This week is Fashion Revolution Week, coinciding with the tragic collapse of the the Rana Plaza factory. The collapse killed 1138 people and injured many more on 24th April 2013, the vast majority of whom were garment workers for well known High Street fashion retailers.
Fashion Revolution describe the movement as pro-fashion, wanting to see it as a force for good. Featured everywhere from The Guardian to Vogue this week, the campaign hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes has been a force to be reckoned with on social media, with people discussing how positive a move away from fast fashion to an ethical, sustainable industry can benefit everyone.
How though, when you make most of your clothes yourself, can you participate? This is something I’ve been asking myself more often over the last few months, not only as a maker but as the owner of a fabric shop. I feel a growing sense of responsibility on a personal level and from a business perspective – I’m very conscious that just sewing our own clothes isn’t a cure all, but it is a brilliant starting point to build upon. The below are a mixture of personal and business goals that I’m aiming to continue to develop over the coming months and years.
MAKE WITH LOVE, TO LAST
If you’d suggested hand sewing the hem on a circle skirt to me a few years ago, you would’ve laughed at my dour face – why do that when I can whiz it through the machine in 2 minutes? The fact that I spent over two hours a few days ago hand-stitching not only a full hem but an entire waistband is pretty demonstrative of how my attitude has changed.
If I am going to put any time at all into making something, I want it to be finshed to the best possible standard, so that every time I wear it (heck every time I look at it) I feel proud and love wearing it. The pieces I make with care, finish properly and enjoy wearing are the ones I will keep in my wardrobe for as long as possible. I enjoy sewing french seams and using beautiful quality fabrics, and I am learning to embrace slow sewing – even though I now have less time than ever!
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy whizzing something up on my overlocker, but they’ll predominantly be high quality knits, properly finished and worn again and again and again. Quick and simple doesn’t mean cheap and disposable.
To prolong the life of my clothes, I wash almost everything on a 30 degree wash and advise our customers to do the same where possible.
REFASHION & RECYCLE
Repairing a dropped hem, turning some jeans into shorts, a bit of visible mending; all simple but effective ways to get more wear from our wardrobes. For me, I am going to make sure I get through my work in progress pile and see what can be refashioned from those makes that really don’t fit or no longer have a place in my life. It could be another garment, or as the case with a lovely Liberty skirt one of my students bought in to show me, it could become a tote bag or gift for someone. If there’s really nothing that can be done to save or repurpose it, it’ll go in the charity bag to hopefully find a new home.
We’re focussing more on recycling in the shop and studio too. Every last scrap of fabric gets put in the scraps bin and people can fill a bag with as much as they like – it’s popular with quilters, crafters and schools but there’s definitely more we can do here – it’s easy for bits of fabric to creep into our main waste and we’re going to work really hard to make sure we’re reducing our contribution to textile landfill.
When the answer to #whomademyclothes is “I did”, then the next logical question has to be who made my fabric? As a business I strive to ensure we work with reputable suppliers and source ethically produced fabrics.
Predominantly our fabrics are manufactured in Europe and the US with a smaller percentage coming from the Far East – usually Japan, where the ethical treatment and standards for garment workers tends to be higher. #whomademyfabric isn’t an easy question to answer, because it depends on how long the supply chain is and how much information we’re able to access, but it is something I ask of all our suppliers and am trying to ensure we know the answer most of the time. Simply stocking an organic cotton for example, doesn’t mean it’s been ethically produced – just that certain chemicals aren’t used in it’s growth or production. We’ll continue to make sure we’re asking the question and being as frank and transparent as possible with our customers.
EDUCATE & ENCOURAGE
Spreading the joy of sewing is something I am obviously passionate about and teaching more and more people how to sew is key to bringing this somewhat neglected skill back to the forefront of ours and future generations. Seeing friends who have never sewn before take an interest in learning one end of a sewing machine from another is beyond encouraging and watching children master skills they’d never even thought of before is a selfish joy, but one that I hope continuous to spread. Perhaps we could all invite a friend over and help them get to grips with a sewing machine? It’s sure to be a good giggle if nothing else!
Apparently 80% of global garment workers are women, many of them underpaid and poorly treated. My hope is that Sewisfaction will continue to champion women, working with a growing group of talented, amazing women who are all treated fairly and paid well so that collectively we can have some impact no matter how small.
We are far from perfect, there are lots of ways we can do more and I know it’s something I want to keep learning about and trying to improve wherever we can. Like anything, small changes make a big difference. Is the Fashion Revolution something you’re conscious of? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear what you’re doing and any suggestions you have for us.
Find out more about the campaign here.