re-wild your wardrobe for fashion revolution week
This is the first in a series of posts about this month's events in collaboration with Fashion Revolution. This instalment explains the background to my 'Re-wild Wirral' community project, next week's 'bring + dye' workshop in Liverpool and our weekend 'soul clothing' retreat to Snowdonia in early June. Over the next few posts I'll share my process and results so make sure you're following The Wild Dyery on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for notifications when new posts go live.
Over the last few years I've become increasingly aware of the "high cost of cheap fashion" and whilst developing our online training in natural fabric dyeing, I started researching ways I could contribute to a much needed change.
We all love a bargain but following the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in 2013 when over 1000 people lost their lives due to unsafe working conditions, many of us started to understand just how our demand for cheap clothing and 'retail therapy' had deadly consequences, mainly for women in less affluent countries.
On April 24, 2013, an eight storey clothing factory in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, collapsed killing 1,134 workers and injuring 2500. The building had been unsafe and in a state of disrepair yet because of the demand for cheap labour and fast fashion, the building owners ignored warnings and forced workers to carry on.
As a reaction to the Rana Plaza disaster, The Fashion Revolution was born. This is an incredible organisation working to improve the way people and the planet are treated by the fashion industry. Here's their mission statement
"On 24 April every year, Fashion Revolution Day brings people from all over the world together to use the power of fashion to change the story for the people who make the world’s clothes. We want fashion to become a force for good. We believe in an industry that values people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measure. Our mission is to bring everyone together to make that happen. We believe transparency is the first step to transform the industry. And it starts with one simple question: #whomademyclothes" - Fashion Revolution
Fashion Revolution have many ideas and resources to empower people with alternatives to buying exploitative clothing. Their #haulternative document is packed full of links and tips and whilst they do mention re-dyeing briefly in their DIY section, I imagine that due to the terrible environmental issues associated with synthetic dyes they haven't so far wanted to place too much emphasis on it. However, as natural dyeing gains public awareness, I hope to help convince them that this ancient craft offers a great way to increase the longevity of clothing whilst encouraging more reverence for the environment.
Human beings coloured their clothing using plants for millennia prior the the relatively recent Industrial Revolution when synthetic dyes were invented. These highly toxic substances sped up manufacturing, enabling the rise of fast fashion.
It is said that in textile manufacturing regions, local residents can tell what colour is going to be fashionable next season by the colour of their river. The cost to human life is devastating but the consequences of industrial pollution affect entire eco systems as well.
But don't get me wrong, I don't see natural dyes as a substitute for synthetics because this would be missing the point. It is over-consumption that creates massive pollution and whilst using natural alternatives could help, even natural dyes used at the same rate would require a huge amount of resources.
What natural dyeing can offer right now is an antidote not just to the toxicity of synthetics but to the speed of living required to keep up with capitalism gone mad. It can empower householders with simple ways to increase the longevity of their home textiles so they #BuyLessDyeMore. Slowing down, being thankful for what we already have and re-loving our clothes by mending and infusing them with herbal colours is a powerful remedy. It's a way to heal the stress on both ourselves and the environment. The process of natural dyeing helps you to adopt the pace of nature, a win win for us and the Earth.
This year, The Wild Dyery are collaborating with Fashion Revolution on an event at Make Liverpool during their week long campaign #FashionRevolutionWeek. This 'bring+dye' workshop gives people who are new to the craft, an opportunity to re-wild an old garment using dyes extracted from local food and plant waste.
I was inspired to create this event after attending a talk with Sarah Corbett, author of "How To Be a Craftivist" last October. She encourages 'the art of gentle protest' and helped me consider creative ways to make a positive statement about human rights and sustainability. Re-dyeing your old clothing in free, locally foraged plant dyes or food waste is a beautiful way to protest against the current vicious consumerist cycle.
My aim is to:-
- connect my local community with environmental organisations and businesses who recycle
- encourage people to up-cycle their clothing or buy second hand rather than new
- raise awareness of natural alternatives to synthetic colourants
- get people outside to learn about their local dye plants so building reverence for the environment
- raise funds for TreeSisters - Women Seeding Change
- improve the health and wellbeing of people and planet through natural creativity
natural dye donations
My first port of call when organising this event was local tree warden, Dave Ellwand. He has helped connect me with other environmental organisations and I like the circularity of using apple prunings from one of the orchards he maintains to revive clothing at a workshop that will pay for new trees to be planted. Dave will be modelling his 'Brimstage apple bark shirt' this Sunday. This unique event is only possible thanks to the generous donations of dye materials gifted to me by a number of local businesses and community organisations and as a thank-you, I've offered to up-cycle T shirts for each of them, using their own plants. As I have been a TreeSister for a couple of years and donate a percentage of every online training to the reforestation of the planet, I'll be donating 50% of proceeds from the 'bring + dye' workshop to TreeSisters.
This Sunday, on Earth Day at Brimstage Orchard we'll gather for a group photo wearing our naturally dyed T shirts. Those joining me include:-
- Holly Turner from The Calm Yard (who has donated onion skins)
- Andrew Pimbley from Claremont Farm (who has donated coffee grounds)
- Dave Ellwand from Wirral Tree Wardens (who has donated apple bark from Brimstage Orchard)
- Lena Chard from the Health and Horticulture allotment in Wallasey (who has donated rhubarb roots)
- Carol Seerey from Wirral Environmental Network (who will be modelling a Tetley T shirt)
- The Nook Cafe (who can't make it for the photo as they're open but who've donated avocado skins and stones)
They will be joined by a number of other locals who responded to my call out for volunteers a few weeks ago including some who have previously attended my 'indigo socials' and together we hope to make an eye catching statement about sustainable consumerism.
small steps with good intentions
I'm sure many of us wish we could solve the environmental and humanitarian crises that we witness on a daily basis but even thinking about these complex issues can feel overwhelming. In reality, if everyone just changed one habit in their lifestyles it would make a huge impact globally. Actions like boycotting fast fashion outlets, not buying any new clothing for a week/month/year or doing a wardrobe audit to see what can be re-vamped, are all simple ways to have a positive impact.
The inspiring Australian organisation 1 Million Women also advocate buying second hand. Charity shop purchases are a great way to protest against toxic capitalism and when re-loved with plant colours, these garments can take on a whole new life.
preparing to re-wild Wirral
This is the first of two or three posts about this project so do check back over the coming weeks to follow my progress as I prepare, pattern and dye everyone's T shirts. The story so far is that I've prepared everyone's donated T shirts, gathered their dye materials and am currently soaking these ready to start dyeing later today. Each shirt will be pattered using various shibori tie-dye techniques and my next post will show this process. I'll also be sharing photos from next week's bring+dye workshop (want to join us? get your tickets here!) To follow all the action as it happens, please follow The Wild Dyery on Instagram as I'll be sharing videos of my progress with tips about how you can re-wild your wardrobe. In the meantime, here's my washing line full of donated and second-hand T shirts just dying to be dyed!
If you're interested in the healing potential of clothing infused with plant dyes, please join me and a small group of wild colour lovers on the soul clothing retreat this June. The early bird discount has been extended until 27th April 2018.