“Who Made My Clothes” is a campaign that aims to increase transparency in the fashion supply chain by encouraging consumers to question brands about where and how their clothes are made, the impacts on the environment, the working conditions of the garment workers and the salary paid to these workers. It endeavours to help create an industry that equally values people, the environment, creativity and profit. Many makers have posed with the statement sign, “I Made My Clothes”, to raise awareness and educate consumers. And after sewing my own linen skirt at a workshop on the Sunshine Coast, I was able to happily pose with this sign!
This workshop that I attended was run by Common Stitch, a sustainably responsible design studio that aims to teach slow sewing skills and spread awareness about sustainable fashion. The workshop was facilitated by the founders, Alison Pollard and Charlotte Mackay, and these lovely ladies were absolutely wonderful! They were so helpful and attentive, while at the same time didn’t take themselves too seriously and were always ready with a laugh should something go awry. The workshop lasted four hours and we all managed to finish sewing our garments from our patterns of choice.
Linen was the fabric used for the workshop. This is a more sustainable choice as it is strong, enduring, natural and biodegradable. In addition, linen is derived from the flax plant. This plant requires significantly less water, pesticides and fertilisers to grow and is able to grow in low-quality soil that is otherwise unfit for crop production. I was very happy about this because I am obsessed with all things linen and love the natural texture of the fabric!
The different colours of linen fabric available for us to choose were deadstock fabrics. Deadstock fabrics come from fashion houses who have overestimated their material needs. So these fabrics were saved from being wasted and sent to landfill. It also makes each piece extra special because there are rarely large quantities of any one fabric. My chosen fabric was a beautiful watermelon coloured linen fabric which I absolutely adore!
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to watch The True Cost, then I highly encourage you to do so and thus educate yourself about the impacts of the fast fashion industry on people and the planet. Not only does the fashion industry have a huge impact on the environment as the second largest polluting industry, it also has a tremendous impact on people. The prices of garments have decreased dramatically as many brands seek to have their clothes made in developing countries for the cheapest possible prices in order to increase profit margins. However, this has resulted in horrendous workers conditions for the garment workers as corners are cut. The collapse of the Rana Plaza and the death of 250 of the people who were working in the building is a devastating example of what can happen when safety is compromised in the name of greed. Furthermore, the pittance of a salary that the garment workers receive is, in most cases, not enough for the workers to feed their children and offer them safe living conditions. So many of these workers have no other option but to send their children to live with and be looked after by their grandparents, sometimes only seeing their children once a year.
The best action that you can take before purchasing clothing is to educate yourself about where the clothing has been made, the conditions of the garment workers and the sustainability of the brand. While there are lots of fast fashion brands out there abusing their position of power, there are also slow fashion brands paving the way for ethical and sustainable fashion. Try to support the latter; buy reused clothing at op shops; or, even better, seek out opportunities to learn skills to sew your own clothing. Wearing a piece that you have laboured over with love is one of the most satisfying things in the world. And until recently, this was a skill that was regularly practiced and passed down generations! Lastly, cherish the clothing that you have. If a button falls off or a zipper breaks, it is a simple fix. If you do choose to purchase or make more clothing, do so mindfully.
Fashion is just another example of how you can facilitate positive change by becoming educated, speaking up and voting with your dollar.