September 01, 2015

The Slow Fashion Lane - Issue 8


A blog theme for October

Written by Karen Templer, Fringe Association

It's empowering and rewarding to wear a garment you made, and for me it's important to feel good about every aspect of it — not only about my contribution to its existence, but about what I did not contribute to in the process. Slow Fashion is a big subject — from buying and making less to not disposing of things, to sustainable materials, to human rights concerns, to the growing industry of small-batch fashion designers in the world. I'm planning to dedicate the month of October to it on my blog, Fringe Association. 

Like many, I'm working toward a handmade wardrobe — a hardworking collection of garments, put together with thought and care and (mostly) my own two hands, and designed to last. I've been knitting my sweaters for a few years now, and lately have been polishing my rusty sewing skills. I do it to exercise control over what I get to wear — to make exactly what I want, exactly the way I want it — but it also makes me increasingly aware of how limited that control is.

I don't raise sheep, or shear them. I've never spun my own yarn. And I'm not much of a weaver, either. I'm still at the mercy of others for the materials I make my clothes from. When I knit a sweater or sew a dress, I can be 100% certain that no one was forced to make it for me in unsafe conditions or without being paid a living wage. But what about those materials I'm working with? With yarn it's increasingly possible to know where it came from. Besides the proliferation of small-batch farm yarns, bigger brands are sharing not only what breed of sheep the fiber is, but where and how those sheep are raised, where the yarn is milled, and what kinds of dyes were used. It feels great to know that neither sheep nor humans were harmed in the making of your sweater. With fabric, it's more difficult. The fabrics all seem to be made in China, under who knows what conditions. Maybe the workers are safe and well-paid; maybe not. A friend in the fabric business recently told me that one of the reasons fabrics aren't made in the US anymore is that the dyes are considered too toxic for people to work with. So apparently we let other people do it for us.

I was a kid in the '80s and grew up obsessed with fashion. Malls were the center of our world then, but this was before the current era of "fast fashion," where even brand-new clothes have price tags so low (what used to be clearance sale prices) that clearly nobody along the supply chain was paid fairly. I had never thought of clothing as political — as a human rights issue or an environmental one — until more recently. But it is political, whether we think about it or not.

What have you worn over decades, mended, passed down, hand-made, purchased from a local designer? Let's think about it and talk about it. I know I have a lot to learn, and I'd love to hear from you. Won't you join me in October for a month of slow fashion?

- For more information, please head over to Karen's blog, Fringe Association. amirisu will also be joining  Slow Fashion October and plans to blog contents from Japan as well.