this post has been a draft since october last year. if this isn’t slow, i don’t know
GOING SLOW FASHION OCTOBER
it is the second year of slow fashion october, a month of raising awareness about the clothes in our closets. or the clothes that are not in our closet. and why. if you want to know more about the hashtag and project go check out karens blog. she is the initiator of the hashtag #slowfashionoctober and paved the way for a discussion with great wingspan! and i finally muster up my thoughts to contribute. feel free to chime in in the comments, i’d love to hear what you think.
every week has been assigned a theme to guide through the month, albeit loosely. which is great, to me, open questions are better for thinking! i already introduced myself here on instagram for week 1. since we are now approaching the end of october, last weeks themes were ‘long worn’ and ‘handmade’, and this week is all about the origins of the materials we wear; yarn, fabric, thread… smallish independent labels (that are more likely to produce under fair conditions).
KNOWN ORIGINS: WOMEN
Disclaimer: I regard it as a privilege to discuss slow fashion. It is neither possible for everyone to sew for themselves nor is it what everyone should aim for. It is both therapeutical and political for me. You can save money but this is not the sole purpose of a handmade wardrobe. For me is about the gut feeling, mental health (craft as creative outlet) and being able to decide what I want to wear instead of buying into an image. It is about feminism and empowerment.
So lets dive into it. I will scratch on the surface, digress and ramble!
to my mind, known origins is also A LOT about the people involved. it is a lot about environment and the usage of chemicals/wasting of resources in production (did you know stonewash jeans are the epitome of evil?)* – which, in turn affect the living beings (people!). in brief, it is a circle.
most of the people working in the garment trade, and by those i mean workers that actually touch the garments, are women. there are men, of course, but (stereo-)typically they are owners of factories or stores. in fact, only a small percentage earns money with sewing.
garment trade does not exclusively entail sewing, it is also weaving, knitting, dying, embroidery, design, patternmaking, cutting, retail, marketing, models. a lot of tasks need to be performed until a garment is ready-to-wear (from now on rtw). most of these tasks are performed by women. in the majority of countries, even here in germany, women still earn a lower wage than men (the gender pay gap). thus making women ‘better workforce’ if costs must be held low. and with pressure from big companys like inditex, which owns brands like zara, factories cannot afford to pay their workers better. or take measures for safety in factories. i think we all know about this problem since april 2013. from there, the fashionrevolution movement is has grown, questions like #whomademyclothes are asked more frequently.
GENDERED GARMENT TRADE IN FRONT OF US
problems are not all relegated to the women in the global south, however. models, commercials and sexism, anyone? another example. i inititally came across in the book Threadbare, but which is also the topic of clothing poverty: second hand clothing. non profit second hand stores are rare. most of them benefit from fast fashion: they make profit with selling used clothes (a cheap resource!) and they often have female volunteers that will keep the racks in check. this is worker exploitation, too. we need be honest with ourselves, who needs/wants our old clothes, no one really! it doesn’t sound comforting, but we should really just BUY LESS. the problem of having nothing to wear is often a reaction to too many (poor quality) choices. this is common sense already. thus the hype of marie kondo-ism, basically it is applied minimalism: cleaning out what doesn’t make you happy (a bestseller, haven’t read it though) i am wondering, is it all about making room for new stuff, consuming again, with a little bit more mindfulness.* sorry if this sounds cynic. i am just trying to think some steps ahead, including my own ‘shopping experience’ (fabric stash i’m looking at you!).
what can be done. deliberate choices. i used to think about series like ‘wardrobe architect’ on the colette blog – nice, but isn’t it somewhat superficial (i.e. narcisstic) to spend so much time thinking about personal style? now it does make so much sense to me from another angle – sewing something i do not wear is clearly a waste of time and resources. it is a bad ecological footprint, in environmental terms. it is not superficial this way, it may be a bit narcisstic at first glance. it really is an exercise in self-care and mindfulness. i’ve never been one to follow fashion like crazy, i was the one cursing in the store that i cannot find a decent black longsleeve. while i do not have much time to sew – have been on maternal leave the last year – i have time to think about what i want to sew. and with sparse time on hand, i want to use that time effectivley. don’t get me wrong here, sewing doesn’t only fulfil a need for a garment that my wardrobe lacks asap, it does also fulfil a need to slow down mentally. that means, i don’t want to rush. i want to enjoy making something for myself. it is an activity i cherish. nobody forced me into it, not even a bad conscience (which you can get when you think about the consequences of the fashion industry nowadays). i’m trying to make more informed choices as of late, the origins of most of the fabric in my stash are unknown to me, for instance.
SEWING IS SEWING IS SEWING. NOT.
what i really wanted to add to the discussion is the role of women. maybe we forget that this is a gendered issue. interestingly, being a tailor is valued differently throughout different spheres. i’m not saying you have to be a man (tailor) to be valued in your work rather than a women (seamstress). rather i find it a curious thing why sewing (for a living) as a women means you cannot pay your bills. it is the same task, there are only so many ways a seam is constructed. a shirt made in bangladesh requires the same set of skills like a designer shirt. the difference is in the price tag and, sadly, in the appreciation of the consumer. today you often pay for labels, not for quality. often they come from the same factory.
the difference: if a shirt costs 10 dollar, you are able to buy more. i believe no one actually saves money with cheap clothing, people will always just buy more – at least the majority. if you have more shirts, every single one is worth and worn less. this is what i think. if we, ourselves, are breaking in the jeans we made, even if it takes a year to achieve that fashionable used look – we will be more likely to mend them if they tear. they live a longer life. instead of ruining the health of people breathing toxic gases, or breaking tumble dryers with stones, i rather actually wear my jeans until they bleed out. this way they feel more organic to me, they become a second skin (that is why this blog is called cutikula*, btw!).
isn’t it absurd what the fast fashion industry does to compete with long worn/loved garments – like aging them artificially by stone washing? are there any other ways fast fahion mocks slow fashion? i’m curious!
thanks for reading! it does makes me happy to read/reply to your comments. i’m off to read your contributions on the interwebs now…
*there’s a lot to hate: acid dye or rotating drums with stones are used to acieve the ‘used-look’ – which is not only a look – those jeans will rip sooner, or are already torn in places. jeans are long wearing items, due to the rigidity of denim. it takes time for them to break in, time that can be undone with the stone washing method. #fastfashion acid dye is toxic (workers touch it/breath it in), and would you put stones in your tumble dryer/washing machine? right.
*this does apply to fabric shopping as well, the ‘future garment imagined’ is bought, never sewn. fabric is sold (de-stashing) and new fabric can be bought with a better conscience. no offense!
*a biological term i adopted from the latin word ‘cuticula’ which is, simplified, a second skin layered on top of a plant’s epidermis. humans do not have a cuticula, but we have garments to layer on top of our skin, so basically clothes are our version of cuticula
anne elizabeth moore: threadbare. clothes, sex, trafficking (genre: academic comic strips)
anne theresia wanders: slow fashion.
andrew brooks: clothing poverty: the hidden world of fast fashion and second-hand clothes. (a dissertation)
marie kondo: the life changing magic of cleaning up.
(other sources are linked in the text)