It’s week two of Slow Fashion October, and this week’s prompt is what: What form slow fashion takes in our wardrobes, what we’re doing differently than before, and what we’re working towards. For me, these questions tie in perfectly with what I’d wanted to talk about this week anyway: handmade.
I’m a maker. Since childhood, I’ve found great joy in making something with my own two hands, and the excitement of taking an idea out of my head and into the real world never diminishes. Handmade has long been part of my life and my wardrobe, and for me, it’s what comes to mind first when I think of slow fashion - made by hand, slowly and intentionally and with care. The handmade items in my closet, especially the ones given to me by loved ones, have meaning and are worn and cherished far more and far longer than anything else I own. That said, I don’t sew my own clothes - my handmade pieces are mostly knits and, because I live in a country where it’s nearly always sweater weather, they get worn a lot, some repaired repeatedly.
But as I’ve begun to think more deeply about sustainability, I also can’t help but question some of my own assumptions and practices when it comes to making. I guess that’s the “what I’ve been doing differently” part - thinking more about materials, more about process, more about impact. The deeper you look, the more apparent it becomes that even the most well-intended choices can have far-reaching negative impacts and knock-on effects that are difficult, if not impossible, to fully comprehend. It’s almost paralyzing sometimes and lately, as my yarn stash and pile of samples continue to grow, I wonder whether I’m simply justifying a different kind of over-consumption. Sure, it’s handmade, but at the end of the day, it’s still just more stuff after all. And isn’t that the real problem?
As I try to build a handmade business, I find that I'm struggling to balance the goals of sustainability with the realities of commerce and living on an island where most things have to be shipped or flown in and out. What I’m working toward now is to try to be more conscious of the choices I can make and remember that small steps are better than no steps. For me that means using local, natural, sustainable yarns that aren’t overly processed, and sourcing other materials and supplies as responsibly as I can with the knowledge and resources I have today. I’m lucky to have access to amazing yarns that are grown and produced right here so that’s my starting point, but eventually I’d like to incorporate recycling in some way as well (I've been following Reunion Yarn on Instagram and am so inspired by what she’s doing). I’m also working to improve my design process (read: math), as well as other processes, so I can make fewer samples and reduce waste. Even more than slow, maybe what I'm really trying to work toward is just… less.
I understand that not everyone has the means or access to buy more sustainable materials or make their own clothes or even buy handmade - I know I can't (and don't) do all of that all of the time. For most of us it comes down to doing what you can, when you can. But one thing most of us participating in this conversation can do, regardless of income or socioeconomic status, is to consider not just what goes into our closets, but how much, and where and when we can, make it a little less.