Craftmandship & Sustainable Fashion
What we choose to wear reflects how we view the world and how we want the world to view us because clothes are tied to our very human need to express individuality. However, we tend to have little to no understanding of the true of each piece of clothes or accessory that we have in our wardrobes.
Throughout the history of human kind, craft was integral to cultural expression and the creation of our clothes. Besides, until the Industrial Revolution, garments were constructed by hand, through knitting, crochet, needlework, dyeing, weaving, embroidery and leather tooling.
The fashion industry needs to revive these traditional craft skills and ensured a sustainable future for the upcoming generations.
In order to make sustainability happen in the fashion industry there are needs to be changed on many levels, because as Kate Fletcher states “fashion clothes are much more than the fibre and chemicals needed to make them. They are signs and symbols, expressions of culture, newness and tradition. They link us to the time and space and deal with our emotional needs, manifesting us as social being, as individuals.”
As designers and social consumers we should all cautiously take into consideration how the fashion industry impacts our environment, be more sensitive, and take actions. We must be innovative in the way that the fashion industry conducts its business - not only in the way the clothes are being produced, but also the choice of materials and how they are disposed. According to the Danish Fashion Institute the production of textiles is now one of the most polluting processes in the world.
Materials have a strong position in our existing understanding of what makes fashion and textiles sustainable, however it is important to state that there is no single fibre, whether it is organic, fairly traded or recycled, that independently can transform the practices of a polluting and resource demanding industry into a more sustainable one.
It is important to be aware of the impact of the fibre selections on whole unified product life-cycles, which involves farming, production, manufacturing, distribution, consumer washing, reuse and ultimately discarding. And also consider the entire process from ‘cradle to cradle’ when evaluating a textile’s impact on the environment. These two points highlights that there are many environmental difficulties connected with the manufacturing process of textile, no matter whether it is based on natural or artificial fibres since each type of fibre has its own environmental impact.
Likewise, as designers and conscious consumers, it is our responsibility to communicate with companies and suppliers by stimulating them to respond to fundamental issues regarding sustainability (ex: exploitation of garment workers, damaging agricultural practices, dying and printing, waste of materials, among others). It is also our responsibility to spread the information we have regarding sustainability in social medias or whatever sources of communications that we have available in order to create a better world for the future generation to come.
We therefore need to look at garments not only like beautiful items but also consider it’s totally as resources, symbols and values. We should ask ourselves questions regarding our own behavior to watch the way we wear our clothes and how we care for them. By beginning a process of acquiring skills in the practice of creating and caring for our garments - and not just consuming them - we will be taking a step to reach a more sustainable environment.
A challenge of sustainability for us designers and consumers is to learn to live better, enriching the ties that bind us together as a society and regenerating environments while also consuming much less. It is like a kind of design activism, which relates less to design as the creator of things and more to design as a developer of social change. The idea that both designers and consumers can add value to the products by remaking; re-printing, re-shaping and re-surfacing using skills of handcraft in order to give a new lease of life to a fashion garment.
I also believe that that now, more than ever, is the time for open source design, participatory design or co-design where the main focus of designing new garments or products, is dragged away from designer’s main principles. Instead consumers are no longer passive in this process of producing and using clothes. We all becomepart of the design process and by doing that the whole process becomes more transparent and meaningfully. Likewise, throughout this kind of initiatives, I believe that handmade things will be an important value in the future of sustainability and fashion. Products that will be created based on values, skills, products that are conscientious, sustainable and beautiful. Thus, the highest quality product or service will be the one that generates the most benefit to all involved in its production and trade.
We can already acknowledge that the use of crafts is undergoing a renaissance in the fashion industry. Us consumers are also willing to pay more for handcrafted good that identify and even promote the individuals responsible for their creation. The fashion industry is beginning to realize that re-establishing the connection between creator and consumer has commercial as well as ethical and environmental benefits. So hopefully this trend is here to stay!