The Slow Clothing Movement

Recently I attended a talk by Jane Milburn from Sew It Again and Textile Beat. It was a very impressive presentation and I want to share her important message.

The worldwide purchase of clothing nearly doubled from about 7kg in 1992 to 13kg per person per year on average in 2013. The figures vary for individual countries, with the US having the highest useage. Australia has the second highest consumption of textiles with an average of 27kg per person annually – that’s double the worldwide average!

We are buying more clothing because it is ridiculously inexpensive. The price of new garments is unrealistically low due to exploitation of workers in sweatshops. We buy so many clothes that 80 percent of items in our wardrobes just sit there, never worn.

What happens when we decide to declutter? Only about 15 percent of donated clothing is actually sold again in local opportunity shops. Lots of discarded clothes are sold to third world countries, but an amazing mountain of fabric goes to landfill. Sometimes clothes are discarded because they need a simple repair such as a button or a zip. Many items are perfectly good, even still with shop tags.

Most clothing these days is synthetic, manufactured from petroleum products. Not only does this deplete a finite resource but it also leads to serious pollution. Modern textiles shed thousands of micro plastic particles when they are washed and when dumped in landfill. These particles cause many environmental problems and endanger wildlife.

On top of these environmental issues, we might also consider how the trend for cheap throw-away fashion leads to a neglect and undervaluing of the artisan skills of people who sew.

This is the background for the Slow Clothing movement, the opposite of Fast Fashion. Slow clothing involves repair, recycle, reuse, upcycle and repurpose of garments. Jane offers workshops that inspire the creation of individual clothing (Indie fashion), so we don’t all have to look the same. We can create new personalised garments and give a new life to old favourites, piecing together salvaged fabrics to make something beautiful and unique. It can involve an easy repair that becomes a feature – a decorative and original attraction. This activity is artistic and it’s cheap, easy and a valuable skill. It is empowering because we can custom-make outfits to suit ourselves rather than having to fit into clothes provided for the masses. This strategy for cutting down on pollution and helping the environment makes good economic sense by challenging the sweatshops and saving money too.

2 thoughts on “The Slow Clothing Movement”

  1. At Lifeline Bookfest I picked up a book ‘The Perfect Fit’, by Singer. I am so excited by it. A full how-to manual to measure and make patterns to fit all our individually shaped bodies perfectly. The tailored look like the characters wear on English TV shows that makes them look so dressy. Getting clothes to fit beautifully is a learnable skill and I just want to do it so much.

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