25 Jul, 2018

The Slow Clothing Manifesto: 10 actions for being more conscious of what we wear


Jane Milburn is a sustainability consultant and founder of Textile Beat. She upcycled a career in agricultural science and communications to champion Slow Clothing as a creative and ethical way of dressing that engages hands, head and heart. Jane has generously agreed to share this edited extract from her book, Slow Clothing: Finding meaning in what we wear.

You can read more about Jane’s approach in The Slow Clothing way to manage your wardrobe.

The Slow Clothing Manifesto is a process of thinking about how we can survive and thrive in a material world, and become more conscious of what we are wearing.

Once you have your existing wardrobe honed, you can move forward with a planned approach using the Slow Clothing Manifesto’s 10 simple actions. (Tiam please link the underlined text to the story 2018024)The actions are: think, natural quality, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt and salvage.

The first five actions are about switching-on, while the second five get you more hands-on when you can make time.

1. Think

Reflect on the role clothes play in your life. Inform yourself about ethical certification and fair trade. Don’t be seduced into buying things just because they are on sale. Avoid going to places where you might be tempted to buy things you don’t need.

2. Natural

Limit synthetics to products that require them, like swimwear and waterproof gear. Natural fibres tend to be more expensive and water-intensive to produce, therefore we should treasure them until they literally wear out! Seek out sustainable and organic cotton where you can. Linen is one of the greenest fibres - just machine wash, shake, hang to dry and wear as is.

3. Quality

Buy for the long-term. Choose classic styles that will serve you well over time rather than fashion fads. Buy the best you can afford - buy things you love 100 per cent and wear them for a lifetime.

Do your due diligence before handing over cash. Look inside to check seams, finishes, fastenings and fabric type. Seek out accredited companies that have stood the test of time, or use ethical fashion guides to inform your choices.

4. Local

While only a fraction of clothing bought in developed nations is made onshore, there is growing interest in locally-made clothing and footwear. We can foster local industry by spending a little more on items that pay fair wages, and in turn support other local businesses.

5. Few

A portable or wardrobe capsule simplifies our life and choices. We can simplify our lives by choosing a signature style and wearing it as a uniform. Perhaps just one style of t-shirt, or one style of dress. Or we may choose one colour and stick with that.

Are you ready to be hands-on and make time to be more creative? The next five ways to survive and thrive in a material world require more engagement.

6. Care

Follow these 10 acts of care for clothes (and the environment)

  • Nurture attentively – sponge spills as they happen, restitch a dangling button before it is lost
  • Wash only when needed, based on a visual inspection or sniff test
  • Spot clean and freshen by airing outside
  • Choose cold water for washing
  • Wash full loads
  • Mix like with like when washing
  • Use laundry bags and eco-detergents to help protect delicate items and the ecosystem
  • Rest clothes dryers and use a clothesline or drying rack instead
  • Avoid dry-cleaning by wearing special clothes for cameo appearances only

7. Make

Until we make something for ourselves to wear, we cannot appreciate the resources, time and skill that go into the clothes we buy. Sewing - or learning to sew - enables us to create something uniquely ours, reflecting out style and personality, independence and creativity.

8. Revive

Secondhand is the new organic. When we buy preloved clothes, we do not add chemicals or production stress to the environment. There are op shops, markets and vintage stores - even the back of your own wardrobes - and then there are clothes swaps with friends and family.

Buying preloved clothes is a great way to experiment with your style by trying colours and shapes not available as ‘new’.

9. Adapt

The most creative and playful way to survive and thrive in a material world is to adapt existing clothing to suit yourself - upcycle garments already in circulation to create something new from old.

Upcycling appeals on many levels because it is useful, resourceful and playful. Instead of sewing from scratch, existing resources can be recreated to suit yourself and reduce waste. (Check out Jane’s book, Slow Clothing: Finding meaning in what we wear for some simple refashion ideas to consider.)

10. Salvage

There are endless opportunities to repurpose cloth when we turn our minds to it. Worn-out clothing can be turned into cleaning rags, natural-fibre garments can be returned to the soil via composting and old clothes and linen can be upcycled into an endless array of accessories and homewares including quilts, rag rugs and wall hangings.

Read more about Jane’s slow clothing projects, DIY stitching, mending and creative upcycling techniques in her book, Slow Clothing: Finding meaning in what we wear, available for purchase from Textile Beat.

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