In this age of disposable ‘everything’, clothing is near the top of that list. In the past few decades there has been a sharp increase in clothing commerce, the manufacturing, consuming and discarding of clothing, which has come to be labelled ‘Fast Fashion’. On the other hand, ‘Slow Fashion’ focuses on the quality and durability of the clothing item, a step back to the days when your dress lasted more than a season before it was relegated to the forgotten dark corner of your closet, or worse tossed in the garbage to make it’s way to the landfill.
I debated whether to offer a Wearable Art Fashion line for this very reason. Would I be contributing to the mountains of discarded textiles? In Canada, over 12 million tons of textiles make their way to landfills; in the US it is said to be over 21 billion! Globally, 80% of discarded textiles are dumped in landfills; only 20% are reused. Add to that the environmental effects of manufacturing and transportation of goods, and I was tempted to start walking around buck-naked! But of course, that’s neither practical nor prudent.
So how did I come to terms with offering my own line of Wearable Art Fashions? I did some research.
The simple fact is that the longer an item of clothing lasts, the less impact it will have on the environment, so buying ethically made, quality clothing will reduce the carbon and water footprint as well as reducing waste generation. To begin with, ask yourself these questions: How often will I wear it? Does it fit well? Is it versatile? Do I really like it? Investing in quality made clothing that lasts, classic styles that won’t become dated in a season or even years of seasons, and designs that are flexible enough that you can wear them in multiple ways – those are criteria that make the purchase of new clothing a better choice for the environment.
To date, the technology to separate fibres in existing textiles for recycling and reusing in new textiles is limited. In my research of fabric, I discovered a few surprises. Natural fibres aren’t always the best choice for the environment. The cotton industry is one of the largest users of harmful pesticides. If you thought organic cotton was better, think again. It uses a lot more of one of our most valuable natural resources: water. The fabric quality also tends to diminish more quickly. Wool isn’t always ethically sourced and the fact is, there are many of us who can’t wear it because it irritates our skin too much.
A further consideration is the fair compensation of everyone involved in the actual creation of both clothing and accessories. We’ve all heard about ‘sweat shops’ and their abusive practices in the fashion industry. My clothing line is ethically made in Canada and that matters. Once the digital file is sent to the manufacturer in Montreal, there are many other people involved: printers, cutters, designers and those stitching the pattern pieces together to create the fabulous final product. Everyone in the entire chain needs to be fairly compensated.
Nothing is simple, so it comes down to making a choice that is the most thoughtful, ethically motivated decision available.
My decision to proceed came down to these factors, which were important to me, and I hope, matter to you as well. This is a fashion line that is designed and manufactured to last and here’s why:
- Designs that are classic, flattering to any age and size of woman and won’t be dated in a short time
- Fabric that is sturdy, long lasting and where possible, includes recycled fibres
- Quality manufacturing; seams that are straight and well finished; patterns that are cut to measure
- Earth-friendly water based inks are used in the printing process, keeping harmful chemicals out of the environment
- Sublimation printing results in fade-proof fabrics, so you won’t throw them out because they no longer look like the artwork you fell in love with
- Vegan, wrinkle free fabric means you wear it often, without needing to iron it; ideal for travelling
- Care instructions include ‘wash in cold water and hang to dry’, so you’re not using extra energy
- Careful attention to pattern cutting to reduce waste to a bare minimum
We’re not going to stop buying clothes all together, but we can buy ethically sourced, long lasting fashions instead of ‘fast fashions’, the ‘cheap and cheerful’ type that falls apart after a few times in the wash. We’ve all been there. I stopped buying cheap shoes years ago when I realized what it was doing to my feet – and my back; maybe the same philosophy of quality applies across the board.
Here are some things you can do to mitigate your contribution of discarded textiles in landfills:
- Commit to buying less and make what you have last longer with better care and maintenance
- Buy fewer items/ better quality
- Repair what you have – missing buttons, split seams are easy to fix
- Wash according to care instructions – cold water and hang to dry will make it last longer
- Buy second hand and participate in clothing swaps with friends
- Donate to local charities that will use the clothes in their own stores or give directly to their clients (National charities often have more than they can process so much gets shipped to landfills or overseas)
The versatility of the designs in my Wearable Art line is one of the features I liked. The reversible dress can be worn 4 different ways; shawls and scarves and capes have multiple functions. The fabric is durable, and designs are cut for minimum waste. The fabric is printed with water-based inks and ethically manufactured in Canada. The clothing is incredible durable and can go from a fun and funky look to an evening event. They are mainstays of your wardrobe, meant to last forever. Plus, each piece is signed, so you feel like you’re wearing a piece of my Art!