The ‘Anthropocene’ defines the earth’s most recent geologic time period, as being overwhelmingly shaped by human activity. By the 18th century garment production was accelerated by the textile manufacturing that led the industrial revolution. By the 21st century, the garment industry, led by the demand for ‘fast fashion’ is the second largest culprit in polluting the planet after the mining of fossil fuels. The problems caused by ‘fast fashion’ are multiple, ranging from masses of barely worn garments clogging the landfills, the polluting of water with run-offs from dyeing and manufacture, and the inundation of the oceans with the microfibers that spill into the ocean when laundering garments made from synthetic fabrics. Since the industrial revolution, the impact of rapid growth in the fashion industry has also led to the exploitation of cheap labour, meaning that many, if not most of the line workers in garment factories live below the poverty line
In an effort to address the urgent responsibilities that fashion designers need to embrace to change the status quo, my practice involves making highly crafted garments, using natural, biodegradable fabrics, and dying them myself, using natural dyes sourced from food waste. The term largely used for this approach to making, is ‘slow fashion’, in that these garments are not available for mass-production or high turnover and take a considerable amount of time to design and make.
The level of engagement that this process demands means that the designer develops a deep relationship with the materials and the making, and the garment bears testimony to this in how it looks and feels for the wearer, encouraging a sense of respect for the textiles themselves and how they offer themselves to the inspiration of the designer. By both designer and wearer becoming aware of the beauty of the natural resources upon which the form of the garment depends, a sense of history, emotional connection and longevity is afforded to the garment.
Many of my designs demand complicated hand sewing if they are to be durable and properly crafted. It is this practice that has also slowed me down and caused me to reflect on what goes into a well-made garment that has longevity. The intimacy of handling the fabrics in this way has made me highly sensitive to the special qualities natural fabrics have, and how they guide and direct the decisions you make as you work. When translating a design from the toile to the finished product, it is the difference in the materials that demand from the designer that they be flexible and adaptable, allowing the materials to influence the outcome of the finished work.
The creation of this collection has been a steep learning curve for me as a fashion designer who hopes to contribute meaningfully to the industry in the future. The awareness I have developed during the processes of working with, rather than attempting to control, my materials has opened pathways for future designs that are sustainably creative, and bear the qualities of being cared for and respected from start to finish.