Fast fashion goes on the back burner

The fast fashion system has under-valued, environmentally challenged, and saddened those of us who love what clothing can do for our individuality, roles in society and happiness.

Enter now the Slow Clothing movement and a local, passionate exponent Jane Milburn of Textile Beat.

 “Slow Clothing is a philosophy. It is a way of thinking about, choosing and wearing clothes to ensure they bring meaning, value and joy,” says Jane.

With an Agricultural Science degree plus a background in journalism, Jane has come to the meaning of clothing and fashion from an unusual pathway.

Her understanding of the implications of how natural and synthetic fabrics are made, her love of sewing inherited from her home-economics teacher mother and her personal journey for finding meaning in what we wear, has focused her purpose. 

“My stake in the ground began in 2013,” she said. “I decided to only wear second-hand clothes and only wear natural fibres.”

Jane has a holistic approach to life and her wearing of clothes.  Fashion to her is “window dressing” and she says: “Our clothes do for us on the outside what food does inside. They protect and warm our bodies, and influence the way we feel and present to the world”.

She believes only a change of culture and language can change the fashion system and its inherent environmental, economic and ethical challenges.

With this in mind, Jane is spreading the word by conducting workshops, talking at conferences and  self-publishing her book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear.

The book has factual information on the challenges of sustainable clothing but offers positive and practical stories, projects and advice on how we can all become part of the movement.

For those of us over 50 who were taught how to mend, sew and upcycle old garments, she believes we should be passing on these skills to our children and grandchildren.

In the book she describes and illustrates many DIY techniques such as darning, hand-stitching, sewing on a button, patching, and how to revive and dye old or second-hand garments.

Jane’s workshops also focus on these skills and she’s finding there are plenty of 20-somethings embracing the skills.

Surprisingly, the workshops are also attended by men keen to become independent and autonomous when it comes to caring for clothes.

Jane’s manifesto encapsulates the practicalities for embracing the Slow Clothing movement.

Think: make thoughtful, ethical, informed choices.

Natural: treasure fibres from nature and limit synthetics.

Quality: buy well once, quality remains after price is forgotten.

Local: support local makers, those with good stories and fair trade.

Few: live with less, have a signature style, minimal wardrobe, unfollow.

Care: mend, patch, sort, sponge, wash less, use cold water, line dry.

Make: learn how to sew as a life skill, value DIY and handmade.

Revive: enjoy vintage, exchange, pre-loved, and swapping.

Adapt: upcycle, refashion, eco-dye, create new from old.

Salvage: donate, pass on, rag, weave, recycle or compost.

Finally, for those fashion customers who continually tell me they’ve paid too much for something, I leave you with Jane’s thoughts: “Until we make something for ourselves to wear, we cannot appreciate the resources, time and skill that go into the clothes we buy”.

Jane Milburn’s book is at The Book Depository or