Ethical Fashion & Garment Workers

person using white sewing machine
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In all the world of fashion we keep seeing terms like “sustainably made” “ethically made” “environmentally friendly” “made kind” and “green”. It can be a challenge to make sense of it all, so today we are going to talk about ethical fashion and the realities of the what it looks like to be a garment worker for many.

When we talk about sustainability it generally refers to the environmental impact that a product has, while ethical refers to the impact on people in the production and manufacturing process. Both terms work hand in hand. Sustainable practices should include ethical manufacturing, and ethical manufacturing should also include sustainable practices. For the purposes of today we will just be looking at ethical manufacturing and the people impact.  

The basic key ingredients of something being ethically made include fair wages, decent working conditions, health and safety, and the upholding of workers rights. Did you know that in the garment industry the average wage of foreign garment workers is just 39 cents an hour! I don’t know about you, but I would not be working for so little. The worst is, even with such a low pay rate (which is minimum wage in Bangladesh) the workers can have their wages illegally docked for making mistakes and not hitting increasingly high targets.

Think of this – you go to Target and buy a $10 t-shirt – the person who made it is being paid as little as 20c! That is just 2% of the retail price! 

Around 80% of garment workers are female, and they often move away from their families to be close to work, working six days a week and sending most of their wages back to their families. They sleep in apartments, on the concrete floor and share the space with other workers, sometimes as many as 10 people are sharing a one bathroom and two bedroom apartment.  

But this is the people who are paid per hour, there are workers who are paid per piece, and their rates can be even worse! Earning as little as 2c to 6c per piece, and working 60-70 hours per week they take home on average around $300 (USD). The workforce are mostly immigrants of Latino or Chinese background and they do not get paid for overtime. Their work conditions are cramped, dirty, poorly ventilated and unsafe with workers often becoming sick from the long hours and poor working conditions. 

You might think these piece work statistics come from Asia, but they don’t! These pay rates and conditions come from America’s garment manufacturing sector in Los Angeles! 

Unfortunately, it’s not just women who are found working in fashion factory sweatshops, it’s children too. In developing countries children as young as 5 have been found working in these poor conditions for less than 20c per hour and up to 16 hours a day! The conditions in the factories are not like when we have a bad day at work. There is plenty of well documented evidence that in the worst of the sweatshops, the workers get beaten and abused physically, sexually and verbally. 

You would think that with the pandemic conditions may have improved, but the opposite is actually true. Workers are not being paid and those who are have had wage decreases of up to 21%! 

Consider here in Australia, the minimum adult wage is $21.38 . Plus you get 9% super paid. We have Medicare and if you are full time you are entitled to sick leave, annual leave and maternity leave after having or adopting a child. If you are casual you get a 25% loading instead of the leave entitlements. I hear so many people here complaining of how little they get paid. 

In China’s province of Beijing they have the highest minimum hourly wage in China  of $5.70 (AUD)

In Vietnam the minimum hourly rate is $6.20 (AUD)

In the Phillipines the minimum hourly rate is $2.03 (AUD) 

In Ethiopia there is no minimum wages, the average hourly rate is $1.42 (AUD) 

You get the idea. 

But there is a difference between a minimum wage and a living wage, and unfortunately in many developing countries the minimum wage is only 70% of a fair and living wage. If we go back to our Bangladeshi workers earning 20c for a $10 item, if we were to pay them a fair wage it would only increase the cost to consumers by 1%. 

As you can tell, these conditions are not ethical by any standard, but this is what we support when we purchase fast fashion. One company I looked at that is producing fashion in 2 factories in China and that is taking social and ethical responsibility seriously, pays wages at the basic wage rate plus a housing subsidy, an attendance reward, a performance award and a commission. Their workers week is 38 hours and all overtime is paid for. They are pledged to meet the Global Living Wages regional guide for wages. This shows as the minimum wage being $437.25 a month, while they pay their workers on average $1260 per month. The wages are determined by position, as master pattern-makers do earn more than production workers. They proudly show images of their production team on their website and videos of inside their factories.  This is a company being transparent and open about their production, and clearly taking responsibility for their impact on people and the planet. (statistics from 2019)

You can see there is a massive difference between those who work in fair and decent conditions and those who are part of unethical labour practices.

So what can we as consumers do to ensure we are supporting ethical production of goods, because it’s not just clothing – it’s toys, shoes and furniture that are all affected by these shameful manufacturing practices. 

Firstly consider the price. If it is crazy cheap and that’s the normal price, then the workers probably aren’t being paid fairly. 

Secondly, look at the company’s transparency – do they state on their website where their products are made and talk about ethical and sustainable practices and how they are working towards a better future (beware of greenwashing which you can read about here!) 

Thirdly, look for ethical or fair-trade labels and certification – this tells you the people who made it have been looked after and have decent working conditions. Also look at the different international agreements the companies may be a part of like the Bangladesh Accord. 

Finally, if this information isn’t readily available ask your favourite brands where they make their products. Companies want to please their customers and the more we speak up and advocate for fair working conditions world wide, the more likely it is we can make a difference. 

When Should You Pre-Wash Fabric & New Garments

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We’ve all been there, bought that new garment home from the shops and thought to ourselves “is it really necessary to pre-wash this, I really want to wear it now!” And if you’re like me that applies to your fabric purchases, brand new fabric I want to cut and sew straight away but always remind myself pre-washing is an absolute must – and I will share with you why.

First up – when you buy new fabric and you wash it for the first time, it shrinks a little bit. If you are pre-washing fabric it is super important you follow the care instructions for the fabric, but also to wash it exactly how you will wash the garment. For this reason I occasionally pre-wash silks for some clients as I know they will wash the outfit. When I prewash for clients I do not use any detergent to avoid any skin allergies or unwanted smells and I always prewash cold – as I recommend cold wash for all regular washing (it’s better for the environment and will save you money too!)
But back to the pre-shrinking. Some fabrics can shrink as much as 10% – which can be the difference between something fitting and not fitting! The last thing you want is your new make to shrink to unwearable after the first wash!

Next up is making sure you don’t get any colour runs. This is especially important for bold and bright colours like reds, blues and blacks. You definitely don’t want your new make to be the item that ruins the rest of your wardrobe. Generally a good pre-wash does the trick but sometimes you might need the added help of a colour catcher sheet which you should be able to pick up at your local grocery store. They’ve definitely surprised me in how much dye has come out of new fabrics. This is also relevant for new clothes! You don’t want the dye from your new red shirt to rub off onto your favourite white bra (been there done that!) or your jeans to leave blue dye marks on your legs because you didn’t prewash them (also guilty).

Another very important reason to pre-wash is to wash out any excess chemicals in the fabric or garment. Fabrics and clothes are treated with chemicals to give them shine, prevent wrinkling and look more vibrant prior to purchase. It is especially important to wash these out if you have sensitive skin, but a good practice to get into anyway.

Somethings to note is that some of the chemicals applied to the fabrics help them to stay crisp and flat for production, making cutting and sewing easier. Most fashion brands do not pre-wash for this reason and a couple of others, including the cost and logistics of washing bolts and bolts of fabric!

You may not want to pre-wash fabrics such as wools and silk or if you are making an item that will not be washed, then there isn’t a need to either (ie a tote bag, zippered pouch or maybe a silk camisole).

My top tips for pre-washing are:

1. Wash it according to the care instructions but also how you would normally wash the garment – there is no need for detergent though as we are mostly talking shrinkage and rinsing of chemicals and dyes

2. Use a colour catcher and wash similar colours together – especially for darks, lights or bright bold colours.

3. If the fabric will fray easily, consider finishing the edge of it to stop it coming undone in the wash

4. Dry the fabric as you would the garment (ie line dry or tumble dry being sure to follow the care instructions of course!)

Six Simple ( and Inexpensive) Ways To Refresh A Tired Wardrobe

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We’ve all been there, stepping into our dressing room or wardrobe, or opening the cupboard doors and feeling like there is nothing there that we haven’t worn 100 times already (impressive if that’s true! Because the average times a garment is worn is only 7!). We look at our collection of clothes and feel bored or tired with them but don’t want to throw them away or necessarily buy new ones. What’s the solution? 

I’ve got six simple ways you can make old clothes feel new! Give them a try and see how refreshing and new your old wardrobe feels afterwards. 

  1. Try a styling challenge – see how many different combinations you can come up with for 1 or 2 pieces in your wardrobe. Aiming for 5 or more different looks can be a good place to start. Wear the item with things you normally wouldn’t and try new colour combinations, layer up (if it’s winter like it is here right now) or wear an item differently than it’s designed to be for example a jumper as a shirt or a skirt as a top or dress – you’ll be surprised what really works! If you need help, invite a friend over and make a day of it playing dress ups together! 
  2. Go through and rearrange your clothes, change the order they hang in; moving some of your lesser worn pieces to the front and centre so they become the first things you grab instead of the last. This will really help mix up the combinations you choose and feel like you’re wearing something different to normal. 
  3. If there is anything you are not wearing because it doesn’t fit or sit right or needs mending then take it to a seamstress to sort it out. You’ll get more wear, love how you look and feel amazing too. This is also great if you have long jeans and want to crop them, or long sleeve shirts you want to shorten, or skirts or dresses you want the hem line adjusted on. A good seamstress will be able to help you find the perfect and most flattering lengths for your body. 
  4. Accessorise! Wear a scarf as a belt, or a headband (or wrap it round a headband like a saw an awesome wardrobe stylist suggest on Instagram this week). You can even just tie it onto your handbag. Wear some bold necklaces or earrings, slide on some bangles or fun socks. Have fun with adding all the trimmings to your outfits to give them a new twist. 
  5. Do a bit of upcycling yourself. Add some fun iron on patches to your denim jacket, or embroidery on the back pocket of your jeans. If you have a cricut (or a friend with a cricut) print out a cool saying or fun design and iron it on your t-shirt or sweater. Bead over the top of old worn logos to jazz them back up. Get a bit creative and see what you can come up with – make those old favourites shine again. 
  6. Check Pinterest or google images for the latest fashion trends, celebrity styles, catwalk photos and styling ideas and see how you can recreate them with what you already own. Or use a favourite movie or tv series character(s) for inspiration. 

Bonus idea – do a wardrobe swap with a friend, swapping over 2-5 of your least worn pieces (depending on the size of your wardrobe) and see what new combinations you can come up wearing at least one of the pieces they swapped with you every day for a week. Feel free to make your own rules and swap back at the end of the week or keep your swaps – just make sure you both know what the plan is from the outset! 

Which idea is your favourite? Will you be giving any of these a go? Let me know!

Cotton, An Ugly Truth?

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Back in 2010 I did a big year long research project (as part of my year 12 graduating assessment) on how cotton fabric is made, looking at both standard production and organic production. As part of this I visited local cotton farms and gins that process cotton. I also grew my own small crop of cotton plants, harvested the cotton, processed it and then spun and wove it. It was really a great experience that I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to have. 

Today I am revisiting that research and sharing with you more about cotton growing practices and some really wonderful ways people are creating change and pushing the industry towards more sustainable practices. I will be focussing mainly on Australia and Australian research, but will include some global information and statistics to keep a broad view.

Australia ranks in the top ten producers of cotton in the world, ranking 7th behind India, China, United States, Pakistan, Brazil and Uzbekistan. Approximately 27 million tons of cotton are produced each year, ad is grown on 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land. 

Unfortunately cotton has quite a few unsustainable and unethical practices that plague its production, including extreme pesticide and chemical usage, forced child labour (including government enforced labour in some countries), a reputation for high water usage and soil quality degradation issues.

Some of these issues are tied together, with the pesticide use causing insect resistance, there has been a switch to genetically modified crops which contain toxins that deter the pests. This has had an unexpected side effect of the toxins being found in the roots, soil and decomposing leaves which is leaving a residual effect on the soil – potentially impacting soil biodiversity and the function of its organisms. The research into this is still quite new, so we will only find out as we progress. 

Our water usage in Australia for cotton crops is one of the best in the world, with the average usage sitting around 6-7 megalitres per hectare. In saying this, in the 2018-2019 growing year 32% of the crops were grown exclusively using rain water, with the remainder receiving some irrigation. Our leading producers are able to produce almost two 227kg bales of cotton for every megalitre. This equates to approximately 2200 litres of water per kg, while the world average is 10,000 litres per kg. 

There has been movement on the child labour front, with some european unions going in to educate farmers of the benefits of their child receiving education over labour, and with some countries removing forced labour, but sadly there is still a long way to go. 

But what about organic cotton? We know they don’t use petroleum pesticides, chemicals and synthetic fertilisers – but how do they manage the pests then.
Organic cotton farmers use a few different methods such as planting trap crops to draw pests away, natural pesticides such as neem, crop rotation and intercropping are used to reduce weeds and maintain soil health (which they also use application of manures, composting, mineral powders and reduced tillage to improve).

Organic cotton prioritises soil health and managing water sustainably; but it is also great for farmers and workers health – not exposing them to harsh chemicals. On top of this, at least 65% of organic cotton producers have fair trade policies in place, and if they are GOTS certified then they also have safe and financially stable working conditions in place for all workers.  

They have strict conditions on processing around which dyes and bleaches are permitted to be used, and that there will be no cross contamination from non-organic cotton. As you can imagine the process to get certified can be challenging and take up to 3 years.

Sadly in Australia there doesn’t seem to be any organic cotton farms, it is deemed uneconomical and our environment and weather conditions are not conducive to organic cotton growing methods.

We do however have Full Circle Fibres, an incredible company working to bring us cotton fabrics that have fully traceable stories, so we can know the story of where the fabric and fibre came from, creating a transparent supply chain. Meriel Chambers, the founder of Full Circle Fibres, has a mission to make the circular economy the new normal. Something I think we can all appreciate is fast becoming a desperate need rather than an idealistic dream.

The good news around cotton fabrics and fibres is that, regardless of whether it starts out as an organic or non-organic crop, it can be broken down and reused to make new fabric and garments, and it can also be composted. There are a few companies working towards closing the loop in this industry which is so awesome to see, places such as WornUp and Upparel are doing great work in this sector.

There is a most wonderful experiment happening right here in Queensland. Sam Coulton, a farmer in Goondiwindi has turned shredded cotton into the fields of his cotton farms, to see if the waste can help grow the next crop. The experiment started in 2020 with research and has concluded with the harvest of the crop earlier this year (2022). 

There is a Worm Tech farm in southern New South Wales that collects the cotton waste from the fields (commonly called cotton trash) and uses it as a key component of the composting business; and much of it returns to the cotton fields in the form of granular worm castings. Adrian Raccanello is the founder and he uses the cotton trash, combined with domestic organic waste to feed earth worms. The earth worms process the waste in about 8 weeks, turning it into a nutrient rich organic fertiliser. 

I am a real fan of cotton, but reading some of these truths and facts makes it hard to love something that causes so much pain to people and the planet. However, there is so much great work being done by innovative and creative individuals in the field, it gives me hope that we are moving to a more sustainable cotton industry, and that maybe cotton isn’t really as bad as the name it has learnt itself in recent years, and that it has a future possibility of a second chance as a more sustainable and ethical fashion fibre.

Fashion Stories from My Wardrobe

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All our clothes carry stories – stories of who made them, who wore them and our memories from when we are wearing them. Today I share with you three short stories from my wardrobe, items with different origins and stories to tell. And I invite you to share a story of a garment you love in the comments at the end too.

First up is this lovely summer skirt. It was originally my Mum’s and has sat in my wardrobe, under appreciated for a few years. Some of that time I was pregnant and it didn’t fit but I wanted to hang on to it because it is so lovely and I just adore the colours and print.
It had a couple of tears where the buttons were too, so it needed a bit of mending. I decided I would wear it more often if I shortened it as well, so I took a bit of length off and used the off cuts to create a new button stand and facing, rather than repairing the tears. Now I wear it often and it’s one of my favourite pieces in my wardrobe.
I asked my Mum if she remembers when she purchased the skirt and wore it. She told me she bought it around 1984/1985 as a work skirt – before she even met my Dad! She said she used to pair it with an orange tank top and a cream tunic-cardigan. I think it’s pretty cool that’s lasted so long!

My second story is of my most favourite and most used accessory – my belt. I really wanted a belt, a good leather belt, so for Christmas one year my parents bought this one for me and I genuinely didn’t think I could love a belt as much as I love this one! It’s got a wonderful secret, its reversible! One side is tan (my favoured side) and the other is black; making it such a wonderful and versatile accessory. I almost never wear jeans without it these days (and I love to wear jeans). It was a little too long when I received it, so I took it down to the local key cutter and they shortened it for me. I did think I had made a mistake because it suddenly felt very, very short, but it turned out to be the perfect length and I honestly think it was the best decision as the tail tucks in perfectly and doesn’t hang out too much.

The third little story is of a me-made item in my wardrobe. It’s funny because you’d think being a seamstress I would make most of my clothes, but I haven’t really done that except for a few special occasion pieces until recently – and I am loving having more and more pieces that I’ve made myself that I can wear daily!
Anyway – this one is my cute fruit tee! You may be aware I do love a good fruit print, and fun and bright colours are my go to. I’m also a fan of the designer of this fabric – Jocelyn Proust. So when I saw it on sale I just had to grab some. It took me a little while to decide exactly what I wanted, but I created this simple every-day tee that is easy to wear and so so comfortable! I love the pattern so much I’ve created a second shirt in a whale print and I have another piece of fabric with a lorikeet print on it that I’m pretty sure I’m going to create another one of these in too! What can I say – I love prints haha!

I hope this inspires you to look at the stories in your wardrobe, and please, if you feel like it, I would love to hear about your fashion stories. Share in the comments, or create a post on instagram or facebook and tag me in it – @raspberriesandsoda . I can’t wait to see what you share!

Understanding Grain Line

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One of the most important aspects of sewing and working with fabric and patterns is the grain line. 

Grainline is the line that the threads of the fabric run in, and is observed differently in woven and knit fabrics. Fabrics like felt do not have a grain line and can be cut in any direction but materials like leather or real fur have “non-traditional” grainlines that are not hard and fast and change from one material to another. 

With both woven and knit fabrics, the grain of the fabric runs in line with the selvedge (the edge) of the fabric. On woven fabric this is referred to as lengthwise grain or the warp of the fabric. On knit fabrics you can find the grain by observing the pattern of the knit – if you look closely you should be able to see little ridges that run straight in one direction and in the same direction as the selvedge – this is the grain. 

With leathers it is recommended to consider rather how the leather naturally bends and folds (and how it would have moved on the animal) as well as considering the nap of the fabric – especially with suede type leathers, as you want all your pieces to run in the same direction (as you would a one-way print). 

Some pattern pieces are cut on different grain lines. With woven fabrics you will find pieces cut either lengthwise (the warp), crosswise (the weft) or on the bias. With knits it is important to note the grain but also which way the fabric stretches too, as sometimes you may want a piece to stretch across the body, or down the body. You can cut pieces on the grain, across the grain or on the bias as well. Felt type fabrics can be cut in any direction which can be extremely handy for minimising waste. 

It is extremely important that pieces are cut properly on the grain otherwise they will not sit or fall right – we’ve all had that t-shirt that twists after a couple of washes and then never sits straight and swings around the body, making it uncomfortable to wear. This happens when the fabric has been cut slightly off grain. 

If something is cut “on the bias” it generally refers to the true bias, meaning it is cut on a 45 degree angle to the grain. Pieces that are cut on the bias allow woven fabrics to have a little more stretch and mould around the body than it would if it was cut on the grain. Bias is used for finishing necklines and armholes, creating draped areas like cowl necks and for making slinky skirts and slips. It allows more flexibility in the fabric and adds a edge of luxury. Bias can be more challenging to see if you are unfamiliar with it as it has a tendency to stretch and move out of shape easily if not stored flat. When you do cut something like a slip dress on the bias you should hang the fabric before hemming as the fabric will drop and you can end up with an uneven hemline.

In summary, understanding the grain line is an integral part of learning to sew. If you do not cut your fabric on the correct grain your garment will become misshapen and can be uncomfortable to wear – then all your efforts will have been in vain.

Post in the comments below if you have any more questions about grain line or want clarification on anything I have mentioned above – otherwise happy cutting and sewing!

15 of my Favourite Sustainability X Fashion Quotes

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I love finding wise words to inspire me on my sustainable fashion journey, so I hope that these will do the same for you! From iconic activists, to fashion designers and scientists these people come from all walks of life but love the same thing you and I do – sustainable and ethical fashion. Please enjoy their wisdom.

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”

Mahatma Ghandi

“Don’t be into trends. Don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you express by the way you dress, and the way you live.” 

Gianni Versace

“It isn’t enough just looking for the quality in the products we buy, we must ensure that there is quality in the lives of the people who make them.”

Orsola de Castro

“As consumers, we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy”

Emma Watson

“The best way to make a contribution in fashion is to promote the idea that a fundamental interest in preserving the environment is in itself fashionable”

Giorgio Armani

“We carry the story of the people who made our clothes.”

Ali Hewson

“Sustainable Fashion is not a trend but the future.”

Antonia Böhlke

“There is no such thing as “away”. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”

Ali Hewson

“Call it eco-fashion if you like, I think it is just common sense.”

Livia Firth

“Ethical and sustainable fashion is not a product. It’s a practice. Everyone is invited to participate. There’s no obligation to buy. And you can get started right now. Today.”

Elizabeth L. Cline

“Good design is a sustainable design.”

Imran Ahmed

“Demand quality not just in the products you buy, but in the life of the person who made it.”

Orsola de Castro

“Fast fashion is not free. Someone somewhere is paying” 

Lucy Siegle

“Slow clothing is a philosophy. It is a way of thinking about choosing and wearing clothes to ensure they bring meaning, value and oy to every day.”

Jane Milburn

“Slow fashion is also about returning to a personal relationship with fashion. One where trends and seasons don’t matter, but where your ethics and aesthetics seamlessly unite, and you can escape the stress of constant consumption, focusing on the style that truly appeals to you.”

Emilia Wik

Fashion, Fish & Microfibre-Plastics

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Put your hand up if you’ve heard of microplastics. Now keep it up if you know what they are. And keep it there is you know what fashion has to do with it. If you hand is still up I’m impressed!

It’s a topic I’ve seen some commentary around, but really not enough as it deserves. Today I’m going to share with you a bit about what microplastics are, where they come from, how the fashion industry is involved, if they are harmful and what we can do about it!

Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic that are less than 5 millimetres in diameter. They can be defined into two categories – primary and secondary. Primary microplastics come from the production process of goods such as cosmetics and textiles; while secondary microplastics are the result of the deterioration of plastic products such as water bottles, take away containers etc. Sadly these microplastics have reached the depths of the seabed, even in the Mariana Trench as well as locations such as the Arctic and the Italian Alps. 

So how is the fashion industry involved? As I just mentioned, the textile and clothing industry is a significant contributor to this form of pollution. When garments that are made from synthetic materials (think polyester, acrylic and nylon) are washed, the friction and turbulence in the machine cause tiny microfibre-plastics to come loose and wash away in the machine. There is also of course the particles that are produced from textile manufacturing processes and garment production too. Surprisingly, our synthetic clothes also shed microplastics into the air as we wear them!

It is estimated that the microfibre-plastics washed off of synthetic clothing and textiles contributes to around 35% of the primary microplastics in the ocean – this is the highest contributor, followed by vehicle tyres at 28% and city dust at 24%.

The problem with these microplastics is that marine life consumes them, which we then in turn consume. But microplastics are not just a danger from the consumption of seafood, or other meat products, they have been found in drinking water and cannot be completed filtered out. They are even found to be a pollutant in the air! We are consuming them daily without even knowing.

While at this stage we don’t know exactly what effects this may have on our health, both long and short term; there is plenty of research happening and people are also working towards prevention and solutions. It is known that as microplastics are derived from petrochemicals they can be toxic carrying contaminants such as trace metals and may potentially be carcinogenic and mutagenic (damaging to DNA).

With all that scary information what can we do to limit our exposure, reduce our contribution and make a difference?

The first action you can take is to wash your clothes less, and with lower water volumes and less spin. If you reduce the friction, you reduce the amount of microfibres shed. And on this note, line dry rather than tumble dry.

Switching to only natural fibres may reduce the microfibre-plastics that come out of the wash, but do not be deceived, natural fibre textiles also shed microfibres that pollute the ocean and may pose similar health hazards to wildlife and humans.

But we do need clothes, and they do need to be washed so we cannot avoid the microfibres entirely – what we can do is install a microfibre filter into our washing machine. There are some great products out there that have been shown to reduce the number of microfibres in a wash as much as 87% (Lint LUV-R). And if you want a simpler solution you can try something like the Cora Ball that you can just throw in the wash although it isn’t as effective (26% – 31%) at filtering out microfibres as the filters are. You can also check out this filter by Planet Care. In saying this, any small action has an impact, if we all make a little difference that adds up to a lot!

Forecasting Fashion

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The trends seem to change so fast these days, one minute we are wearing skinny jeans and the next they’ve been “cancelled” and flares are back in! But who decides these trends, and how do they decide? Let’s talk about fashion forecasting.

Fashion forecasting is a method of predicting which trends will be popular based on world events, economic climate, previous trend cycles and the forward thinking of the mood, beliefs and habits of consumers. It is more complex than a few people sitting round a board room table and saying “I think next summer we should all be wearing the colour apricot and be wearing tank tops”. They take into account what is occurring socially, culturally, commercially and what is being felt and said in the group psyche.

While the process does involve looking at emerging designers and trends, what innovations are being developed in textiles, manufacturing and design; it also involves consideration to the changes in colours and styles as well as buying patterns and shifts in the ways of living. A sharp eye for emerging trends as well as plenty of research and customer data analysis forms the foundation for the trends moving forward.

Many forecasting companies are based in Europe, specifically Paris, however there are plenty of smaller forecasting houses setting out their trends for the upcoming seasons. Trends for textiles are forecast as little as 2 years ahead – it allows time for production and manufacturing of the textile before it is turned into garments, homewares or accessories.

Colour forecasting is an integral part of the process, although there is little documentation on it we know it is based around creating “colour stories” which are palettes that are aesthetically pleasing and meet the client where they are. Colour talks so much to our emotions and memories that it is important these things are considered in the forecasting process. Print and textile development is heavily influenced by the colour forecasting. 

Styles are forecast from the mood of the seasons, partially influenced by weather patterns (spring/summer and autumn/winter) but also by the mood of the global seasons, for example whether we are in a hopeful mood looking forward to the future or a retrospective and reminiscent mood reflecting on the past. Other aspects of fashion that are impacted by trend or fashion forecasting are garment details and trims as well as of course which silhouettes will be “on trend”.

There are two levels to forecasting – short term and long term. Short term is based on micro trends for each season, based mostly around colours, current events and pop culture while long term is the macro trends which are the more over-arching feelings and shifts in the industry and world including changes in lifestyle, demographics, buying habits and innovation.

This broad look at what is happening in the world as a whole, while also zooming into the details and key themes of social and cultural shifts is what makes trend forecasting such a magnificent and yet at times overwhelming concept. An experienced forecaster looks at the shifts in industry while considering consumer habits, values and motivation and leaning into the world of innovation and technological advancement – a skill I believe requires much balance, clear vision and a strong sense of intuition.

Forecasting is an insightful tool for designers to know what people want in the upcoming seasons, to create fashion you want and will love to wear, and that is suitable for the world we are moving into. These trends make their way onto the runways and then into our stores and finally onto our backs and down our streets. 

The Politics of Pockets

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Did you know that pockets weren’t always common place in clothing, especially in women’s wear? 

Now I hear you saying “we still don’t get pockets a lot of the time” and I know! But let me tell you a little history about the humble pocket. 

You might not believe it, but the history of pockets is considered to be both sexist and political. Originally there was no such things as pockets. Everyone, men and women alike carried their belongings in a pouch they wore tied around their waist and under their clothes which they could access through small slits. 

It was in the late seventeenth century that men’s wear began to include sewn in pockets. Featured in waistcoats, jackets and trousers. Yet women still needed to carry their belongings in bags or pouches which were neither small nor light as they could carry a multitude of things including money, writing materials, sewing kits, keys, perfume bottles and even snuff boxes. 

When the French Revolution rolled round the full and wide skirts with yards of fabric slimmed down and became more figure hugging. The waistline move up and a slender silhouette was in vogue – this of course meant no room for the pocket-bags but still there were no pockets! So women began carrying small highly decorated bags called reticules. And soon after this came the chatelaines which were decorative chains that held all the necessities on display.  The significance of this might be easily overlooked. A pocket allows someone to carry things privately, whether it be money, personal writing or even simply keys. If you take away pockets, then the ability to travel unaccompanied decreases, and therefore the amount of freedom you have decreases also. 

Christian Dior once summed it up nicely “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration.” This says to me that for a long time men’s clothing has been designed for functionality, while women’s has been designed merely for aesthetics (which I believe to be so very true!)

So when did women start to see pockets sewn into clothing? 

During the late 1800’s the Rational Dress Society and the Women’s Rights Movements worked together to bring more functionality into women’s clothing – condemning anything that impeded movement or was injuring to health. Small and discreet pockets began to appear again in women’s clothing. Significantly the “suffragette suit” featured as many as 6 pockets!

But it wasn’t until around world war 1 when women started working in roles that had traditionally been held by men that pockets really came into women’s clothing. The circumstances necessitated that women’s fashion become more functional, so many things were adapted from men’s clothing and you can see that as women started wearing trousers and suits. Once the men returned unfortunately women were expected to go back to form fitting and “flattering” clothing – with again little space for pockets.

While we do have pockets today, they are still significantly smaller than our male counter parts pockets- a survey conducted in 2018 suggests they are as much as 48% shorter and 6.5% narrower! Or worse – the pockets are fake! Either way we still have to carry a handbag – and while a handbag might be nice – in the words of Charlotte P Gilman “… a bag is not a pocket.”