Part 2 of my conversation with Elaine Lipson about Slow Cloth: the development of ethical fashion -
In England, the sustainable movement in clothing is referred to as ethical fashion and textiles.
“Greenwashing,”or efforts to get on the ecological bandwagon, doesn’t necessarily benefit the sustainable, ethical movement. Clothing or fabrics are marketed as sustainable, with no standards to support that labeling.
Certification and labeling?
Foods labeled as ‘organic’ have some sort of certification process – that is required by law in Oregon – and all organic products in the US that intend to be sold in Oregon submit to this standard. Are eco-friendly fabrics better when there is no attention to dyeing, finishing, or fair labor practice?
Lainie has a short rant: “Too many trendy tops, made out of bamboo softened by heavy doses of chemicals, marketed as ‘eco-chic.’ And if we’re going to make “repurposed” old clothes, we need a strong aesthetic – I see too many that look like a vision for a post-apocalypse novel. That’s potentially brilliant on the screen or the stage or the runway, but in real life it can be a bleak vision.”
She loathes some junior fashion producers’ “institutionalized objectification of young women in their ads and in their stores, and calling it sustainable fashion. All these things contribute to the green-speak fatigue that we’re already seeing.”
Education and Community
G: How can we engage people in expressing their creativity or culture? Is there a community model?
E: “Every community should embrace its creative class and invest in it…The movement toward creativity and craft is happening everywhere. Building live-work and studio-gallery spaces is a fantastic idea for any community with empty buildings. You also need local businesses that supply artists.
While we can buy a lot of things online, everyday creativity often depends on the materials readily available to you. If you don’t have a great fabric store with inspiring classes and workshops and a convenient place to get thread and elastic and zippers, you’re going to have a hard time learning to sew. The advent of knitting groups and public sewing studios is terrific. But we need to look at how to make these businesses viable, because so often they’re prohibitively expensive to run, and they’re based more on idealistic dreams than business sense. We need both.”
What people are doing now
Lainie mentions what Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin is doing with locally produced fabric and fashion.
E: Chanin’s philosophy is linked to organic food and sustainable agriculture “in a very graceful way. Her model is to create high-end, inspirational and aspirational handmade clothing, but also write books that show you how to make it yourself. She has a lovely, elegant yet raw, very authentic aesthetic that people are clamoring for. And it truly seems to come from the heart, her love of handmade and her commitment to her roots and community.”
Here’s Lainie’s recommendation for further reading on subject of ethical fashion:
E: Charty Durrant has written “The Tyranny of Trends,” a terrific article for Resurgence magazine on the need for rethinking fashion. This is a powerful statement from a former fashion insider. She mentions some multinational brands, and notes that it is important to acknowledge the small independent and local companies that are being very conscious and innovative.”
Elaine Lipson is a writer, editor, textile artist and craftsperson. She is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (Contemporary Books, 2001) and The International Market for Sustainable and Green Apparel, a comprehensive market research report published by Packaged Facts (2008). She blogs about textile art, craft, culture and sustainability at Red Thread Studio . Her work with the organic food industry and the Slow Food movement has led her to translate some of her thoughts to the fiber arts and publish her manifesto Elaine’s 10 Qualities of Slow Cloth at her blog.