Our last Guest Dinner for the year (in November) wove a number of threads together, arising from the topic of ‘A New Look at Fashion’. Our speakers were Kara Otter and Chiara di Giorgio.
It is a topic and an ‘issue’ that we are all connected to, and we were treated to a potted life story of how a woman began as a young teenager and soon worked in the industry in a variety of jobs. Seeing the issues of waste, exploitation of workers and mass production led her away from that area of employment into now having her own small business specialising in vintage clothing and creative design.
The discussion that followed had us talking animatedly about the madness of fast fashion, the loss of skills in sewing and mending, the scarcity of good quality natural fabrics, and the damage to the environment of laundering ‘fluffy’ and napped clothing (eg velvets, polar fleece jackets): tiny pieces of plastic fibres flow from our washing machines into the ocean.
Shockingly we were told that taking your clothes to charity stores is mostly a lost cause as much of that clothing doesn’t get circulated – as we like to think – into the local economy.
Transportation (emissions from air fuel consumption) shifts discarded clothing around the world to no good end. And millions of people in the developing world work at picking items from giant rubbish dumps, dealing with the waste that rich countries create.
Another piece of information – breaking up discarded fabrics and clothing into the constituent fibres for re-spinning, is very expensive.
The take-away message for us as individuals seems to be not to find more outlets for our discarded items, but actually to stop demanding and consuming more clothing.
CLOTHING, some reflections
What a fruitful topic! We all have our favourite pieces of clothing (some from earlier in our lives)…nice stories to tell
The way we dress and our tastes are so unique! So much of it is about signalling something about ourselves ( ?our ‘identity’), wanting to be seen or thought of in a certain way (that is undefinable but combines aspects of wanting to conform, or to rebel, to be creative, to look a different age or size, to be cool).
A perspective from a veteran fashion worker is that fast fashion may appeal to our broken hearts; we buy for relief from our pain; instead, we need to actually love each other more. Does shopping really offer a salve to loneliness?
Another driver behind fast fashion is the subtle message in all advertising – that we’re not good enough as we are so we need to improve ourselves, or we deserve or need more!!
This same veteran now lives in the bush (near Byron Bay) and prefers to spend her days at home clothing-free!
Another thread in this topic occurs to me – the feeling we have when we ‘get rid’ of clothing or throw it out. It’s an attempt to shed aspects of ourself that now feel old-fashioned or embarrassing in some way. And there’s something virtuous in throwing things away – removing them from our sight; clearing out, decluttering, becoming clean!
One can feel generous to ‘donate’ to a charity as it’s like doing a good deed.
My key requirement these days is comfort, then comes the feel on the skin (silk, linen, wool, cotton)
And I sometimes find myself standing almost in my wardrobe – communing with the things hanging and folded in there. So many stories and connections, with people, special occasions, times and places.
So changing our ways is a complicated thing, given all the threads that hang from Fashion! Dress! Clothing!
Do share your thoughts.
Several bright ideas for Transition Bondi to support, emerged from this discussion.
- We might hold a clothes swap next year, among our network. Encouraging local circular economy.
- We could think of creating a ‘library of materials’: a place to swap buttons, cotton reels, extra sewing equipment that can only be bought in multiples, packaged. What better place than a laundromat, where a little hand sewing would be perfect to do!
- Hold a regular event offering some help with mending skills (a clothing version of ‘Repair Cafe’)
Keep a lookout for these opportunities, and save your mending for a sewing bee with afternoon tea!
Kit, Convenor, Transition Bondi Nov, 2022