So, everything about the Fast Fashion Industry generally stinks. Like, big heaping piles of waste water tinged with local sewage and lots of garbage STINKS. Yes, there are some companies that do “the green thing” and have begun including textile recycling drop offs in store (looking at you, H&M) or “upping their commitment to sustainability” like Zara. But as we discussed briefly in the last post, most of these companies do a lot more harm than good and often these practices are just trendy “green-washing,” meaning they do them to look good and make themselves more marketable, not really because they care about the impact they have on our planet. A bit of research shows that H&M doesn’t entirely recycle all of those textiles in the best of ways- and don’t forget that they give you a 5% coupon so that you buy more stuff.
That’s not the point here, guys.
Are a little annoyed? A lot annoyed? Good. Civil unrest and change are fueled by a bunch of people who’ve hit the tipping point and don’t want to float along with the status quo anymore. Here, the status quo is $3 t-shirts and dresses you can buy for the same price as a Burger King Baconator. Neither are good for you or the environment! So what do you do? Commit to going naked for the sake of poor Cambodian mothers or the sea life we’re killing off because of manufacturing by-products?
That’s a little intense. Don’t get me wrong! I love your intensity. It’s just…well.. we need our actions to be sustainble in the way that we can continue to practice them for an extended period of time, just as they need to be sustainble in the traditional sense.
Here are a few things you can implement in your life RIGHT NOW to be better by our Earth. They range from actions that will take maybe a sliver of your time to something that you can spend the rest of your life perfecting. Like I promised in the beginning, there are more simple actions for those of us who don’t feel the need to make major changes to our daily routine and then there are increasingly more impactful changes for those who want to immediately rid our wardrobes of anything labeled “Made in various developing countries”
But wait! #1 is to NOT throw out everything in your closet! Including that old top that you don’t like anymore or those jeans that don’t fit your bum now-a-days! We have a major problem in Western culture of throwing things away when they’re still useful, and in the USA alone we generate 15 MILLION TONS of textile waste a year, of which 10.5 tons is clothing. That’s UNREAL, don’t you think? Consider this: consign it, donate it to your local church, throw a party with your friends where everyone brings old clothes and swaps it out for something new-to-them from their friend’s closet. All of these things are better for the planet than mindlessly tossing that old t-shirt that you “just don’t like anymore” into the trash, which ultimately fills up our landfills. Synthetic clothing is often made of plastic-like fibers and can take hundreds of years to decompose. That 100% acrylic sweater you don’t care much for anymore (and probably bought on a whim because it was trendy, right?) will exist on this planet ten times longer than you will.
If we can divert even some of the textile waste from landfills we can make a bigger impact down the road. Speaking of diverting stuff from the trash, #2 involves a bit more effort but is something we really love here at Old Spool: learning to mend! Mending clothing that has been injured in some way just shows that we care about the items in our closet and the people who made them. Barely 50 years ago most people would darn their socks when they got holes in them to make them last longer, now a days we buy a pack of 10 at Costco for $5 every 6 months as they wear out.
Maybe that favorite t-shirt of yours gets a hole or a stain. My recent obsession is embroidering ANYTHING that offers itself up, and I love using embroidery as a way to cover food stain or holes! Or you can just make a simple little patch to cover up that hole, or practice your quick whip stitch to close it without extra fabric.
Now, mending applies to all sorts of repair work when it comes to clothing. Hemming that dress so you wear it more often or replacing the buttons that fell off your favorite jacket are both simple mending techniques that involve sewing but make those things wearable again, and therefore save them from the landfill.
Shashiko mending is another fun technique to learn, it’s a traditional Japanese craft that almost celebrates the holes and tears in clothing as a part of its life. It’s visible mending at its finest- rows of stitches in different patterns in bold shashiko thread (or embroidery floss) say, “yeah, this was torn, but now look how loved it is!”
Upcycling comes in at the #3 thing to do, it’s a fun and challenging process where you look at the clothes you already have and consider how you can make them a better version of themselves (maybe that tshirt just needs a funky printed patch pocket?) or how you can pull it apart and make something completely new. If you want to get inspired by some AMAZING upcycling makes, search the Refashioners challenge by Portia Lawry on her blog Makery.uk. Each year Portia challenges the sewing community to an epic battle of upcycling wits and intelligence and it’s so much fun to watch!
So, for #4, I’ve saved my favorite “F you, fast fashion” for last.
Learn to sew!
I know I mentioned it before in the mending and upcycling points, but learning to sew enables you to completely remove one part of the fast fashion manufacturing process from your closet- having someone else make your clothes and needing to buy them from the store. How amazingly destructive to the fast fashion is that?!
Learning to sew your own clothing not only allows you to make clothing that fits you (because when you make it, you make it for YOUR body, not a million others!) but you can to exercise your creative freedom in picking fabrics and styles that you like the most. There are many pathways that lead people to wanting to learn how to make their own clothing, whether it’s that store bought clothing doesn’t fit or they have expensive taste (into that $800 dress on ShopBop? I bet we can make it for a fraction of that!) but one of my favorites are the people who find the fast fashion system so repulsive that they want to remove themselves from it like a hermit from society. Total and complete separation!
I could go on and on about all the wonderful things involved in sewing your own clothing. Knowing how to make stuff is empowering, and knowing that by participating in a hobby like this allows us to lessen our footprint on the planet is like the cream cheese icing on that carrot cake.
Sorry, am I the only one who craves carrot cake? Would you prefer chocolate? It’s as sweet as chocolate!
So, I hope I’ve hit a nerve and caused you to begin rethinking your relationship with the clothes in your closet. I know personally, I became more interested in removing myself from the belly of the beast of fast fashion as I started to appreciate the quality and personality in my handmade clothing. Not only do I get a skirt in the exact color and shape I want, I get to break down that system, stitch by stitch.
And now I leave you with this:
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world” Archbishop Desmond Tutu.