and I am reassured by some of the suggested actions in Slow Fashion October for slowing down the fashion treadmill, because I feel that I have the right approach.
- Having worked on the Wardrobe Architect project, I have already sort of done a mood board of my style, and clothes which work for me, and I look at other people, admiring and loving what they wear, knowing that I can’t wear the same things.
- I really do generally have clothes which I love, and wear till they fall apart….. memade as well as rtw. (Although of course there are mistakes, we can’t be perfect, I try to re-use or recycle as far as possible.)
- I think carefully about my next makes and try to identify something I need rather than just an item I fancy.
- I have rarely shopped for clothes this year. I have occasionally wandered round M&S or Debenhams, but I am drawn to things I like with a view as to how I could make them, not because I want to buy. I have found that not looking in shops has reduced my need to expand my wardrobe.
- I have spent time mending items, such as the elastic in my pyjamas, where I may have in the past thrown them out. I also look for options for refashioning if an item is no longer quite right.
- When I get the opportunity, I will engage in fabric swapping. This is something my daughter and I do already between us, but she also went along to the recent “Sew on the Tyne” meeting in Gateshead, and I hope to go along too when I am able.
Unlike some of the people who commented on Karen’s blog, I really believe that this needs to be talked about a lot, because the talking raises awareness and galvanises people into action. As a sewing community we have a lot of influence, as can be seen by the number of responses to blogs and Instagram posts.
One thing I would love is to be made more aware of fabric content and origin so that I am able to make more informed choices.
Stacey Dooley in the TV programme struggled to find anyone in the fashion industry who would engage with the issue, but she did speak to some “Fashion Influencers”. These are people who buy (or are given) clothes from well-known stores, and they post reviews of the clothes on blogs and videos, influencing their audiences. They responded very positively. One of them posted a video all about slowing down fashion at a personal level. If they have the power to change attitudes, then all of this discussion does too.
Of course, there is a huge dilemma in all of this…… balance. We don’t want to affect businesses or jobs by taking away our custom completely. Even the poorly paid workers in far away factories need the work. They just need better conditions and management.
It’s nearly the end of the first week, but I really want to engage in Slow Fashion October. Let’s hope I can keep up as well as I did for the Photohop!