Slow Fashion October

Even though this seems to primarily be happening on Instagram, this is something I am really passionate about so I thought I’d join in. Slow Fashion October is being hosted by Karen Templer at Fringe Association and this is the manifesto:

A celebration of the small-batch, handmade, second-hand, well-loved, long-worn, known-origins wardrobe.

Yes! Yes to all, even the parts I don’t have a good hold on yet.

The theme for Week 1 is Introductions.

Who are you, and what does slow fashion mean to you. What got you started thinking about it — people, books, films, etc. Are your concerns environmental, humanitarian, financial? Most important: How does your thinking factor into your life and closet. Also, any special plans or projects for Slotober, and what are you hoping to get out of it?

I am a hobby sewer. I learned to sew at about aged 7. My mother made most of our clothes growing up and some very memorable clothes for my barbie doll as well. One Christmas she made me versions of a number of Princess Diana’s evening gowns and some knitted jerseys for Barbie. The actual best.

I have always had a very strong sense of personal style. I’ve never wanted to look like everyone else. In high school I boycotted mufti days in the last two years, because all the girls in my year came dressed identically and I didn’t want to play that game. So what I wear and how I look have always been something I have considered.

From early in my teens I was constructing my own look with a collection of self-made and second-hand items.

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I think my first real connection with slow anything would have come by way of Trade Aid, a shop in New Zealand that partners with small manufactures in developing countries to import their goods. There is a strong emphasis on Fair Trade and ‘known origins’. This shop was the favorite shopping place of myself and my sisters from around 11 0r 12 years of age. Because Trade Aid is run more like a co-operative, prices were not exorbitant and many of our friends were gifted such adorable delights as ‘Worry Dolls’ for presents throughout our high school years.

In my late 20s Trade Aid started stocking ‘No Sweat’ Sneakers, high-top style sneakers that had been made outside of sweat shops. I think I knew about sweat shops before this, but not in a very conscious way.

I also shopped second hand for most of my clothes at this point. Although the remainder of my clothes were purchased at the cheapest possible stores. Stores where I could probably guarantee the accountability for supply lines is low to non-existent. The odd bit of sewing I did at this point was with the fabric from the bargain tables.

Somewhere in my mid 30s I made a decision to try not to buy clothes made in China, when the shop-keepers couldn’t tell me about the working conditions of their manufacture. And somewhere after that I started to try and actively support clothing manufactures still working out of New Zealand. Definitely a higher price tag, so a ‘less is more’ approach.

My motivations are primarily humanitarian and then environmental. I don’t want to support manufacture processes where humans and the environment are mistreated. And now there seems to be more information in the media regarding Fair Trade / Ethical fashion and more shop keepers are able to have a conversation about it. I read a lot on-line and where possible try to share information with others via social media and other platforms.

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Now (age 40) I very rarely buy new clothes. This year – as far as I can remember – these are the only garments I have purchased new:

  • Underpants – from Thunderpants – locally made from organic cotton.
  • A dress and a leather jacket from a local label Black Eye Peach. I love their aesthetic, love to support emerging designers, and they manufacture in New Zealand and Bali with highly traceable supply lines for their Bali leatherwork which is completed by a small family business.
  • Bras from Berlei – not traceable for the supply line which saddens me. I have worn these bras for about 15 years now, but the quality is noticeably poorer over time. Bras are a huge problem for me. I don’t think making them is the solution as it still involves a lot of materials that I am not certain I can trace the manufacture of, and all locally manufactured or ethical underwear seems to fit in the ‘lingerie’ category, rather than the underwear group.
  • Some socks and hosiery – all New Zealand made.
  • One pair of boots, made in China. I asked the company for their supply stats. They weren’t helpful. Shoes are hard too.
  • I have also purchased about 8 lots of new fabric.

I try and purchase mostly fabric second-hand and a quick scan of my blog over this year shows a 2:1 ratio for second hand to new fabric. I’d like that to be higher in favour of second hand TBH and my second-hand fabric purchasing has recently changed to include more plain colours so that I can facilitate that. I also have a lot of second-hand patterns and don’t tend to buy many patterns in any given year. Perhaps 5 this year. I am always on the look out for second hand notions such as zips and elastic and I have an extensive collection of second hand buttons and thread.

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What I’m thinking about for Slotober is how my wardrobe functions in terms of size and the constant introduction of ‘new’ me made garments. In the past I’ve been a virtuous recycler of clothes via charity bins, it was an easy way to have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach. And then I read this article: No one wants your old clothes. 

So recently I’ve decided I want to shop my own wardrobe more and perhaps store things for a season or two when they are feeling over-familiar or over-worn. So while I will make a couple of items during the month, I am trying to think about how to get my ‘creating’ kick without constantly adding to my wardrobe, because really how many clothes does one woman actually need and wear?

 

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25 thoughts on “Slow Fashion October

  1. Love this, Naomi. You have an interesting history and we are on the same page about a lot of things. I could improve by following your lead into using more second hand fabrics. Where I could do this is in the “much-loved” area as I tend to wear things for a very long time. I am currently wearing second hand shoes, jeans I made for SWAP and have already worn dozens of times, a much-worn shirt I have had for seven years and a classic pea coat made in England that I will wear for at least another ten years. 🙂 I want to come back to read more carefully when back from vacation. Good for you and thanks for getting us thinking about this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read this today Steph: “do what you can, no guilt about what you can’t, buy beautiful, buy quality, buy local, support independents, wear things out, alter things to fit” I thought it was a good maxim. The person’s approach was if you buy something beautiful you will love and treasure it, and not throw it out without consideration.
      I’ve really been getting more and more into buying second hand fabric – and it’s very easy for me to do where I live. It forces me to be more creative which is a challenge I love.
      There are some things I have in my wardrobe too that I have had for so many years and can’t see getting rid of. I think one of the upcoming Slotober topics is about this and I’m looking forward to seeing what I have in my wardrobe that has stood the test of time.
      Enjoy your vacation!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great post! It’s so fun to learn more about motivations and why we love to sew. I’m inspired by your use of second hand fabrics. I don’t do that much, as estate sales and second hand shops here seem to be lacking. I think Slow Fashion October is so thought provoking….Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks! I find this sort of thing fascinating too. I am lucky in that a big op-shop just around the corner seems to have a good supply of fabric. My sister and I recently bought a bolt of purple ribbing for $10. It will take us some time to get through I have no doubt but how good is that? We also had an experience where we got talking to a staff member at a local op-shop and they said that magical phrase “would you like to see what’s out the back?” AMAZING!
      We also have a great Ebay type website here in NZ called TradeMe which has a lot of second hand fabric on offer too.
      Good luck seeing what you can find in your area, sometimes it’s just unearthing that one little treasure trove and then you find yourself overrun. Fingers crossed it comes your way!

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  3. I do like this post. All the thoughts about awareness for environment but also for the sewers in ‘sweatshops’, who produce ‘fast fashion’. It’s hard to find the origin of fabrics. I’ve been trying this for more then a year now. I believe many sewers are becoming more aware about buying local produced goods like fabric, yarn and buttons.

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  4. Great thoughts on your journey. It’s amazing how complicated the journey can be! I love remaking things for varying reasons over the years.its funny how the girls at school still all look the same, luckily my daughter chose to be different too, but maybe it’s not luck and just the growing up environment.
    My Thing of the moment is, don’t make those woman who sew for us redundant, what would they do? I saw British machinists loose their jobs in the 9os in this country, give them the wages and working conditions they deserve!

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    1. I agree! I am happy to buy garments made off shore where the manufacturers can talk with confidence and assurance about the conditions of those who work for them and create their profits.
      And yes, I think growing up with a mother who understood colour, style and fit and who made our clothes certainly contributed hugely to my desire not to be a sheep.

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  5. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments. Lots of food for thought here.
    I like to wear things out and I tend to like things best that I’ve mended or altered. I buy things that need mending if I like them.
    It’s very hard to buy new things & know the supply line. Fabric comes into that category too so I think your secondhand buys are the right thing.
    Gosh, I am going on, so I’ll just look forward to your next post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Norma. Certainly the ‘slow’ approach that you and Emily Ann are taking to your 30s challenge has been a great inspiration to me this year. I am interested to see where more of this thinking leads me in my sewing endeavours.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Really found this interesting, I have started storing the clothes that I don’t wear as started to wish I hadn’t thrown things away after a couple years. I always search secondhand shops and car boot sales for fabric but rarely come across any. Is organic usually better? I assume that it comes from better working environments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lynsey. I also regret some that got away!
      From what I understand with regards to cotton, it’s a very environmentally unfriendly industry. So organic is better for the environment in terms of pesticides and chemical run offs, I don’t know if it uses less water, but I assume it’s better for those working the crop too. And when it is being farmed in a developing country I think this is even more important.

      Like

  7. Such a great post, Naomi. For a few years now I’ve been consciously trying to shop for clothes less and less. I wish I could say the impulse came from a profound rethinking of how I consume but that actually came later. What really happened is that after moving from one European city to another I made the biggest move: to a small college town in North America. Shopping for clothes suddenly became a hassle. I was used to stores being on the way of my daily walks and now I had to plan a trip to a mall somewhere on the outskirts. I couldn’t be bothered. And that made me begin to realize that I didn’t need new clothes all that often.

    I really enjoyed reading about how you keep your wardrobe in good shape. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It’s amazing how a change in routine can affect something like shopping. I used to be free lance with lots of drive time and endless opportunities to “pop in” to a shop as I was passing. Now I work office hours and the temptation is less present!!

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      1. Yes! That sudden limitation definitely changed my life for the better. And learning to sew finally gave me a chance to think about what I really, truly want to wear and not just what happens to be there that I don’t hate and therefore would be fine with wearing — which is what shopping for clothes always felt like to me.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Weirdly, reading about Slow Fashion October has made me want to get a move on with all of my sewing plans! I enjoyed reading your introduction, especially the part about sourcing fabric from op shops. It’s amazing what you can find in those places! I’ve picked up some gorgeous woollens and equally gorgeous mystery materials for next to nothing. You’re definitely rewarded if you have a bit of a dig through the offerings.

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  9. I have just returned from holiday and even my daughter was surprised by the few things that followed me home. I try to buy consciously these days and only buy what I know I will love to death. The same goes for the things I sew. I really want to make the type of clothes I feel good in and wear on a daily basis. This means for me clothing that can be dressed up for work or down for the weekend and is in constant rotation. I love noting better than relieving the op shop of useful fabric but even here I try not to buy anything that will later be discarded.

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    1. Good for you Andrea! I really especially like the thinking around integrating the casual and work wardrobes. I really need to work more on that. And also, keep away from ReStore when I don’t *need* anything for my stash!!

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  10. I actually read this post, and the article you linked to, last night. It is incredibly sobering. I think the “shop our own closet thing” is a lost art! We should all really do it more. I am also at the point where I know I do simply not need more clothes but I can not stop the creativity. On Pattern Review their next competition is the “one pattern many looks” challenge. I can not resist it. Will be using only fabric from my stash, and make my conscience feel better that way…but in the back of my mind there still is the realization that I already have enough (too much) clothes. I will be making between 3 and 5 more tops for the sake of being creative, and ONLY for that reason. I could write books about this…the balance between creativity, fashion, wants, needs, happiness, escapism….. Okay. I will rather stop now…

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    1. I hear you. I’m the same – there’s a need to make that sewing satisfies and I have a lovely stash of patterns and fabric too. I think being more mindful and slowing down is the good lesson for me. And that’s a start at least. Rather than racing to finish garments constantly, I’m going to try and do some slower sewing and also avoid the opshop fabric piles for a while!!

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