Monday is the start of Fashion Revolution Week. The seventh year in which the charity ask us to challenge our favourite fashion brands with the question #whomademyclothes? Fashion Revolution was established in 2013 a year after the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1138 garment workers in Bangladesh. Since then charity have been campaigning globally against the human and environmental consequences of the fashion industry. Encouraging brands to change their practices to a more transparent and circular model.
Our original plan was to host a variety of clothes mending workshops but the pandemic put a stop to this. We took comfort from the below quote, taken from a Fashion Revolution newsletter we received soon after we were asked to stay in our homes to protect lives.
The coronavirus pandemic will lead to a massive behavioural shift and an inevitable slowing down of consumption. As we always say, the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in our wardrobes so we can start, as so many of us already are, by looking after the clothes we have, sewing on buttons, repairing hems, darning holes.…
Fashion Revolution, March 2020
Fast Fashion Therapy was created as a response to another overwhelming problem, climate change and the lack of sustainability in the fashion industry. We have taken on the challenge set by Fashion Revolution and have launched our workshops and repair cafes online via interactive call and video tutorials. Now, more than ever it is important to question fashion brands on their practices, here is how you can get involved:
Five Ways to Be Part of Fashion Revolution Week
1) Become an activist: Choose your favourite piece of clothing. Text, email and write a letter to the brand on the label using the hashtag #whomademyclothes? – find more tips and resources on how to approach the fashion brand effectively on Fashion Revolution’s website. Including downloadable posters and kits. Don’t give up, keep contacting the brand until you get an answer. Keep the message positive and professional.
2) Learn how clothes are made: Creating a 3D garment from a flat piece of fabric is no mean feat. Understanding the construction of clothes enables us to value them and appreciate that clothes shouldn’t be cheap. We respect the skill required and can campaign for garment workers to be paid a living wage. We are not suggesting everyone makes their own clothes (although it is fun!) but how about watching The Great British Sewing Bee? Starting next week, watch one episode to appreciate how difficult it is to make a simple garment. Judge Patrick Grant hosts a BBC Radio documentary ‘Making Fashion Sustainable‘, which is a good introduction to the complexity of fashion supply chains.
3) Mend your clothes: Go through your wardrobe and pull out the items you are not wearing because they need mending. Or maybe they don’t fit correctly and need altering? It is time to start tackling that pile of mending. We have ‘how to’ videos on this site to help you mend your clothes. New tutorials are posted every week. Or if you need some one-to-one help we are running 1:1 appointments for a virtual repair cafe. £2.50 from the ticket price will be donated to Fashion Revolution, Refuge and The Trussell Trust.
4) Take part in a virtual event: Next week, sustainable fashion companies will come together to debate the effects of the fast fashion industry on climate change and modern slavery. There are hundreds of events taking place around the world. We are joining Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution (a week long event) and Fashion Question Time on 24th April. Search ‘Fashion Revolution’ in Eventbrite for the full list of events.
5) Consider the future: This is our opportunity to make a change. We all need to consume less to prevent further climate change. Yet millions of garment workers have lost their jobs due to orders from retailers being cancelled due to Covid-19. Fashion Revolution state: ‘If we do nothing, the fashion industry will simply return to business as usual when this is all over. Instead, let’s come together as a revolution and build a new system that values the wellbeing of people and planet over profit.’ How will your buying patterns change? Jen Gale at Sustainable(ish) recommends we become ‘conscious consumers’. Lauren Bravo has lots of practical tips in her book, How to Break up with Fast Fashion.
Let us know how you are getting involved in Fashion Revolution Week. Did you get an answer to #whomademyclothes? We would love to know, contact us on email or social media @fastfashiontherapy
We’ve got a new ‘Darning’ video tutorial on our YouTube channel!
This video will take you through the basics of how to darn holes in knitwear. The technique can be used on an area that’s just worn down or where a hole has appeared to strengthen the item of clothing and create a new piece of fabric in the damaged area. This video shows a visible style of mending but the same technique can be used to repair invisibly if you use a matching thread.
If you’re looking for the basic kit you need to get started on your darning, head to our Shop to find our new darning kits!
Don’t have a darning mushroom at home? How about something from your kitchen? Read our blog on what to use around your home in place of a darning mushroom.
Back in the days when we were allowed to visit clothes shops and talk to people that we didn’t live with in real life, we were invited by Obj.12 to talk about our clothing repair workshops and sustainable fashion for their video on ‘Slow Fashion’. It was a great project to be a part of, sadly the workshop we were going to run with them was cancelled, but hopefully we can work with City University and Obj. 12 again in the future!
At Fast Fashion Therapy, we were planning a range of workshops to support Fashion Revolution Week. We have course cancelled the events due to the Corona virus. Below is a poignant message from the founders of Fashion Revolution that we wanted to share…
Dear Fashion Revolutionaries,
It is impossible to disregard the profound effects that the coronavirus pandemic is having, and will have, on the global population, on our society, and the hardships we will all face over the coming months; nobody can continue with business as usual at this point in time. We know that crises like Corona Virus, Climate Change, and indeed most disasters disproportionately affect the most vulnerable populations and minorities. At the same time, the vast majority of the people who make our clothes are themselves vulnerable, and lacking sick pay, paid leave, or adequate health care. When we use our voices to hold big corporations accountable, we are part of the change in shaping a fairer world.
Since Fashion Revolution began after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, we have used our collective voice to bring communities together, to offer support, share knowledge and to think creatively about finding solutions for challenging situations. In this new coronavirus world we are having to rethink everything, not least our own events scheduled to take place during Fashion Revolution Week April 20-26.
Inevitably many of our physical events will be postponed. Our global teams will operate as best they can, but we will all stand united on the 24th of April, and throughout Fashion Revolution Week, to honour the victims of the Rana Plaza and all other disasters and injustices that keep happening in fashion supply chains.
Where possible, Fashion Revolution will be moving many of our major events to online platforms. We will be postponing our Great Fashion Revolution Clothes Swap activation until a time when it is safe to gather together again. We will work with our country teams to ensure that local health guidelines and legislations are followed. But we are working hard at digitising, adapting our resources, and updating our content to respond to the present situation, so stay with us during Fashion Revolution Week and join us in our programme of webinars, discussions, virtual studio visits and news updates.
This is not the ‘change’ we were hoping for, but nevertheless, as we sit this crisis out – so many of us in isolation – we can also learn important things. The coronavirus pandemic will lead to a massive behavioural shift and an inevitable slowing down of consumption. As we always say, the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in our wardrobes so we can start, as so many of us already are, by looking after the clothes we have, sewing on buttons, repairing hems, darning holes. Repair is a Revolutionary Act, and the revolution starts with all of us, in our own wardrobes.
We will continue to keep this extraordinary global community alive and connected. Together, we will be more present than ever before. We will push forward with our messaging for a fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment, and values people above growth and profit, and we will continue to inform our global community on the pressing topics facing the fashion industry as it struggles to become more sustainable. We can choose to spend the extra time on our hands scrutinising fashion brands, and asking for greater responsibility.
At Fashion Revolution, we say Be Curious, Find Out, Do Something. As we enter our seventh year of campaigning, we are very proud of our collective achievements: we certainly have made more people more curious, and so millions of citizens have taken it upon themselves to find out more. Now is the time to Do Something. Bring your activism home. Turn it into daily actions: mend, repair, resell, learn a craft, fix a shoddy hemline that needs a stitch. Investigate your clothes: look at the labels, expose their details, research the brands. Take a closer look at a composition label that goes nowhere near telling you the full list of ingredients; a ‘Made In’ label that tells you nothing about where the fabric was made or the raw materials were sourced.
As always, we want to hear from you. Keep us posted of your wardrobe activism. Tag us in your conversations and use our hashtags. We continue to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes to show our solidarity with the garment workers, and we are also asking #WhatsInMyClothes to help begin a wider conversation about the ingredients – the plastics, chemicals and polluting microfibres – that are not disclosed on our care labels.
But most importantly, use your activism to help others. Use your voice, and help us to raise awareness of the most vulnerable people in the fashion industry – the garment workers without health care or sickpay, whose living and working conditions will be made even more acute by this pandemic.
Of course, we can all help out closer to home too. if you are a social media content whizz, consider helping a local business to support their communities; if you are a designer or maker, can you offer your help to your local coronavirus effort? If you have children off school, take the time to teach them the basics of sewing and mending. Wherever we can, we will use our voice and our skills to help others. We can use this crisis to pause: take stock, focus on our social conscience, reflect, and ensure that the drastic measures we are facing will lead us to be better prepared and more committed as we move to a more mindful, considerate future.
We are very happy to say that we’ve been awarded a grant by the Mayor of London’s Culture Seeds programme! The programme aims to support grassroots community-led arts and cultural projects across the city. It means we’ll be able to provide even more of our clothing repair and up-cycling workshops over the next few months, whilst also expanding the range of our workshop programme and hosting more across South London. We couldn’t have got it without the support of everyone whose come to our workshops in the past so a big thank you to you too!
More information on Culture Seeds can be found here
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
This is one of my favourite motivational quotes. It’s one I kept coming back to as I was researching sustainable fashion at university, and one I think of when I’m sat trying to work on my own in my little bedroom feeling like this whole pursuit is too overwhelming.
When Lauren Bravo used it in the closing chapter of her book How to Break Up with Fast Fashion, I knew this book was one that really reflected how I feel about our personal potential to create a sustainable fashion industry. Trying to enact any kind of positive change in this vast and complex industry can feel pretty impossible at times, and many people will tell you it is. The internet may have made buying fast fashion even easier and quicker, but it’s also the thing that can help make finding sustainable fashion comrades in the area you live and all over the world far simpler. Community and collaboration drive this movement.
The stats that Lauren introduces the book with are a daunting read, and even as I begin to feel that I’m aware of many of them, there’s another one that shocks me. The fact that out of ’71 leading retailers in the UK, 77 per cent believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery (forced labour) occurring at some stage in their supply chains’ is a figure that’s hard to forget. Lauren discusses these heavy ideas with clarity and compassion, whilst moving on to discuss the conflicting emotions that can come through quitting fast fashion with playfulness and honesty that makes this challenging topic engaging, and actually easy to read. As someone who has just spent the last year of their life going through a break-up with a real-life human being, the swaying from anger to adoration to reflection to acceptance is very easy to empathise with. Not all the things we love are good for us and in this case, they’re not good for the people making our clothes or the planet.
Personal anecdotes are used to bring a balance of perspective to the large-scale problems tackled in the book. Percentage of Lauren’s clothes currently covered in food stains? Forty. One of the best techniques for replacing that ‘treat’ that fashion can be in your life? Lots of baths (not a euphemism apparently).
An outfit should always have at least 20 per cent space for pasta.
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
Whilst at the same time the ‘Where is the humanity?’ chapter discusses the many ways in which garment workers’ human rights have been disregarded unflinchingly. The death of 1,138 people in the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 is a disaster that many were aware of at the time, but other building collapses and fires are simply forgotten. Lauren discusses in this book how the sustainability movement can often be too focused on a middle-class white women’s perspective which can bring with it accusations of a white saviour complex or companies who ‘greenwash’ purely for profit. It’s a complex issue which Lauren discusses much better than I could do here, and it’s clear that this perspective needs to change to reflect the experience and concerns of all parts of society for the movement to continue to grow.
But when considering our next fashion purchase, recognising that every item of clothing is handmade and that those hands have often been exposed to harsh working conditions is a simple way to respect the human rights of the garment workers.
‘We can only do the best we can do. But we can probably do better than we are.’
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
This quote repeated often throughout the book is something to remember in those conflicted moments in our shopping future. It’s going to be hard to avoid buying from a fast fashion shop ever again, their whole business model relies on making it easy, quick and cheap. With every time you have to compromise, there can be another moment where you take one step forward, whether it’s fixing your jumper, going to a ‘clothes swap’ or just not washing your clothing as much as you used to. Dressing in protest does not have to be reflected in the style of clothes you wear, as Lauren discusses, a radical act can be as simple as re-wearing the clothes we already own.
I love fashion. I have done since I was young. From dressing up Sindy dolls in my own creations to working in the fashion industry. My first job after fashion college was as an Assistant Buyer for a large high street retailer. A regular task was to trawl the length and breadth of Oxford Street to ‘comp shop’. Basically playing detective on what your competitors have in their store: price, colours, fibre content, where it is made and most importantly what did they have that we didn’t. I was literally shopping for a living.
I soon fell out of love with shopping for work and for myself. So when I was asked to review a book written by a woman who’s hobby was shopping on ASOS, I didn’t think it would be for me. My mind changed the minute I turned the last page on the first chapter. I haven’t stopped quoting lines from the book and telling friends and our workshop participants about it.
Lauren approaches a wide range of complex subjects with humour, and yet makes us aware that the fashion industry and our relationship to clothes is complicated. For example, during our workshops we are often asked if cotton is more sustainable than polyester but it isn’t as simple as yes or no. Neither is trying to explain that stopping buying clothes altogether puts jobs within the global fashion supply chain at risk. This quote sums up the conundrum:
‘’Between balancing environmental impact and human rights, spending more but buying less but still keeping garment workers in (fairly paid) jobs, the whole business of ethical shopping can start to feel a bit like that puzzle where you have to get a wolf, a chicken and a bag of corn across a river.’
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
I’ve had many discussions with friends trying to explain that just because a certain brand is expensive doesn’t make it more sustainable than a cheaper one. I’ve ear-marked this page of the book to bring out in the pub when the discussion arises again:
‘The price you pay for the garment is not always reflective of the quality of the garment, and definitely not reflective of the sustainability of the garment.’
Dr Sumner, Lecturer in Fashion and Sustainability, Leeds University
Despite my protests, I’ll admit I have three items of clothing from too-expensive-for-my-budget brands that I bought in the sale and I have never worn. My usual excuse of ‘I’ll slim into them’ but three to five years later I still haven’t. I teach people to repair and upcycle their clothes and yet it took for me to read this book to remember those unloved purchases hanging in my wardrobe. I’m now on the lookout for second-hand pieces of fabric that I can use to make the clothes bigger and finally wear them!
‘We need to stop shopping as though clothes are toothpaste, but equally we need to stop using the phrase ‘investment buy’ as a blanket excuse to spaff money we don’t have, on clothes we don’t need. We need to establish what ‘value’ means to us.’
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
As a UK size 16, sustainable fashion brands do not cater to my size. I’ve managed to buy a few pieces such as organic cotton T-shirts and a swimming costume made from fishing nets found on the ocean floor. The author criticises the sustainable fashion companies for often only catering up to size 14 and I appreciated the author for her honesty. It isn’t easy to criticise companies that are improving the practices of the fashion industry. We want sustainable fashion to be mainstream and that means catering for all sizes.
I paid particular attention to Lauren’s advocacy of vintage and second-hand clothing. A more affordable alternative to buying new sustainable fashion, and one I am a big fan of. There are several chapters full of practical tips on how to shop at vintage fairs and charity shops. Even discussing what to do about that smell associated with second-hand clothes.
‘’The best solution is to keep our clothes in action, whether that’s by us or by a brand-new owner.’
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
Of course, I am biased and particularly enjoyed the philosophy and practical tips on how to care for our clothes, mend them and love them. Again, I’m guilty of teaching people to mend their clothes and yet my own mending pile never seems to get smaller.
‘…If fast fashion is the devil then home sewing is the saintly alternative… Remember the golden rule of wardrobe maintenance: a disaster is just a craft project you haven’t met yet.’
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
I really enjoyed reading How to Break Up with Fashion Fashion. It was engaging, funny and enlightening. Most of all the book reminded me that I can do more to improve my carbon footprint when it comes to fashion. I will make more of an effort to love the clothes I own, alter them, look after them and most of all enjoy wearing them.
“If the most sustainable item of clothing is the one we already own, then appreciating and wearing those clothes is one of the most powerful differences we can make.”
Lauren Bravo, How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
Lauren Bravo’s Top Tips on How to Break Up with Fast Fashion
Unsubscribe from all of your fashion related mailing lists
Edit your social media feeds – swap accounts that make you want to shop to those who are into slow fashion
Turn to your own wardrobe. Get it all out on the bed and confront yourself with the volume you own
Take each piece and ask yourself why did I buy it? Why did I think I want it? Why haven’t I worn it?
‘Learn from this future you! You can learn from past you mistakes. Make clothes work harder for us. It is not sustainable behaviour to buy, wear once and resell. Hopping off that trend treadmill stopped me wearing things that didn’t suit me.’
Lauren Bravo speaking at Foyles Bookshop, London Jan 2020
It is estimated that 12 million Christmas jumpers will be bought this festive season despite 65 million lurking in the back of the wardrobe according to charity Hubbub. Speaking in The Daily Telegraph, the Charity’s project co-ordinator Sarah Divall suggests customers ‘swap, buy second-hand or re-wear and remember a jumper is for life not, just for Christmas.’
These facts inspired us to create two upcycling workshops to combat this example of fast fashion, textile and plastic waste (up to 75% of Christmas jumpers contain acrylic, a form of plastic)
Upcycle a Plain Jumper Into a Christmas Jumper
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine asked us to help their staff and students create festive jumpers from plain knitwear already in their wardrobes as part of their Sustainable Christmas Fair. We were really impressed with everyone’s creativity. Techniques such as couching, appliqué and embroidery were applied using festive trims and fabric remnants we picked up at Charity shops. There are plenty available this time of year.
Upcycle a Christmas Jumper to Wear All-Year
We launched our December workshops at Buy a Gift’s Zero Waste Christmas market. Alternatively we took a Christmas jumper, added embellishments to create a jumper we could wear all year round. Ruching scrap fabrics and appliqueing them over the Christmas motif. This effect can be used to cover any branding on sweatshirts and t-shirts.
We run a variety of fashion repair and upcycling workshops for up to 15 people. Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org to book us for your sustainable fashion event or click on our event calendar for our upcoming workshops.
Are cotton tote bags worse for the environment than plastic bags? It is a debate we have been reading this year, first published by Quartz Magazine after the results of Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food 2018 life cycle assessment were published. Taking into account the amount of earth’s resources it takes to produce cotton they argue that a plastic bag could be less impactful than a cotton one. Click here to read the full article.
One view we think is missing from the conversation is a bag made from scrap fabric. If a single use plastic bag creates litter and a cotton bag uses up valuable resources, how about making a bag from textiles that would otherwise be thrown away?
Below are the instructions to make a small tote bag, perfect to use as a gift bag and save on sparkly paper that can’t be recycled. Or keep for your own use, they work brilliantly to carry a packed lunch, water bottle and reusable coffee cup.
How to Make a Small Gift or Tote Bag
Two pieces of fabric , both the size of an A3 piece of paper (apx 30 x 42cm)
Or sew smaller scraps of fabric together to create a bigger piece
Polyester all sew thread
Iron and ironing board
Sewing machine (or come to our free class at The Create Place to use the machines there)
Lay a piece of A3 paper one one piece of the fabric (or measure with a tape measure and mark with a pen or tailoring chalk)
Pin around all 4 edges then cut around the paper with fabric scissors
Remove the pins and the paper
Repeat steps 1 to 3 for the second piece of fabric
Match up the two pieces of fabric, placing right sides together
Pin together along one of the short edges (placing pins vertical to the edge)
Sew along this edge using a 1.5cm seam allowance
Zig zag or overlock the raw edge of this seam
Keeping the pieces together, fold over the bottom sewn edge by 4cm.
Press in place and pin
Pin along the two longer sides, place pins vertical to the edge (making it easier to remove as you sew)
Sew along the two long sides using a 1.5cm seam allowance, incorporating the folded edges
Remove pins then zig zag or overlock the raw edges
Hem the top of the bag: fold over the top edge of the fabric by 1cm, right side to wrong side, press with a hot iron
Fold again by 3cm and press, then pin in place
Stitch around the hem approximately 0.5cm from the hemmed edge
Measure the length of straps you want (we’ve used fairly short straps). Add 3cm to this measurement
Cut two pieces of fabric measuring 8cm wide x the length of the straps required
Take one of the strap pieces, fold over each short edge by 1cm, right side to wrong side and press with a hot iron
Fold over one of the long edges by 1cm, right side to wrong side, press with a hot iron
Repeat on the other long side
Fold the strap in half, wrong sides together. Press and pin in place
Sew the two short edges and then the long edge together, sewing as close to the hemmed edges as possible. This can be done in one long stitch if you pivot at each corner. Click here for a YouTube video on how to pivot on a sewing machine.
Repeat steps 15 to 19 for the other strap
Lay the bag flat and find the centre point at the top of the opening by folding the bag in half width wise and marking the point with a pin. Lay the bag flat again.
Take one short strap end and place 3cm to the right of the centre front, pin in place
Take the other end of the same strap and place it 3cm from the left of the centre front point. Pin in place
Turn over the bag and repeat steps 21 to 23 with the other strap
At this step, decide if you want the strap ends to show on the front of the bag or place them on the inside of the bag. Either way, line up the short edge of the strap just below the line of stitching on the hem and re-pin in place
Sew the straps in place by sewing in a square on the strap. Start at the point where the top edge of the bag lines up with the strap. Sew a horizontal line then pivot and sew down to the same level as the row of stitching at the hem.
Pivot again and sew along the hem line. Pivot for a forth time until you reach the starting point.
An optional extra: sew a criss-cross line from each corner
Press the bag and it is ready to use!
Cotton and linen woven fabrics are the most versatile and will withstand washing. More delicate and stretch fabrics will look pretty as a gift bag and handy to store items at home.
Where to find scrap fabrics
Old bed sheets, quilt covers and pillow cases
Old tea towels or bath towels
Scrap fabrics left over from dress making (the blue and yellow bag is a combination of fabrics left over from 3 different dressmaking projects)
Piece squares of fabric together to give a quilting effect and help use up smaller pieces
Old clothing beyond repair
Pieces of fabrics left over from alterations such as taking up the hem on jeans
Use ribbon for the straps or lengths of hem cut from clothes with their stitching intact
Clothes swishing, swapping and sustainable fashion event from Betsy’s Closet Swap Shop. Along with swishing your clothes for new, join free workshops from Fast Fashion Therapy, Sunny Jar, Talula Fashion, Art Hopper, Endless Bunting, Take It Up Wear it Out and Eco Active. Plus talks, live music and comedy. Tickets cost £3, available from EventBrite.
A fun day full of sustainable fashion ideas, takes and workshops. See full schedule below.