Barbie Aesthetic and Y2K Fashion

If you have ever met me in person, then you would know I grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Barbies were a childhood staple and the fashion scene was filled with low rise jeans, cargo pants, micro mini skirts, crop tops and chokers. Needless to say I was not a fan of the fashion and struggled to find clothes I liked – and honestly it was probably one of the driving factors that lead me to work in the fashion industry.

The return of the Y2K fashion trends has not been something that I have been thrilled about, despite the fact it makes me reminisce of singing and dancing along to spice girls with my childhood bestie, and the sweet freedom of our youth. The styles were never flattering on me and my short, petite frame. I didn’t enjoy the crop tops, the extra long, wide leg pants made me look shorter and I’ve never liked shirts with rhinestone slogans. Maybe the only trend I really embraced was the plaid mini skirts over leggings, and the sparkly belts, I have a soft spot for those.

But the return of the Barbie aesthetic I am receiving with mixed emotions. It takes me right back to my childhood and the excitement of birthdays or Christmas and my love of Barbie and her outfits. I didn’t make many clothes for her, but I did make some and maybe if I think of it, I was always destined for the fashion world.

With her recent return to the forefront, Barbie has inspired quite a few designers to bring out new collections. So far I am loving the more elegant and classic, 1950’s inspired pieces that are coming out, the sweetness and innocence of Barbie that comes through in her candy coloured accessories that we can again now get in life size versions. I have always been a bit of a sucker for the fashion silhouettes that are feminine, flirty but definitely more traditional.

Forgetting about all the negative comments that get made about Barbie’s body shape and the “unrealistic standards” being set for girls (which to be honest I never even saw or thought of as a child) what I’m really not so sure on is all the plastic. I mean, I know Barbie girl is living in a Barbie world, and her life is plastic and she thinks it’s fantastic. But in 2023, we know plastic is not that fantastic, and we need to be stepping away from it, not re-embracing it with childlike adoration. And if you’ve read any of my posts before, you will know I’m pretty passionate about sustainability – so I won’t go on about it here.

While I’m not a fan of wearing hot pink, I do love bold colour so I can back Barbie and her bold fashion choices. It’s nice to have some colour in our lives again. Neutrals will always be classics and wardrobe staples but colour is life and I refuse to live without it!

I am hoping the Barbie aesthetic stays a little more on the classic side for a while at least. It’s refreshing to have some more timeless silhouettes to choose from, as they are the basis for sustainable shopping and wardrobe curation. You want to invest in pieces that will stand the rest of time and you will wear for years to come, instead of spending only on trends that come and go quicker than the season change. I’m not saying traditional silhouettes are for everyone, just that it’s nice to have more options.

Beyond the aesthetics of it all, I believe Barbie represents many qualities that I appreciate in fashion and life – beauty, femininity, adaptability, courage, aspiration and the possibility to be whatever you dream to be, no matter what the world says.

I feel like there is plenty to be said around Barbie, the controversy and how she has evolved over the many years; but there are many others talking about that. I’d rather remember the Barbie from my childhood who was fun, had a bright future of possibilities and brought joy to my world and a smile to my face.

And maybe after the last few years, what we need is a blast from the past, a walk down memory lane, to remind us of the good years and how beautiful life can be. Whether it’s the childhood joy of dressing up Barbie and taking her for a drive in her corvette, or singing along to a Britney Spears CD while sharing headphones on your friends Walkman after school; there is a real magic in the way fashion takes us back to moments in time. And if Barbiecore and Y2K Fashion can take me there (even if I’m traumatised by low rise jeans), I’m here for the ride and thankful for all the happy memories.

Could my clothes be shrinking?

Ever tried on clothes in a shop and they fit perfectly, but once you’ve washed and dried them they just are a little too tight? Seems to happen to us all at some point or another.

No it’s not that extra slice of cake you had for dessert last night (or the night before), it’s more than likely your clothes shrunk in the wash… yes fabric can shrink! The average amount is 5% but it can be as much as 10%, and that’s a big difference! (And a really good reason to check those care labels on your clothes before washing or chucking in the tumble dryer).

The majority of fabric is not preshrunk (or washed) after it is woven and before it is cut and sewn. There are some fabrics that are bigger culprits than others when it comes to this, and they tend to be your natural fibres: cotton, wool, silk, linen, bamboo, hemp and rayon.

So why isn’t fabric pre-washed or pre-shrunk if we know this is a problem? Firstly, can you imagine washing a roll of fabric that almost 100 metres long? And then drying it? Especially since many fabrics cannot go in a tumble dryer, that would be a nightmare of a job. And then it would need to be re-rolled onto the bolt (or roll). Secondly many fabrics have special treatments on them that make them stain resistant, stiffer, softer, anti-static, waterproof etc. washing would remove these treatments and could cause damage to the fabric prior to sale. And some of these fabrics should not be washed (like waterproof ones!)

All of this is really to say it would add a very big expense to the fabric companies and also to the cost of fabrics, and in turn the prices of clothing or products made from those fabrics.

You will notice that synthetic fibres are not on the list of “shrink in the wash” fabrics – but there is an exception and that is spandex/ lycra which will shrink in the tumble dryer (and will break down quicker – think of how your tight fit jeans get little broken fibres in the high stress areas if you tumble dry them!) Putting things like swimwear in the tumble dryer will weaken the fibres and cause them to break – shortening the life of your garments.

The same can be said for ironing synthetic fibres with a warm to hot iron – it will melt and shrink. So don’t do it!

So what can you do about it? Firstly if you already have things in your wardrobe, make sure you are washing them according to their care labels. It’s hard to go wrong with a cold wash though, and that’s what I always recommend (it’s better for your clothes and the environment – which you can read more about good laundry habits here)

The second thing to do is to check the care label when you try something new on, is it made from a fabric that is likely to shrink? Is it already a really snug fit? Try going up a size – you can always take it to your local alterations specialist to have it taken in AFTER you’ve washed it if it’s too big. If it’s got room to shrink then you might just be alright.

If it’s already shrunk, and you love it – all is not lost! Take it to a seamstress or alterations specialist and see if they can let out the seams or add a panel into the side, you will not be the first nor the last person to do it, and a good seamstress will make it almost undetectable to the untrained eye.

Sustainable Notes on Leather & Leather Alternatives

I’ve been searching for a new handbag recently, and I really wanted leather as I am tired of replacing handbags when the body or handle begins to crack and peel , but naturally I’m looking for something that is sustainably sourced and ethically made. I’ve always known there was debate around the ethics of leather sourcing, and even whether “sustainably sourced” leather is really sustainable – but I struggle with the leather alternative of pleather (which is just plastic really but more on that later). So I wanted to share some more information around it, as I’m sure I can’t be the only one!

Let’s start by looking at real leather, most often cow hide, or lamb hide and of course here in Australia, kangaroo hide too.

While some animals are raised just for their hides, other times, leather is produced as a by-product of the meat industry. As a meat eating person, I view this as a more sustainable and more ethical way of producing leather, and it is rare that cow leather is from any other source than a by-product of the meat industry. Unfortunately, the way that animals are treated is not the best, and that is one of the reasons that leather falls into the most unsustainable fabric categories.

Another reason is that the people involved in the tanning process are exposed to many highly toxic chemicals and compounds including ammonium salts and arsenic. And of course, the management (or mismanagement) of these chemicals in the run off is of significant importance, as they are damaging to the environment.

One of the benefits of real leather is how long it lasts. When well cared for it can be passed down from generation to generation and will almost always outlast its owner. And it has an iconic and beautiful smell.

Faux leather or pleather is the cheapest alternative to real leather, and is a common option for those wanting to avoid the complex issues of real leather.

Pleather is made from a plastic base which is treated with a variety of waxes, dyes, chemicals and polyurethanes to create the desired look. This means that at a basic level, pleather is made from plastic, and it does not biodegrade.

It also has a much shorter lifespan than real leather, rarely lasting as long as 10 years before it starts to peel and crack, creating a horrible mess. Pleathers are also not always vegan, sometimes they are combined with real leathers to give a more authentic feel.

Plant based leathers are growing more and more in popularity and availability. They provide a similar finish and feel to genuine animal leather, but have slightly different textures dependent on the material they are made from. There are many sources including pineapples (Pinatex), mushrooms (Mylo), grapes (VEGEA) and apples (Apple Skin).

The wonderful thing about VEGEA and Apple Skin is they use the left over skins, cores and seeds from winemaking (VEGEA) and apple juice (Apple Skin), which gives them bonus points towards sustainability.

As a general rule, vegetable leathers still require the chemicals for tanning, so they are not 100% sustainable. And similar to pleather, it lasts at most 10 years. Vegetable leather does possess many similar qualities to genuine leather too, being breathable and having a similar feel and smell (because let’s be honest, the smell of genuine leather is one of best things about it!)

There isn’t really a definitive answer to which kind of leather is most sustainable, it depends what your end goal and personal convictions are. I personally prefer real or vegetable leather over pleather as I do my best to avoid synthetics and reduce plastic waste – I don’t even like recycled polyester because of micro plastics (see my post on that here) .

Sustainably farmed/ meat industry waste leather will be my go to when hunting out this new handbag, as I want it to last a long time, or vegetable leather if I can find it at a reasonable price and in a colour I like.

It will be really interesting to see where production goes and how the availability of vegetable leathers grows over the next few years, as I think they are a much better alternative to pleather, especially for vegans/ people who don’t want animal skins.

Upcycling Christmas Baubles

I imagine if you haven’t packed down your Christmas tree yet, you’re thinking about doing it soon… and if you’re in the same situation I was in last year, then you’re thinking what can you do with the older plastic baubles that have faded over many Christmases and are starting to look tired (without just tossing them all and buying a bunch of new ones).

Our tree used to be all red and gold, and last year I decided after Christmas that it was time for a change, and I settled on a new colour scheme of green and white and natural. But I didn’t want to throw everything away into landfill, so I did some research and made a plan.

I decided on making a new wooden bead garland to go around the tree to replace the plastic one that all the colours had come off, and to replace the tinsel. I also made some wooden beaded stars and hanging droplet decorations using the same beads. (Here is a link to the beaded star tutorial

I bought a couple of packets of the dark green baubles I wanted but couldn’t find any white ones that looked nice and that gave me the brilliant idea to paint my old ones, and it was way simpler than I imagined it would be.

Firstly I mixed acrylic paint with some bicarb soda to form a paste, and then I popped the baubles (with the little hanging clips taken off) upside down on skewers in a cardboard box. Then I painted away! It took 2 coats over the red baubles but easily covered the gold. They made for a beautiful white textured decoration.

After doing this I also found other really cool ways to upcycle your old baubles, so I’ll list 5 more different upcycles below to inspire you!

1. Use newspaper pieces to cover it, and stick on and seal with clear glue
2. Coil rope or string around in a spiral from bottom to top
3. Paint over them in a plain colour or add your own painted details like leaves and berries, birds or whatever fits your Christmas theme
4. Turn old baubles into a wreath or garland where it wont be so noticeable that colours are faded/ paint them before you repurpose them
5. Glue pom poms on it in your colour scheme

That Little Cross Stitch on your Jacket

Todays post might be something that blows your mind and changes your world. It also might be something you already know, but from my experience very few people know about this and it’s such a common thing! 

You are out buying some new clothes and find the perfect blazer/ jacket. It’s such a good fit, the sleeves are the right length and it’s just the right colour. You grab it, pay for it and take it home; adding it to your wardrobe. Easy. 

A few days later you wear it out, maybe to work or a brunch, or maybe blazers are just part of your regular style. You get it dry cleaned after and you think that’s all there is to it.

But did you know those little cross stitches on the back vent (the opening at the centre back – sometimes there is two) that make it bubble out funny when you sit down but hold the bottom of the vent closer are supposed to be unpicked! 

I cannot tell you the number of people I see going around with their back vent still stitched together. And on top of that… those pockets that you think are just decorative are probably just stitched closed and are real pockets! 

Let me explain the reason for those stitches, so you don’t think I’m twisting your leg to convince you that they are supposed to be removed. When the jackets and blazers are made these stitches are put in to help the garment hold their shape. So it doesn’t get creases, twists or pulls on any of those locations – it is the same for uniform skirts with pleats and the row of running stitch across the bottom. The garment keeps its shape well while waiting for its new home. It transports well and then hangs and presents nicely on the hanger in the shop until purchased. 

Other stitching fashion faux pas to avoid on your blazer or suit jacket include visible stitching across the shoulders (it will be most likely done in the same colour as the back cross stitch, or in white), and if your jacket has a brand label stitched onto the end of the sleeve, you should remove that too. These little tips will up your suit game!

The truth is, so so many people don’t know about this, and no sales person ever seems to tell anyone either so everyone goes around with their vents stitched together, thinking they’ve got fake pockets. And if you’re not feeling confident to do it yourself, any alteration specialist or tailor would be happy to help. So please unpick those stitches and don’t go round with your  jacket vents stitched closed! 

Ethical Fashion & Garment Workers

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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

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on

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!