A few days ago I came across this article on Twitter – There is a major climate issue hiding in your closet: fast fashion. It resonated with me as I’ve been thinking, for a while now, about not buying clothes. Read this to understand some of the problems that fast fashion and the throwaway wardrobe causes for us all and the environment. It isn’t just the quantity that we buy and throw away, it’s what many of the clothes are made of – synthetics. Synthetics are made, essentially, from oil and coal: hence the term ‘gas guzzling clothes’ or ‘coal-rich clothing’.
Back in the summer, I joined a pledge and wrote about it in No new clothes: The Seamless Pledge. Lately I’ve been thinking through what’s been easy and what seems hard since turning to this pledge, and that’s not just centred on me, but what might be easy or hard for most people.
What’s been easy? Walking down the High Street, where I live, lately I don’t feel a great pull towards the clothes on sale. I’m often tempted into the food hall of ‘Marks and Sparks’ for some indulgent nibbles, but find I ignore the clothes. How come? I suppose because the arguments against fast fashion that you see in the article mentioned above have lodged in my brain, because I’m very motivated to make my own clothes and I’ve been buying second-hand for a long time. Walking into a charity shop to buy clothes doesn’t make me have to change my mindset or overcome a prejudice against second-hand – its familiar territory to me, but for many it isn’t. For many, making clothes seems an impossibility, and whilst in decades past, making at least some of your clothes at home was normal, it now isn’t. So, even if you’ve accepted the arguments against throw-away fashion, there may be some barriers to overcome.
Don’t lose heart – there’s lots of help around for those who want to learn how to make their own clothes or mend and upcycle clothes. Try your local college for beginner dressmaking courses, knitting circles are springing up everywhere and most would help a beginner. An environmental centre near where I live runs a clothes swap, a ‘Second-hand First’ week and mending sessions. You’d be surprised what’s around, once you look.
What’s been more difficult? Well, firstly a small issue is ‘smalls’. Most people joining the Seamless Pledge have excluded socks and underwear from the not buying new, probably because you wouldn’t want to buy them second-hand and few would make their own. I’m trying, at least, not to buy new socks. However, now it’s getting colder I’m finding holes in my socks and warm winter tights – aargh! No problem, I can darn and I can knit socks. It’s just that I’m part way through knitting a cardigan, so I know I’m going to have to put that down and get the darning wool out. Easily solved. Guess what the next blog post is likely to be about.
But, here comes the ‘bigey’. I think it’s the move away from synthetic fibres. It’s easy-ish for me as I really don’t like synthetics very much. One of Mr Go Homespun’s favourite t-shirts is a horrid, totally synthetic Aston Villa t-shirt. Not that I sneakily try to hide it at the bottom of the laundry basket or anything. Did I just admit that?
I much prefer natural fibres like wool, linen, silk and cotton, and aim to gradually phase out the synthetics and bring in the natural. Pure wool, linen and silk are hard to find in the shops now, and when you do it’s quite expensive. Cotton is everywhere, and it’s fairly cheap, but it’s mostly made using environmentally damaging processes and cheap labour. Add in our tendency to want easy care, throw it in the washing machine on any old wash cycle clothes and it’s no wonder that synthetics reign supreme. What’s to be done?
Campaigns like Wovember, Knit British, Campaign for Wool, #ethicalfashion, #slowfashion and #makedoandmend are showing the way. Tweet and ‘like’ their messages, buy wool, organic cotton, hemp clothing, knit/crochet with wool, alpaca and other plant or animal fibres, for instance, and you help the cause. Any other suggestions? How would you join the movement away from fast fashion? What do you think are easy wins, or hard to do?