Embracing Slow Fashion for a More Sustainable (Handmade) Wardrobe
Yesterday was the first day of London Fashion Week, and the main topic of conversation is about the huge negative impact that the fashion industry has on the environment. There have been calls for the end of Fashion Week across the world, and Stockholm did exactly this at the start of the summer to investigate more sustainable options. One thing is certain: we all need to rethink our relationship with our clothes so that they are not viewed as 'disposable' or single-use.
- One truckload of clothes is burned or landfilled every second.
- Mountains of unwanted garments are stuck in warehouses across the world or in our wardrobes. In fact, consumers in the United Kingdom alone have an estimated £37.4 billion worth of unworn clothes at home. (Now think about how much unused-fabric must be stockpiled in stashes too!)
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the carbon footprint of the world and is one of the most polluting yet 60% of discarded clothing ends up in landfill.
Demands and expectations of consumers are changing, and the industry needs to not only keep up but be leading the way in finding solutions and ensuring that clothing manufacture becomes circular rather than linear. This is something we can do when sewing our own garments at home too.
We have a passion for making clothes, and so do our customers! Sewing your clothes gives you an appreciation for the true cost involved, and the theory is if you've invested your own time and money you are much more likely to value that item. However, we know that sometimes this doesn't quite ring true. We've all spent time making something that hasn't turned out the way we hoped, and sometimes they can get stuck at the back of the wardrobe as much as RTW garments. But if we can begin to view both shop-bought and handmade clothes as long-lasting, versatile pieces rather than seasonal throw-aways maybe we will make better decisions before we buy or make them.
The 30 Wears Challenge:
Started by Livia Firth and Lucy Siegle, two experts in the field of ethical and sustainable fashion, the 'challenge' is simply to ask ourselves the question before we buy (or make) something… "would I wear this 30 times?" If the answer is no, then don’t buy it, or don't make it.
The 30 Wears Challenge is an easy way to make us look at clothes a little more objectively and helps us to gain the full potential from our purchases as they become 'investments'. We believe the same principle can be used when shopping for fabric or patterns - the idea of a capsule wardrobe, whether it is bought, handmade (or more likely, a mix of the two) means that garments can be worn over and over in different outfits. You can share your pledge, get inspiration or just document your challenge using #30wears on Instagram or Twitter.
In all the images: Soho Skirt by Leisl and Co. Fabric: Red Dot morning - Light canvas
Another way to encourage us to consider the ‘wearability’ of our home-sewn clothes is for us to make garments you know you’ll love to wear; one of the best ways to do this is to re-create your favourite garments you already own. At Ray Stitch, we love doing this and have a number of workshops teaching our students to draft a new pattern from their favourite garment!
We have a special two-part workshop this Sunday: the first half drafting a pattern and the second is a freestyle type class specifically to teach students how to construct the garment. Our recreate classes run regularly, and we also have Freestyle classes where you can work on your own project, with our tutor on hand to help.
Mending and repairing our garments will prolong their life and keep them from being discarded. There is evidence that hand-stitching is associated with the release of serotonin in the brain so it is likely to make you feel good too, plus it has the advantage of further valuing the textiles and clothing that have taken considerable resources to create.
Visible mending is a perfect way to be creative, keep sewing and 'making' whilst maintaining a restrained and sustainable wardrobe! Even if it seems a garment is beyond repair there are lots of ways to turn that damage into a beautiful and original feature. Our Darning and Mending classes with Celia Pym are always very popular - explore traditional darning and mending techniques as well as Celia’s own creative practice of visible mending. You will investigate the care involved in mending, and the emotional or social value of darning and repair.
We also teach workshops on Japanese Boro stitching and Sashiko techniques. Our next class is on the 4th of October but check the website for all the listings.
Become Fabric Conscious:
Which fabric, whether you are buying it by the meter or in a RTW garment, is an important decision to consider. Unfortunately, it is not black and white - there is no one fabric that is totally 'green'. Over the last few years, we have seen a much bigger global demand for organic and fair trade cotton. Non-organic cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides, causing damage to wildlife, farmers and communities. Cotton production, whether organic or not, still involves a huge amount of water in the process so should be respected accordingly. No fabric should go to waste, even scraps can be repurposed. Natural fibres have the bonus of being biodegradable when eventually, after much repairing and reusing, they have come to the end of their serviceable life.
We are proud to offer an extensive organic fabric range, including stretch fabrics, fleece, denims, bamboo silk and printed cottons. These fabrics are kinder to the environment, farmers and textile workers as well as our skin when we wear them.
We hope that some of these ideas will help you to enjoy a more sustainable and feel-good relationship with your wardrobe. It's a much more complex problem than just not buying new clothes or handmaking all your garments, and let's face it, we would all struggle to be 'perfect'. But by making each purchase considered, looking after the clothes we have and making each piece work as hard as possible, we will be making a big difference.