It’s Fashion Revolution week again. Created after the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh that exposed the grim reality of many garment workers, Fashion Revolution is a movement pushing for transparency within the industry. When it comes to engagement with the public, Fashion Revolution encourages people to ask: “Who made my clothes”? This makes sense seeing as more people buy than sew their clothes. If we look a this question in isolation, the link between Fashion Revolution and the home sewer can be seen to be tenuous; after all, we can say #imademyclothes. But I think we could also be championing a sewing revolution.
A sewing revolution?
Let me start with my take on sewing culture. I have written before about fabric shopping culture and increased commercialism around sewing, but I suspect that within the UK indie market the just-make-more type of sewing attitude might have peaked. In the past few years I have watched social media and maker culture / DIY culture grow massively in the UK. The sewing pattern market is saturated with indie pattern designers (Fiona Parker of Diary of a Chainstitcher was already tracking her own mega list in 2015 and it just keeps growing). The selling point and marketing model for so many of them seems to be clear instructions, nice photos of real people (please catch up already Big 4!), and a lot of blogger led promotions on social media.
This also means there is inspiration to be had wherever you look, even if you are just sharing what you made on Facebook or Instagram or your blog. More often than not for me on social media, the feeling of “I want that” or “I can look like that” or “that’s a nice idea” kicks in. Seeing real people wear things that I can also make myself is infinitely more appealing than an airbrushed model and I know I am not alone in this.
But I would challenge how much I can feasibly sew and wear, how many sewing challenges can I do, how many patterns and fabrics I can buy. This sentiment is starting to be echoed more and I suspect the community is starting to experience some kind of fatigue. I know I am totally fatigued with new easy sews and would rather dream about fantastical creations like this one from Kathryn Brenne (it is even better in person than this photo that I took). Full details on the Emma One Sock blog here
Sustainability is hot right now
I love that sustainability is hot. Running up to 2017, sustainable sewing was pretty much a non-topic. There was only a handful of well-known indie sewing figures talking about it (feel free to tell me that I was hanging with the wrong crowd on Instagram or reading the wrong blogs). But there has been an upsurge; Megan Nielsen and Love to Sew podcast are also on the sustainable sewing bandwagon, using up their stash and leftovers, building a capsule wardrobe etc. I have also seen a few other similarly themed sewing challenges.
The sustainability push makes sense if we consider it in a wider context of sustainable fashion, climate change, and environmental care becoming more mainstream. And of course, lets not forget David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II and the rippling effect it has had on our lives (long live David!) – have you ever seen retailers move so fast on plastic?!
Where is the transparency on our fabric supply chain?
Fashion Revolution action covers the whole fashion supply chain. In the world of home sewing, we are removing only the garment worker. There are still people who grow and make our fibre etc. but many of us probably don’t have this front and centre of our minds when we buy fabric. Whilst the average consumer can ask a brand “who made my clothes?” we still need to be asking who made my fibre? and happily I have seen people acknowledging this on social media.
Wendy Ward said in a recent interview for me that “the key to sustainable sewing is information” and I think she is spot on. How much do you know about your textiles? How many fabric stores can pinpoint where their fabrics come from and who made them? Do you ever ask? The couple of shops I did email did not respond to me or couldn’t tell me. A lot of places I know stock deadstock which is sometimes said to be a sustainable solution (justification on the IndieSew article here) but I suspect there are negatives as well which are worth considering at a later stage on this blog. Learning about textiles is high on my agenda, and I will be posting more on what I find. So far I have written posts on viscose, lyocell, recycled polyester, and a few FAQs on organic fabrics.
So what does a Sewing Revolution look like?
.At an individual level I think this will be different for everyone. At a sewing community level, I think a sewing revolution might already have started. Hopefully the current trend to be more mindful about the clothes we make and the fabrics we buy is set to continue! For myself, here’s the plan for the forseeable future:
- My sewing – minimal shopping (I’m 4 months without new to me fabric); planning my sewing so its not making for the sake of it; and a very slow project – more on that coming up soon!
- This time to sew blog – more textile info; sustainable fashion articles; interviews with cool people; and opinion pieces to encourage discussion.
- Community – #makeyourstash, more for the Sewcialists (if they’ll let me) and maybe a new tiny project…
Fashion Revolution encourages consumers to email this to their brands:
I am your customer, and I love your style. But I want to know more. I want to know#whomademyclothes.
I want to feel as good about the story behind my clothes as they make me feel when I wear them. I care deeply about the people who have worked so hard to make the things I buy from you. I want to know that they’re being treated fairly, have the freedom to speak out, and are paid enough to live with dignity, opportunity, comfort and hope. So tell me, what are you doing to ensure that the people who make your clothes are being paid a living wage?
I think this absolutely applies to us as makers and I want to have answers to all of these things. I have little hesitation in approaching established and well known textile designers / manufacturers such as Atelier Brunette, Art Gallery Fabrics, Robert Kaufmann, Liberty. But I have a dilemma with small indie sewing businesses that I want to support (e.g. fabric shops whose owners I know). Is it too much to ask of them to be probing and demanding like this when they are trying to make a living? What do you think? And please tell me – do you want answers to the Fashion Revolution questions? What do you want to know about your fabrics? Who are your favourite fabric brands that you would be interested in approaching?