Monday 27 March 2017

Fast fashion, slow cotton

I recently provided some input on a story for the Lush Times (yes, connected with the ethical beauty company famous for their delightful bath bombs).  Here's a preview, and a link to the full article:

Amid the designer luxury of the recent Paris Fashion Week, new clothes were paraded down the catwalk, ready for the latest trends to hit the high street. But experts are calling for dedicated followers of fashion to shape a new industry trend: one of sustainable fashion and organic cotton. Stepping away from the world of fast fashion, consumers are being encouraged to think about what lies behind each garment.

The cotton growing and harvesting process may not be the first thing on consumers’ minds when they purchase clothes, but sustainability expert Lisa Heinze is keen for this to change, and for the real ‘value’ of garments to be revealed, from cotton production to the creation of clothing items.
She said: “Once we start looking at garments not just as a garment, but as a collection of stories about people who created that garment, we increase its value.”
This approach could lead to consumers approaching fashion in a more conscientious way, taking an interest in the chain of events leading up to an item’s creation, and whether it has been fair for both people and planet.
Lisa Heinze said: “Learning even a little about garment production can help us gain an appreciation of how much time and effort people put into making the clothes we wear.”
The sustainability expert highlights a number of environmental and social issues related to fashion production, including water use, water pollution, worker safety and garment waste. She said that the issue is exacerbated as the fast fashion cycle becomes faster.

Monday 13 March 2017

getting crafty

I'm not the world's craftiest person, but I do love a good hands-on creative project. Last week I managed to work on a project I've been meaning to for - not joking - three years (at least!).

My homemade, hand-stitched cushion cover.

When I was in East Africa in 2012 I bought some gorgeous fabric. Anyone who has been to the region knows the incredible textiles that are used in dress and for decoration known as khanga, or the thicker kitenge. Typically made of cotton and woven in Kenya and Tanzania, it's impossible not to admire the beautiful colours and bold prints on this traditional cloth. The markets are filled with stalls and shops selling the cloth, and I loved seeing the women wearing these beautiful garments everywhere we went on our travels.

I only bought a few khangas (perhaps subconsciously knowing it would take me years to use them), but every time I look at the beautiful materials I'm taken back to Tanzania and the sights, smells and sounds of that magical country.

Fast-forward to last week - I finally made one cushion cover with the fabric. I made it by hand because I don't have a sewing machine, I'm not great with a sewing machine, and it was nice meditative work at the end of my busy days.

The khanga, the old cushion needing recovering, and my
calculations for measuring the fabric.

Midway through the project - I'd successfully sewed
finished seams and pinned the pieces together.

I followed the clear guidance of Hey There Home and was amazed at how easy it was to create this cover, even for a sewing novice like me. If you've been wanting to freshen up your home without spending a fortune, I can vouch for the ease of making these envelope cushion covers. I am going to make a few more to sit alongside this beauty (this project didn't even use a quarter of the fabric), and keep thinking about what to do with the other cloth I have.

How great are these colours?!

I love filling my house with memories from my travels, and was glad to reuse an old cushion that was worse for wear (and not matching my current colour scheme). Have you worked on any fun, crafty projects lately? I'd love to hear about them!

Have a great week.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

international women's day

Today I'm celebrating International Women's Day not by going on strike, but by spreading the news about women around the world who would really benefit from a fairer fashion industry.

Did you know that around 85% of all garment workers are women?*

Image c/o Kowtow

The majority of workers killed in the deadly Rana Plaza collapse were women, and most homeworkers are also women - typically sewing at home while also raising children. There have been reports of some garment factories requiring female employees to take oral contraceptives to guarantee their workforce, and according to the ILO, there is a significant wage gap in Asia's textile trade (where most of our clothing is currently produced), with two of the highest being Pakistan and India where women earn 48% and 39% less than men, respectively.**

Throughout the rag trade women hold overwhelmingly more positions than men though, like other industries, it's common to find men atop the highest paid list. According to Forbes, the 10 wealthiest people in fashion are all men, including the world's second richest person, Amancio Ortega, who owns Zara.

The World Economic Forum does not expect the gender pay gap to close until 2186 if current trends are maintained. I don't know about you, but the idea of equal pay for equal work is fairly elementary. The issue of parity is one that needs our full attention, both at home and abroad, and fashion industry is a prime target for improvement.

So what can you do to embrace this year's International Women's Day theme of #BeBoldForChange?

  • You can demand fair treatment and gender parity (in terms of pay and opportunity) from the brands you buy. Fashion Revolution Week is coming up next month, which is a great opportunity to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes? But why wait until then? Contact your favourite fashion label today to talk about the women in their business.
  • Support labels that are already choosing producers that empower females. Australian labels Carlie Ballard and Cloth & Co are two of my favourites that work with women in India to create beautiful, handwoven garments, and give women opportunities not often found in other workshops/factories (like the female tailor in the workshop that makes Ballard's pieces!). 
  • Head over to the Project Just website and download the Good On You app to see how your favourite brands rank on ethics. Though they don't always go into the level of detail of gender pay, it's a start, and you'll discover some great labels that are well on the way to being safer, cleaner and fairer places to work.

However you acknowledge International Women's Day, let's support one another today. Only by joining forces and working together toward a common goal can we hope to smash that 2186 estimate and create a better world for all women and girls.


* * * * 

*From The True Cost. These statistics are notoriously difficult to pin down because of the unregulated and undocumented nature of many clothing factories.
** This is a very complex subject, and I have pulled out the two highest, but I urge you to read the report to get a fuller understanding of how issues of marital status, education, and age all play a part in this gap.