Just lately I have become aware of the value and power of knowing how to sew.
While I have learned this skill or hobby for over 10 years, out of love to manual making and to the world of fashion and textiles, it is only recently that I feel that it gives me much more than the joy of making and the outcome of each project.
Making, Repairing, and Patching
Never in history, these three skills have been more consciously valued in terms of contributing to the reparation of the consequences generated by a hyper-consumerist world. And though my view is a moderate one and I was never an”activist” for any cause, It’s time to recognize that something needs to change.
More and more people advocate and pass through the message of Sustainable Living, and more specifically, Sustainable Fashion. And many of the manifestations of these changes are, thankfully, increasingly heard:
- Campaigns against fast-fashion and garments made to last a season and then be discarded.
- Campaigns against the textile industry for their questionable ethics in terms of their worker’s conditions.
- Campaigns against the production processes that negatively impact in the environment and in people’s health.
- Campaigns against the illusion of making us believe that the indiscriminate consumption will complete us and improve our self-esteem. And the belief that if we have the latest fashion garment at the expense of our own tastes and physical features, we will be more accepted and admired by others.
As probably we all can perceive, we are witnessing a time where the accusations to the fashion system are not few.
Changing isn’t easy
While I agree with many of these claims, I don’t agree with radical visions that propose to eradicate consumption. The change has to occur, there’s no doubt. But if we are realistic, we cannot focus just on how much we consume, we have to also change the how.
It is not an easy task. It’s quite hard to change habits and I assume I am not alone in this. This is why adopting a bellicose attitude towards Fashion and denying it is neither a realistic nor an effective solution (although the criticism of some values that are intended to be transmitted in its name are undeniable). On the contrary, change has to come from within, from a place of love for clothes, textiles, and techniques. From the value given to the work put in them and the appreciation of the impact that fashion has on culture and individuals.
A slow but profound transition
These slanderer voices are being more and more heard even by moderate sectors (myself included) who, without being activists, begin to listen and try to implement some small changes in their daily lives as to contribute to change.
In the fashion world, developments in this regard seem to take place very gradually. But as waste separation was once a struggle of a few, and achieved to expand to public policies and become an internalized practice in many societies, I am confident that sustainability and responsibility for our fashion consumption, is also destined to a profound change.
Maybe someday we will get to a point where all these issues will be solved and we will have full awareness of what we consume and where our garments come from. But until then, I propose to start with small changes, relatively easy and achievable, with which to contribute with something. These changes will allow us to deepen our commitment in the future through concrete actions.
The 3 Methods:
In this context, there are 3 ways to start making a change in the field of fashion that we can implement today, simultaneously or independently:
- Buy Less
- Buy Better
- Learn to make and/or repair
Let’s delve into each of these points.
- Buy less is quite obvious. It means acquiring what we really need or want but in a moderate way. This adjustment depends on each one of us, on our current consumption levels and our ability to change.
Again, this varies from person to person. We can not expect the same from everyone because we are not all the same. Each one will have his/her own time and his/her own limits: For someone who is used to buy 10 pieces in a season, he/she can try to reduce that number to 8, and so gradually over time. Everyone knows their standards and what to do to adjust them.
For someone who feels the emotional imperative to leave the mall with at least one bag in each visit, because otherwise it is perceived as a “failure” (we all know someone like that), a first step would be to resist the temptation to buy just to buy. And to try to plan in advance what we really want or need.
- Buy Better is a second step or strategy to be more sustainable.
We can start by looking for clothes and accessories with better quality, that last more than a season or two. If you have ever inherited something of your mom or grandma, then you probably understand what I’m talking about. And for sure, the value you give to this garment is much greater than you give to any other (beyond the emotional component).
Here we need to think about items that we know we will want to use in the future and avoid those that we know will goof style faster than a sigh. Because let’s be honest, as a better quality means more investment, nobody wants to spend tons of money on something that will give us shame go out with 6 months from now. But buying better is not just resigning better price for better quality, it is to become more aware whether the brands we consume are ethical in their practices and processes, in their use of materials and in the conditions of their workers. Or why not consider buying second-hand quality clothes that are in perfect condition? ThredUp, the world’s largest online thrift store where you can buy and sell high-
- Learn how to make and/or repair. It is apparently the most difficult, but at the same time, it is also the most rewarding.
Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t have the necessary skills or you don’t have enough time for this. Your belief is not only understandable but also completely valid. In this case, there are three options:
a. Put your best effort to change your habits applying one or both of the above methods, or
b. Try giving it chance (and some time) to learning the skills which could be acquired relatively easily and quickly. I am not saying that tomorrow you will be able to make your own clothes and accessories, but you can learn the basics to mend and prolong the life of your existing ones. If they are quality garments that you really appreciate, then probably you will be more prone to give them a different destination than the garbage.
c. And what if you would like to give them a new opportunity but there is no way you’ll learn to do it or spend the time required? Then it is time to give value to craftsmanship again and to those people that dedicate their life to it, and you might find it’s worth paying someone to put that garment to use again.
Small Big Changes
These three methods are designed so you can put them into practice today. Within your possibilities and in a way you can feel comfortable. It is about trying small changes that we can digest and integrate into our lives, appreciating fashion but in a more conscious and responsible way. Giving much more value to each of the things we have and acquire.