Today is the start of Fashion Revolution Week. The eighth year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model. Using vintage fabric is a more sustainable alternative to buying new fabrics. Here are the reasons I prefer to buy vintage:
7 Reasons why buying vintage is good for the Earth and the soul
1. Reduce, reuse, repurpose
June 2020 saw the end of the first lockdown due to Covid-19 in the UK. WRAP surveyed adults on their attitudes to clothing and textiles during this period. They concluded that 184 million textile items (UK only) were cleared out during this three month period. Using vintage fabric is a more sustainable alternative to buying new fabrics. We are reusing materials that are already in circulation, preventing them from going to landfill. Preserving their history and giving them a new lease of life. Buying pre-loved means we are not using the Earth’s valuable resources by producing new textiles.
Some of the fabrics I source are far from being reusable. They can be stained, have holes in or just have that musty smell that is difficult to shift. I never give up on a piece of textiles and do everything I can to restore it to a condition so it can be reused. I’ve also patched fabric that has some holes it in, making it useable again. I also teach people to mend their clothes along with my friend Eleanor. We set up Fast Fashion Therapy to teach people to repair and alter their clothes. Encouraging attendees to buy second hand rather than always buying new. We have lots of clothes mending events happening this week, more details here. Eleanor has written a post on how the pandemic has affected the fashion industry.
3. Support independent businesses and charities
‘Where do you find the fabrics?’ is a common question I’m asked by customers and friends. I’ll admit, it isn’t easy finding vintage fabrics and I stumble to give a straight answer. Where ever I am on holiday I can’t resist a charity shop to hunt for vintage and pre-loved fabric. The best charity shop I have found in the UK so far is The Big C distribution centre in Wymondham, Norfolk. A treasure trove of fabrics, haberdashery and craft items you never even knew you needed. All neatly categorised in baskets. Buying textiles from charity shops raises millions of pounds for small through to large charities. Sometimes customers donate fabrics to me in exchange for a money donation to their favourite charity. There are thousands of independent businesses within the fashion and textile industry. I’m not against big brands but an independent business is more likely to have a tighter control of their supply chain.
4. What’s in my fabric?
Bleaching, printing and dyeing textiles is one of the most environmentally harmful stages of the garment production chain. Huge quantities of water, energy and chemicals are used including heavy metals, formaldehyde and chlorine. These chemicals produce effluents which pollute ground and drinking water. They are also hazardous to the people working with them. The textile industry urgently needs to find more environmentally friendly ways of dyeing and producing textiles.Traid
5. Unique and individual
Olive Road London was born out of a passion for vintage prints and fashion. Fed up with original vintage clothing not fitting around my size 16 waist, I wanted to make my own clothes to create a modern and wearable wardrobe with a vintage style. I might make a popular pattern, such as the Barcelona dress from Maven Patterns, using a vintage fabric means it is extremely unlikely that someone else is going to have the same dress. I met Tilly from Tilly and the Buttons at The Knitting and Stitching show 2019. I swapped this beautiful turquoise swirl fabric for a couple of my fav T&B patterns. Tilly turned the vintage fabric into her popular Indigo dress and wore it at the Spring Stitch Festival. Lots of Tilly’s customers asked where they could buy the same fabric and she explained it is an original piece from my shop. Have fun with vintage and reduce the amount of textile waste clogging the planet.
6. Circular Economy: Scrap Busting
Re-using textiles already in circulation is a form of recycling. Certainly more sustainable than buying new, however a circular economy is the ideal model. Meaning there is no end of use for a piece of textiles
We need the equivalent of three planets to provide the natural resources necessary to sustain current lifestyles. So when we talk about the circular economy, what we’re really talking about is a way to sustain our planet by moving away from the traditional “take, make, waste” approach that depletes resources without replenishing them, and moving as quickly as possible into a closed-loop or circular approach to production and consumption that reduces natural resource dependency and is fuelled by the perpetual cycling of materials from one product to the nextLewis Perkins, Loved Clothes Last: Issue 2
For example, a piece of fabric is bought brand new in the 1970’s. It sits in someone’s fabric stash unused until it is donated to a charity shop. I discover it on my travels and sell it to one of my lovely customers who makes it into a new dress. The dress is worn and loved but maybe doesn’t fit any longer. It is then passed onto a friend. The friend wears and loves the dress, a hole appears and it is patched. Years later it is passed on and sold at a vintage fair. The buyer re-styles the dress leaving a scrap of fabric. The fabric is repurposed into a suffolk puff broach to wear with the dress….even when the textiles are no longer strong enough to be worn as a dress, they can be re-made into a practical item. Click here for my scrap busting tips.
7. Have fun with vintage
Buying vintage and second hand clothes and fabrics is much more of a challenge than buying new. It is difficult to find the right style in the right size or in the right length of fabric. It is a challenge and that is what makes it fun! During lockdown I’ve really missed rummaging around for fabric at a vintage fair, meeting a friend for tea and cake and contemplating whether we are going to buy something or not. I play vintage detective, going to interesting places around the UK and making a day out of it. Fashion is supposed to be fun, it is a way to express ourselves through the clothes that we make and wear. Fashion shouldn’t damage the earth or exploit the people who make our fabric and clothes. This is why I support Fashion Revolution Week each year, to help campaign for a fair and ethical fashion industry (this includes fabrics).
Want to join in and ask your favourite fabric makers #whomademyfabric? or #whomademyclothes? I contacted Playtex to ask them who made my underwear. Find my top tips over on Fast Fashion Therapy.