Sunday, 17 December 2017

book review : slow clothing

Did you know there is a new Australian sustainable fashion book on the market? Slow Clothing by Jane Milburn of Textile Beat. Could be the perfect holiday gift for that fashion lover in your life...

I love this beautiful, calming cover, which features the author's own creations.

The full title is Slow Clothing: Finding meaning in what we wear, and is Milburn's attempt to do for fashion what the slow food movement has done for the food and agriculture industries. I was lucky enough to be given a copy for review and wanted to share my initial thoughts with you before "baby brain" kicks in (though, in all honesty, baby brain may have arrived before Baby!)

One of my first thoughts when I saw the title was how much I love the subtitle. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of injecting more meaning in our clothing. In my own work I've seen firsthand the difference between people who value their clothing and those who don't. While this book has a particular emphasis on making and upcycling your own clothing, I've seen the importance of value and meaning in purchased garments as well - the intention and thought going into what we wear has a strong influence on how much we buy, how well we take care of garments, and how long we hold onto clothing before donating and/or disposing of it.

But I digress...

Milburn has a wealth of knowledge on issues of fashion and sustainability, and her passion for clothing and textiles is undeniable. The book is broken into six chapters detailing Milburn's purpose, journey, Sew it Again and Slow Clothing projects, slow clothing manifesto, DIY techniques and final reflections about the future from various community leaders.

Milburn's Slow Clothing Manifesto

My favourite chapter of the book is Chapter 2, 'Authenticity', when Jane shares her journey to slow clothing. It's probably the social researcher in me, but I absolutely love learning about individuals' stories, especially when they are stories that have led to a sustainable transformation of sorts. Jane's story is a reminder that each of us have unique experiences that provide us with specific skills and interests to change the world around us. In her case, there are the sewing skills learned early in life, her role as a journalist, working and living in rural communities, hands-on environmental and leadership projects, and an ability to connect with people across each of these various roles and locales.

Jane also shares very personal experiences dealing with loss, addiction and depression, and how these impacted her journey to slow fashion. It is rare in the realm of clothing and fashion writing to find this type of vulnerability - no sugar-coating, no glamour, no jokes - and it greatly added to the message of the book about finding meaning in our clothing. It's only when we are honest and open with ourselves that we can find meaning in life, including having the ability to connect with our clothing in a valuable and meaningful way, and a way that impacts more than our own self-image but also the planet, our communities, and even people working in the global garment industry.

Other highlights include Jane's life lessons/insights that she sprinkles throughout the book, including these gems:
  • Making clothes to suit oneself is satisfying (I'd add that, if you're not a sewer yourself, altering and/or having clothes made to measure is also satisfying and confidence-boosting).
  • Being sustainable may cost more, but is worth it in the long run.
  • Embrace imperfection. Being perfect is impossible to maintain.
  • [When it comes to sewing a garment], just give it a go. Learning comes from doing. 

One example from The Slow Clothing Project - Emma Williamson
made this gown from a cotton sheet left behind by a former tenant
and a length of elastic - made with only two seams sewn!

And for sewing novices like me, Chapter 5 provides some extremely useful DIY techniques you can use to either mend your favourite garments or to get creative with upcycling of preloved clothing (whether your own or those you've found in op shops or markets).

I've had the pleasure of meeting dozens of sustainable fashion entrepreneurs in Australia. This book of Jane's experiences is yet another reminder of the progress that can be made by an individual with a passion, and the importance of sharing this passion with others to change the face of fashion. We may all come from different backgrounds, have different aesthetic preferences in clothing, and have different skills, but as Jane highlights in her book (as spoken by her colleague), "Leadership is an action you take, not a position you hold." In Jane's words:
"You don't need a title or a badge to be a leader, you can just step up."
As we wrap up another year, I think this is a wonderful notion to reflect upon. How can you step up to make the world a better place? No need for accolades or the spotlight, but just taking action for the sake of making a positive contribution. What experiences and skills enable you to offer something unique to the various issues and causes that need attention? We all have the ability to make a positive impact, if we just take the leap.

I love this take on the famous fishing quote - nice one, Jane!

On that note, I'd like to wish you and yours a joyous holiday season. Thank you for another wonderful year of sharing sustainability ideas. I'm signing off the blog now to enjoy the holidays, family, friends, and welcoming new Baby into the world.

See you all in 2018!
xxLisa

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

ugly christmas sweaters

I'm sure you've heard of the "revival" of ugly Christmas sweaters.


A few years back some hipsters thought it would be hysterical to rummage through op shops and their parents' closets to find the ugliest holiday sweaters to wear - ironically, of course. Then ugly Christmas sweater parties surfaced all over the place, including Sydney's sweltering silly season. Now there is even an ugly Christmas sweater day in the US.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Party via Flickr/Ramseymohsen

I'm not opposed to the idea of mocking the Christmas sweaters of yesteryear - there are some real doozies out there. Growing up I vividly remember a sweatshirt with a puff paint Rudolph (remember puff paint?!) and another with a Christmas tree strung with tiny ornaments hanging off the front. I was definitely a child of the '80s.


Honestly, I don't want to be the fun police. By all means, have a laugh at these sartorially questionable jumpers. But can you do me (and the planet and garment workers a favour) and please not buy a new ugly Christmas sweater?

Why buy a new sweater when this vintage
beauty is available from Ragstock?

There are now companies that specialise in new ugly Christmas sweaters like Tipsy Elves and Ugly Christmas Sweater, capitalising on this bit of holiday fun. Plus the likes of ASOS and Target also have ranges of ugly Christmas sweaters. Many of these are more "funny" than "ugly", but the they are all taking advantage of this recent holiday trend.

You know where I'm going with this, right?

This is a completely unsustainable mode of fashion consumption.

That's right, I used bold, that's how irritated I am at the concept of new ugly sweaters.

First of all, the origin of the ugly Christmas sweater revival was to find a genuinely used, pre-worn sweater and laugh at the original wearer of it - "Can you believe my Dad actually wore this monstrosity?!" And if you were willing to wear it out and about in Fitzroy or Williamsburg you'd have the additional glow from the knowledge that you paid as little as possible and didn't contribute to corporate greed by buying secondhand.



Which brings me to my second point:

Buying a new ugly Christmas sweater is essentially the same as buying into the fast fashion mentality - "I'll buy this ugly sweater to wear ironically or to a fancy dress party and then get rid of it after one or two wears."

And though the sweaters are not all cheap (retailing between US$30-$80), they are made of poor materials. Mostly made of acrylic, though sometimes with a little bit of cotton and/or polyester thrown in the mix. I've written before about the problems with microfibre pollution associated with acrylic and polyester fibres, and the amount of textile waste from consumers is staggering. These specialty brands do not rate anywhere on any of the garment labour standards schemes, and their supply chains are completely opaque, meaning the company either has no idea, or isn't sharing openly, who makes their (ugly) clothes.



And for those Aussies reading this who are tempted to buy an ugly Christmas rashie for their Christmas morning surf, consider this message is for you, too. Unless you are going to wear that tacky holiday rashie until it is threadbare, put it back on the rack and just wear a Santa hat like the rest of the Christmas Day surfers, okay? (Try the same one you wore last year, it'll probably still do the trick.)

Those brands of new sweaters that partner with Ugly Christmas Sweater Day ask you to make a donation to a children's charity - fabulous idea! But no need to buy a new ugly sweater from these shady businesses. Be like the cool kids - find a vintage one in an op shop, eBay, Rusty Zipper or Ragstock (or your Mum's wardrobe!) then take the money you would have spent on a new ugly sweater and donate the full amount to charity.

Then you'll definitely make Santa's "Nice" list.

I spotted this charming piece at Lifeline in Manly this morning. I suspect it's
pretty new, as it's quite cute, but at least you can rescue it from being
ragged or sent offshore if you are heading to an ugly Christmas sweater party.
Happy Holidays!
xx

PS - shout out to my clever environmentalist hubby who first pointed out to me the new ugly Christmas sweater websites and suggested I write a blog post.

Friday, 1 December 2017

sustainable maternity fashion

If you follow me on Instagram you'll have been seeing some of my maternity fashion looks over the past few months. I thought it was about time I compiled a list of shopping sites and labels that have helped me feel stylish without sacrificing my environmental and ethical values. But you'll also notice that I tried my best to wear things already in my wardrobe as much as possible - it's been a fascinating journey for this sustainable fashionista!

Belly Belt
One of the first things I bought was a Belly Belt, which let me keep wearing my favourite Agolde jeans for months. There are two different sized belts, both with multiple hooks/button holes, to keep you in your favourite clothes throughout your pregnancy. You just need to make sure you have shirts that hang low enough to cover the belt. Designed by an Aussie - nice! - but also available in the US and the UK.




Here you can see how I've used the Belly Belt for months. In the photo on the left I'm wearing my perfect white shirt from slow fashionistas Good Day Girl, layered with a long tee by Amour Vert. On the right, I've paired my Belly Belted jeans with a wrap dress I've owned for over a decade and my fave black KITX blazer.


Bamboo Body
No fabric is perfect, but I typically avoid bamboo because often the process of turning hard bamboo into soft fabric uses a large amount of chemicals and the production often isn't highly regulated (and don't believe those "anti-bacterial" claims of this fabric, either). However, there are many sustainable benefits to the fabric, like using significantly less water than cotton, requiring no pesticides and being fast growing compared to the other trees often used to create viscose (bamboo fabric is technically viscose). And for anyone who has ever worn it, you know how comfortable, soft and breathable bamboo feels on your body. So...I have made some exceptions for my maternity wardrobe, as this seems to be a "sustainable" fabric of choice in this market.

 

This ruched, bodycon dress was one of the first pieces I bought (purchased from Glow Mama) and has lovingly stretched along with my growing bump. And I guarantee I will keep wearing it post-pregnancy, it's just so comfortable and easy, definitely going to hit at least 30 wears.


I also bought this Bamboo Body long-sleeve top at the same time, and again, I'm sure I'll keep wearing it. The shorts were purchased from online shop Milk & Love, and are 100% linen - heaven! Accessorised with Veja sneakers, Sseko natural leather tote ethically made in Africa, Toms one-for-one sunglasses and a necklace made from an upcycled skateboard deck.


Sorella Organics
I already knew about Sorella because they offer a range of beautiful organic cotton pajamas and lingerie, and they also have a maternity line. I bought myself this beautiful lavender nightie, which will be great for nursing, too.



Amour Vert
Not technically a maternity label, but one of my favourite ethical labels, and many of the items I already had in my wardrobe by Amour Vert helped me look and feel like myself as my belly grew.


This navy and white striped dress has been in my wardrobe for about four years now, and was the perfect dress for warm winter days and worked well into spring.


This sweater/jumper was a great option for early pregnancy days, as it allowed my little growing bump the space it needed to grow without showing it off too much (this photo was taken for a University of Sydney marketing campaign when I was about 4-5 months pregnant - great fun to walk through the mall having my photo taken, with shoppers looking at me intently like, "Is she famous?!" Nope - just passionate about sustainable fashion).


And this off-the-shoulder top is made of linen and is keeping me cool as the days heat up (though is just about too small to fit over my 8 month (plus!) bump). Incidentally, this photo was taken before I'd fully turned my office into a nursery -  another blog post coming once that project is done.

The overalls were a specific maternity purchase, and I fully admit there is nothing inherently sustainable about them. However, I have definitely worn them at least 30 times already, and hope to sell them/pass them along to another mumma-to-be when I'm done.


All the Wild Roses
I have practically lived in this dress from All the Wild Roses, and cannot believe I have ZERO pregnant photos of me in it - so instead I'll show you the non-pregnant version and you can use your imagination. Perfect empire-waist, boho-inspired, airy for summer and easily layered for winter. I am so in love with dress, and confident it's well-beyond 30 wears since I bought it last summer, and is still going very strong.



Queen Bee Maternity
I have enjoyed this website for buying a number of items like a belly support band made of organic cotton, bamboo maternity and nursing sleep bras, organic tanks and tees. Not everything on the site is sustainable, but I was able to find a number of small essential pieces, which made me  happy.

 
The Ten Active
Though not strictly "sustainable", these Made in Australia leggings from The Ten Active have been a saviour for my yoga practice. I kept wearing my usual leggings as long as possible, but as soon as I slipped on this pair of leggings I was in heaven. I felt at once supported and free to move in all the positions my body is craving. I have practiced yoga for almost two decades (wow!) and having comfortable yoga wear is essential.


I'll probably keep wearing them afterward because you can easily fold down the maternity support top, they are incredibly high quality, extremely comfortable, and I love the colour. Each purchase also supports the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, a children's hospital charity.


H&M
OMG - I can't believe it, but I admit I bought some items from H&M. They have a "Mama" range, and I bought a couple organic tees that had a bit of stretch to go over my bump, too. I have such mixed feelings about H&M's sustainability claims, but I wanted to be honest with you all and let you know I did enjoy being able to buy organic cotton maternity tops for a reasonable price from this fast fashion behemoth. I'm wearing a 3/4-length sleeve black top with my overalls in the photo below, and paired with a vintage head scarf and my favourite Birkenstocks.



* * * * 

Secondhand clothing has also been essential in this journey. I relied on secondhand clothing from a dear friend, who gave me three pair of maternity pants that were so helpful in the winter months, as well as some extra t-shirts and a dress. My mother-in-law kindly bought me a few pieces from a secondhand maternity clothes sale in her hometown.  I bought a dress for my baby shower from eBay (see below), and a pair of dress maternity pants from ThredUp. Overall this maternity wardrobe of mine is a real mishmash of new sustainable items, pre-loved items, some pieces from my own wardrobe, and a few non-sustainable items.


As many of you would know, dressing your pregnant body is an unusual experience. You are constantly growing, but slowly so you don't realise how much your body really is going to change. I thought I'd be able to get away with a lot more clothes from my wardrobe, but I really couldn't as my body changed over the past 8 months. It's not just the bump, but my breasts have grown, my hips and thighs, too, and certain dresses I thought would definitely last throughout my pregnancy were outgrown months ago. It's an excellent practice in letting go of control, especially for someone like me, who likes to have full control of not just the style of my clothing but the sustainability credentials, too. I think I've done pretty well, though there were certainly a few early purchases that were not right (hello see-through leggings and non-supportive sports bra!), but I've also had a lot of fun dressing this version of myself.

If you have any other tips for sustainable mamas-to-be, please share! My number one tip - when in doubt, ask Google, and you'll be led to some incredible online shops.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

sustainable shopping: how to rock white sneakers in The Conversation

G'day!

I was asked to write this article for The Conversation, one of my favourite news websites because, as its tagline suggests, the articles are written with "academic rigour & journalistic flair".



So many articles floating around our social media newsfeeds (even from so-called "news" websites) are filled with opinion or hearsay rather than research. I'm not claiming to be a perfect researcher or writer, even I occasionally fall into the habit of making generalisations and assumptions based on things I read years ago. But the team at The Conversation are incredibly dedicated to having references for every claim, making its articles richly researched and backed up with fact. (They came back to me with plenty of questions and requests for sources/references backing up everything I wrote in my first draft of this article - they kept me on my toes!)

It's wonderful to know there are people dedicated to understanding the truth and not just opinion, don't you think? Here's the beginning of the article and link to the complete article on their website - enjoy! And please ask any questions or make any requests in these comments or on The Conversation's website.

* * * *

White sneakers look great with nearly everything on nearly everybody, so it’s no surprise they’re having a fashion moment. Adidas sold eight million pairs of their iconic Stan Smiths in 2015 (and that doesn’t include the lookalikes).
Nearly 800,000 Australians buy a pair of sporting shoes in any four-week period. This amounts to a staggering 10.4 million pairs sold every year. Globally, Nike sells 25 pairs of sneakers every second.
But have you ever considered the environmental impact of your favourite sneakers? From materials to manufacturing, they have a hidden cost – but it is possible to find shoes that don’t cost the Earth.

A pair of runners produces 13kg of CO₂

While little research has been done on the environmental impact of fashion, one study has found that the production of a pair of running shoes emits 13kg of carbon dioxide. The production of the materials involved, including leather, nylon, synthetic rubber, plastic and viscose, also takes an environmental toll.

Link to the full article

The only caveat I will add here about my admiration of The Conversation, is that I was disappointed they took out my comments regarding Adidas. Of course I love supporting small, independent, change-making brands (I'm sure you know that by now!), but Adidas has not been resting on its laurels. The company is taking strides toward sustainable material production and ethical labour practices. They are not perfect, but they are making a start, and I think that deserves some recognition.

xLisa

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

fashioning sustainability

sharing research insights


I submitted my PhD thesis just over a month ago (insert happy dance here). After working on the project full time since 2014, it's hard to believe it is over. Well, nearly. It is with three readers, various experts in their fields around the world, who will provide reports and probably some suggestions to strengthen the analysis. So you can't call me "Dr" just yet, but you can bet I'll let you know when you can!

It's an odd in-between feeling, and yet when I hit that "submit" button I did feel an incredible sense of relief and pride at having completed this research.


The cover page, featuring a gorgeous illustration by my talented
friend Natalie Boog - thanks Nat!
Now that I've had some time to breathe I'm working on an Executive Summary to share with the industry, NGO and activist research participants. To say it is a challenge to distill 300+ pages into bite size data that will be interesting and useful to others feels like the understatement of the century. But why did I do this research if it wasn't to support a transition toward sustainable fashion practices, right?

I plan on publishing the research more widely in academic journals and a book (or two!), but all that will take time. In the meantime I thought I'd also share some of the interesting tidbits that came to light during my research here on the blog. Over the next few weeks I'll share some insights into sustainable fashion in Australia including:
  • consumer awareness 
  • entrepreneurial leadership
  • industry action and limits
  • social movement progress and pitfalls
  • shopping habits
  • the connections among all of the above
Ultimately my thesis puts forward a new approach to sustainable fashion activism that can apply to other sectors and has ramifications for how we address the wider climate crisis.

Thanks to all of you for being on this journey with me over the past 5 years when I first published Sustainability with Style and realised just how much work needed to be done on sustainable fashion.

I look forward to sharing more info with you all on my research, but in the meantime if you have any requests for blog posts, please let me know in the comments below.

xxLisa

Saturday, 23 September 2017

climate optimist

This week I saw a new campaign floating around on social media asking people to pledge to be a #climateoptimist



Now, I didn't need any urging to be optimistic about climate change. Despite all the bad news that surrounds climate change, including the impacts already happening like increased extreme weather events around the world and climate refugees, I've been an optimist ever since I became an environmentalist.

Actually, I think that it's because I'm an active environmentalist that I am an optimist. I feel incredibly privileged to have met countless innovators and changemakers through my work, including through the green building industry, the sustainable fashion movement, and the many climate and renewable activists I've met along the way.  I know people who have launched social enterprises that recycle used fishing nets into skateboards and sunglasses, created transparent and ethical supply chains for textiles, made apps to help people shop more ethically, invented sustainability roles for themselves, and worked with big business and government to address larger systems and institutions. Simply put, there is so much activity, and so many people working on solving the climate (and other environmental) crisis, that there is no reason not to be an optimist.

I know not everyone can meet these people in their day jobs and hear about the latest innovations as they are being created and tested, so I thought I'd share some of the reasons why I feel so optimistic:


  • Global energy-related carbon emissions have been flat for three years in a row, even as the global economy grew by 3.1%. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a proponent for endless growth economics, but it's promising to see that we don't have to totally overthrow capitalism to address climate change (not right away, anyway...)

  • Australia's energy-related emissions decreased 2.3% in the year to June 2017, this brings us to 9.1% below 2005 emissions and 0.8% below 2000 emissions. Furthermore, emissions per capita are at the lowest level in 27 years, down 34.2% since 1990. Read all the details on the Australian Department of Environment and Energy website.

  • A global energy transition is underway. Renewable energy has grown by record levels once again in 2016, up 10% from the 2015 record to 161GW, and costs less each year, 23% reduction in investment compared to 2015. There is more investment in renewables than any other energy form. 

  • In the US, after Donald Trump announced pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, a number of cities and businesses pledged to meet the commitments.

  • Australian researchers have identified 22,000 sites for pumped hydro energy storage to address renewable energy storage concerns.

  • The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation just awarded $20 million in environmental grants (as if I needed another reason to love Leo).

  • Fossil fuel companies are being taken to court by children, cities and states to pay the damages of climate change because the industry knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change and failed to act (similar to the tobacco industry cases).

  • The Australian green building sector has decreased emissions by 62% and potable water use by 51% (compared to traditional building standards).

  • Interest in sustainable fashion is rapidly growing. I don't have any quantitative stats to share on this, however, given my own involvement in the movement (and my recently completely PhD research) I can attest to the increased interest from consumers, governments, industry and educational institutions. While not directly connected to climate change (though the production, use and disposal of clothing certainly adds to emissions), this growing interest in sustainable fashion signals growing concern and awareness of all environmental issues, and shows that a broad range of individuals care about these issues and want to play a part in the solution.
In short - passion and innovation change the world, and I see no shortage of either. 
This is the main reason I'm a climate optimist,
but there are too many to list.


I wouldn't be true to my activist self if I didn't add a final caveat: just because I am optimistic does not mean we can be complacent. We have a lot of work to do, and we need all hands on deck - citizens, businesses and governments. So while I am optimistic - and I hope you feel optimistic, too - I don't want to give the impression our work here is done.

What do you think? Are you a climate optimist? Why? Why not? I'd love to hear from you, so let's keep this important discussion moving.

xxLisa

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

i heart nudie

Do you have items in your wardrobe that haven't fit for years? And you keep thinking, "maybe one day?"

Normally I get rid of those items - no need to not love everything in your wardrobe, I always say. But I've had a hard time saying goodbye to these black skinny Nudie jeans. Probably because I just LOVE Nudie. They have been committed to organic cotton for years, offer free repairs for the life of your denim, sell pre-loved jeans in their stores, recycle denim that's beyond repair, and have embraced sustainability long before it became trendy.

But, I bought the wrong size. Well, I think I'd hoped they would stretch a bit with wear, and they certainly did not. So - off to eBay for these beauties! They are barely worn, hence the sale rather than donation. Waist 29, length 30, high waisted, skinny High Kai denim.

If that happens to be your size, check them out on eBay.



Otherwise, next time you're in the market for new denim, check out Nudie and enjoy wearing high quality, organic cotton denim.

As proof of their commitment to repair - here are a couple snaps of my husband's Nudies, repaired twice now (and another pair is currently being repaired as I type).




Thanks, Nudie, for your complete embrace of sustainable values throughout the life of your products.