I consider myself to be very new to the maker world. For a little over a year, I’ve dabbled in crochet and sewing, while diving deep into the knitting scene. Around the same time that my maker hobby started to take shape, I found the Instagram community of makers. Talk about an inspiration pool! Everyday, I see photos of people in the community doing really cool things, I watch incredible projects taking shape, I learn about different materials to work with and techniques to try. The maker community is engaging, supportive, and encouraging, and I credit a lot of my progress to being a part of it.
Another benefit of being a part of an online, global community is to hear about the motivating forces behind why people do what they do. From running a business that promotes slow fashion, to making gifts, to being a part of a fashion revolution, to committing to a me made wardrobe - there’s a lot happening behind the scenes of these creative pursuits.
I’ll be honest, I have never been one to think about fashion, nevermind talk about it. But now that I’m making garments, I’m taking a closer look at my motivating forces. What started as a neat hobby to make special gifts for people, quickly became an engaging activity that has: beefed up my wardrobe with pieces that bring a lot of joy (and dare I say pride); provided a means to meet new people and make friends; spurred an interest in broadening my skillset; and prompted me to start this little blog here about my journey along the way. Today, let’s explore some of the motivating forces that I’ve seen other people talk about, which of course, since I’ve learned about them, have become inspirations for me too.
You’ve heard of the ‘slow food’ movement? It’s the (anti-fast-food) commitment to praising local food traditions and becoming aware of the journey of food from farm to fork. Slow fashion is a little like that.
“Fast fashion” is the term given to the fashion industry’s rapid cycle of producing clothing from catwalk to sidewalk, essentially, getting the newest, trendiest clothing into the hands of the consumer as quickly as possible. While there used to be only two seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, there are now 52 ‘micro-seasons’ a year in which what’s ‘in vogue’ changes by the week. Fast fashion items are mass produced and often cheaply made so that consumers can afford to keep their wardrobe on trend.
“Slow fashion” on the other hand, focuses on well-made garments with quality materials. Slow fashion, like slow food, applauds tradition. The small-scale production (often one person or a small team) of slow-fashion focuses on the process of making - often going as far back as the farm from where the cotton/wool to make the fabric/yarn was grown/raised.
I’m happy to contribute to the ‘slow fashion’ movement, (and considering the pace at which I knit, I’m in the *really* slow fashion movement) adding items to my wardrobe that I know I will wear for years to come. Slow fashion is indeed traditional in my family: my mother sewed her wardrobe as a teen and young adult, her mother was a professional seamstress, and my grandmother on my father’s side hand knit items for the entire family. Additionally, the garments I've made each have their own stories - ‘my first time doing this stitch,’ ‘my first time working with American wool,’ ‘my first time using recycled yarn,’ etc.. Every time I wear these items, I’m not only recounting the hours/days/weeks I devoted to creating said garment, I am also nodding to the generations before me, while also recounting the unique tale behind each piece. It’s amazing I can even get out of the house with all the time I spend in reflection!
The shift from fast fashion to slow fashion has become somewhat of a revolution. According to fashionrevolution.org, approximately 75 million people work to make our clothes - cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers, and others. Out of these 75 million, 80% are women between the ages of 18 and 35. The majority live in poverty and are subject to exploitation. Fashion Revolution is a non-profit out of the UK that brings awareness to these issues and spreads the slow fashion message by encouraging consumers to ask the question “Who Made My Clothes?”
Started in 2013 after a building housing five garment factories in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,138 people and injuring 2,500 more, Fashion Revolution urges consumers to take a closer look at where their clothing comes from, who made them, and under what conditions they were produced. Fashion Revolution’s manifesto calls for human welbeing, worker’s rights, fair treatment and wages, safe working conditions, protection of the environment and ecosystems, promotion of reducing/reusing/recycling/upcycling garments, and much more.
Every year, the week surrounding the anniversary of the Bangladesh tragedy is known as Fashion Revolution week. In 2018, it was this past week, ending today. Around the world, people have been joining the revolution by asking brands the question “Who Made My Clothes,” seeking greater transparency. Folks have written into policymakers asking what is being done to achieve healthier, fairer and safer conditions for people who work in the fashion industry. Events spreading the message have been held to educate, and celebrate the movement. Here in Asheville, there was a screening of the movie Fashion Revolution and a panel discussion, as well as a clothing swap at Echoview Fiber Mill.
Fashion Revolution’s website has many great resources, my favorite of which is the Haulternative Guide. It lists several ways to refresh your current wardrobe without buying new clothes, such as swapping with a friend, or upcycling your current wares. I'll start spring cleaning my closet with this guide close at hand!
Me Made May
Sitting here at the end of April, the Me Made May challenge is just around the corner. Me Made May is a just one more way for makers to join a larger community celebrating the slow fashion revolution.
It’s called a challenge, but it’s not meant to be difficult! Basically, it’s taking a pledge to incorporate more handmade items into your wardrobe by seeing if you can wear something self-made each day in May. Even if you just have one me-made item - it’s about proudly wearing it, and supporting the message behind it. Me Made May can help you to get creative in combining items in your wardrobe that you’ve never worn together, or that typically hide at the back of your closet. It can be an opportunity to see if there’s a staple item missing from your collection that perhaps you can make at some point. The challenge can even give you a little boost to finish off items that have been hanging out in a pile, waiting for their final touches.
I am going to try the Me Made May challenge this year. I have a good, eight (seasonally appropriate) hand knit items that I can rotate into an outfit each day, to begin with. Perhaps by mid-May, I’ll have sewn up a garment that has been on my ‘make’ list since the start of the year. I’ll report back in at a later date, as I imagine I’ll find out a lot along the way - about my wardrobe, about my creative tendencies, about myself. Have you ever participated in a Me Made May challenge? It sounds like a really good way to celebrate slow fashion and the fashion revolution day after day.
Being a part of the maker community has opened my eyes to some really important issues, and I’m grateful to take a closer look at what I can do to support these kinds of movements, such as contribute to the slow fashion movement, educate myself about the fashion revolution, and participate in Me Made May. All without walking into a single store to buy new clothing. Now that's something my fashion-inspired brain can celebrate!