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A slow fashion manifesto

Instigator of Textile Beat, a Brisbane-based social enterprise with strong rural connections, Jane Milburn shares her passion for slow fashion – what she describes as ‘fashion with a conscience’.

Conscious eaters are now back in the kitchen, sourcing fresh whole food and engaging in the making process. In a similar way, conscious dressers are now seeking to learn more about how, what and where clothing is made, perhaps even making some for themselves. Dressing is nearly as important as eating for our daily survival. We seek food with good provenance and understand the downsides of fast and processed food. Similarly we need to be more ethical and sustainable in our approach to clothing, rather than just taking the next cheap fashion trend.

The past decade has seen a transformational shift in how we source clothing, with most garments now made in Asian factories where supply-chain transparency is limited and workers can be exploited. When Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013, human suffering in the fashion industry was tragically exposed, with thousands injured and 1 133 workers killed while trapped in an unsafe factory making clothes for people like you and me. Troubling images beamed around the world, sparking a movement for change. Fashion Revolution Day on April 24 now marks that low point in time.

My pathway to slow fashion began in childhood and a professional career imbued with natural fibres and farming. Earlier work included public awareness campaigns such as Save the Aussie Banana for Australian banana growers in response to import threats, water fluoridation for the Australian Dental Association Queensland, Every Family Needs a Farmer for AgForce and Swap It for health groups. This work became more purposeful after leadership immersion with the Australian Rural Leadership Program and James Cook University. I stepped out as a natural-fibre champion and in 2013 established the social enterprise business, Textile Beat.

So began a journey into creativity, empowerment, thrift, sustainability, ecological health and wellbeing – woven with threads of childhood, education, professional expertise, networks and nature. The journey led to a campaign of my own making in 2014 with the Sew it Again project, 365 days of upcycling to demonstrate a creative way of dressing using discarded natural fibre garments, as well as raising awareness of waste and exploitation inherent in contemporary clothing culture.

Every day I blogged, photographed and posted a refashioned, repaired or repurposed garment from my own or others’ wardrobes. I garnered support from family, friends, people I met at workshops, events and through social media. Analytics show it grew a global readership and became a conversation about the way we dress. I learned that world apparel fibre consumption has doubled in the past two decades while global population increased by only 25 percent and that two-thirds of new clothing is made of synthetic fibres derived from petroleum. Many well respected researchers have expressed concern that these plastic clothes shed microplastic particles into the wastewater stream with every wash and that they come back to us in food.

As a way of summarising insights, I developed a slow fashion manifesto. It is a guide for dressing with good conscience that I share through talks like the recent Women of the World (WOW) Festival in Brisbane and the Home Economics Institute of Australia Queensland conference, at workshops (some funded by Regional Arts Development Fund grants) and via social media. The aim is to inspire change in the way we engage with clothing, for the good of ourselves, society and the planet. We can make more considered clothing choices by valuing the making process, conserve resources by curbing excess consumption and cultivate rural/urban connection through sustainable natural fibres. You can find out more on my website, Textile Beat.

I would welcome your feedback, suggestions and engagement around this slow fashion manifesto:

  • think – make thoughtful, kind and informed choices
  • natural – treasure fibres from nature and limit synthetics
  • unique – be original, cultivate your individual style, unfollow
  • quality – buy well once – value remains after price is forgotten
  • make – embrace home sewing as a life skill just like home cooking
  • local – support local makers and those with good stories to tell
  • care – mend, patch, sponge, wash less, use cold water, line dry
  • adapt – refashion, create new from old to suit yourself
  • relove – enjoy vintage, op-shops and swaps
  • salvage – donate, recycle, rag or compost

Jane MilburnBrisbane-based Jane Milburn is developing Textile Beat as an innovative enterprise focused on slow fashion, dressing with conscience and reducing our clothing footprint on the planet. She holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science from The University of Queensland and a Graduate Certificate in Australian Rural Leadership from James Cook University. Building on a career in rural communications, Jane was selected for the Australian Rural Leadership Program in 2009 and named RIRDC Rural Women’s Award Queensland runner-up in 2010. Through Textile Beat, Jane implemented the Sew it Again project in 2014 which was Social Media winner of the 2015 Excellence in Rural Journalism Awards, with the judges saying the project made a difference in the world because it engaged with the community, had a call to action and was transformative. Jane is a member of the Fashion Revolution Day Australia and New Zealand committee and presents slow fashion workshops and talks around Australia.
Jane can be found on twitter @janemilburn and @textilebeat and on
Feature image supplied by author.