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Slow fashion

I’ve had this item of knitwear for about 20 years. I remember buying it on Bond Street in London and it was in a sale. I probably have quite a few clothes of this age (and older). I’m not a hoarder but I do like to preserve the life of things.

And clothes should last. They should fit, they should be flattering; and your choices should say something about you.

My grandmother worked in a garment factory and my mother followed suit as a machinist for a while after she left school. I was bought up with hand-made (and hand-knitted) clothes and learned to make them at home but also at school. It’s been a while since I made any clothes but I’m inspired by TV programmes like the Great British Sewing Bee and Next in Fashion – so watch this space. 

Designing clothes is a wonderful skill. It takes years of dedication and experiment to get it right. To be able to design and make an outfit that flatters and wears well is amazingly impressive. Sourcing fabrics that are traditionally-crafted keeps alive skills which should be treasured. Dressmaking techniques honed through the centuries should be revered. Fashion is fascinating.

It’s certainly true that I get bored of items of clothing however. Everyone does, but if you rotate them every few years it’s amazing how different they look partnered with other items. Trends always repeat themselves anyhow.

But ‘fast fashion’ is not so appealing. A lot of clothing brands are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon. It is encouraging that broadly most brands are considering their impact – the movement to ensure supply chains align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals is a good one to be on board.

What is reprehensible is that ranges change every few weeks. What happened to autumn/winter and spring/summer ranges that we could anticipate and look forward to? We now have numerous “micro seasons” within a single month. And people expect to simply ditch what becomes ‘out of fashion’, wearing a garment perhaps three times at most.

The fashion industry is one of the major polluters, more than air travel and shipping put together according to many sources. Consuming and polluting water at millions of gallons a day and wrecking nature’s ecosystem. And more incredibly, vast quantities of clothes go to landfill. Garment workers, more often than not based in developing or poorer nations have been some of the most exploited, working in inhumane conditions, for long hours and for little pay. For no good reason whatsoever.

I found myself inadvertently doing my bit. Extinction Rebellion’s Boycott Fashion initiative encourages people to not buy new clothes for a year, and instead make or make do and mend, upcycle, recycle – get your fashion hit through pre-loved, making, swapping or hiring garments and shoes. I realised that I have achieved this and as most participants find, I haven’t looked back. We enjoy finding more creative ways of feeling good about our clothing and that’s exactly what movements like XR want – better, more sustainable habits.

Secondly, I avoid washing my clothes as much as possible. Washing clothes tends to ruin them in some way, even if they are well made. So I try not to and instead air them well, hang them up, rotate them. You can even freeze them to freshen and sanitise them which I’ve not yet tried. Washing clothes releases millions of plastic microfibres into the water system, adding further to pollution and getting into the foodchain.

It’s good to hear about slow fashion initiatives such as this one. There are clothes in my wardrobe that I will have for the rest of my life, and I hope most of those get recycled. It’s not vain to want to look your best but people should pick ethical brands and do it with as little impact on the environment as possible.