Sewing & Sustainability

Because Seamwork magazine didn’t have room for my essay in their coming issues, I’m free to publish it anywhere now and I’m doing it here. This is the exact same version I sent to them: I wrote it in one go, very personal, with a lot of emotions going through me as I typed. I think it is a super important topic and (hopefully) worth a read, so here you go!

sewing and sustainability

For a long time, sewing has simply been a creative outlet for me. I taught myself how to sew when I was fifteen because I wanted to do something with my hands, create something from scratch and have a possibility to visualize my ideas. I loved playing with fabric, matching the right prints with suitable patterns and overthinking on the buttons. And I loved to be able to say: I made this. It is unique, noone else has it and it is exactly my style.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love sewing for all of these aspects. But lately, I can feel a certain shift in my motivation. Now, I think of sewing more as a statement: A statement against fast fashion, terrible working conditions and environmental damage.

I recently saw the movie ‘The True Cost’ and I couldn’t get it out of my head. How is it possible that we let other people work for us under such dangerous conditions? How can we justify buying at stores that support this kind of labour?

Personally, I’ve never been much of a shopping-fanatic. I always prefered having one sepcial and expensive piece over owning several cheap ones. Since I started sewing, my shopping habits declined even further. I now prefer to make the things I need myself – and I generally realized that I need much less things in my life anyway, clothes included. Every garment in my closet has either a story to tell (I’ve owned it for a long time) or is handmade. The only new addition in several months was a swimsuit, because I haven’t yet taken the plunge to make my own swimwear (or lingerie, for that matter).

For me, sewing has become a way of taking myself out of the equation. And I do it gladly – after all, it is a hobby and a skill that I love. And if I can do something good with it, it is even better. I know now how much time and effort goes into making a single garment, so how can it be that I could buy something similar for less than 10€ in some stores? Someone has to pay for it and the people who are usually the victims are the seamstresses in developing countries. Thinking about this continues to justify the hours I spend alone in my room at my sewing machine, forgetting everything that surrounds me and just trying to match those stripes perfectly. Because when I wear the finished garment, I know that it has been made with love and care and noone had to suffer. So for me, sewing turned from beeing simply a creative outlet into a thought-provoking statement.

I believe that sewing is definitely the best and most sustainable alternative to fast fashion. But since I saw this movie, I’m starting to think beyond. Through sewing my clothes myself, I break the chain of exploitation. But what about the fabric I use? Where does it come from? Who wove it, who dyed it under which conditions, where were the original fibres planted/produced? I personally have not yet found the answers to these questions, sourcing organic cotton/linen/wool etc. that was produced locally (in Austria) is difficult, especially because I prefer to buy fabric in stores and not online: I need to be able to touch it, feel it, drape it over my arms to get a sense of the quality. I did find some stores near me that sell organic, apparel-weight fabric: Another problem I encountered is that very often, organic fabrics come as quilting cottons in ‘fun’ prints, which aren’t always suitable for garments. A gap in the market and I would love to discover more stores who fill it.

Of course, the ideal would be to just stop consuming all together, but this just wouldn’t work for me. I love going to fabric stores, stroking the bolts, scheming and planning what I could make out of the material. Sewing is something I will never grow tired of. I love it so much that I’m even turning it into a career – I’m curretnly studying fashion design with a focus on costume design and I’m very happy with this choice. I think that especially for young, emerging designers, it is extremely important to think about sustainability and to rethink the production of their garments. You can imagine that I was shocked when some of my classmates recently returned from a shopping trip, with bags from big chain stores filled to the top. That just shows that not everyone has gotten the message yet and it is extremely important to raise awareness and continue to do so. I think that we, as sewists, are already going into the right direction and do have an impact, but there are still a lot of things that need to be changed. Small steps at a time!

I don’t yet know where my (career)path will take me. But I do know that no matter what, sewing will always be accompaning me. Not only because through it, I’m able to explore my creativity and satisfy my need to create something, but because it sets a statement against needless consumerism and exploitation and therefore helps making the world a better place.

Thank you for reading!

June

This June, I…

fresh strawberries

– visited several textile factories in the west of Austria (post follows)

– spent a whole week at home in Salzburg

– watched an oldtimer race

– obsessed about homemade kanelbullar (and so much other good food)

– went swimming in the Lobau

– picked wild raspberries

– finalized my moodboard for the graduate collection

– took part in a turkish fast-breaking (Iftar) and ate way too much

– went to the Donauinselfest

– helped with the harvest on my brother’s rented field

lobau

kitchen shelf

festung

kanelbullar

gaisbergrennen

jungle

loom

iftar

schönbrunn

iris van herpen

Greenery

Schönbrunn

I’m definitely an introvert. All I need after a stressfull day, surrounded by people all the time, is a quiet moment – preferably somewhere in the nature, afar from all the hectic and the noise. I love filling my lungs with fresh air, breathing deeply, hearing just the birds chirping and being completely alone and by myself. It clears the head and makes room for new ideas.

I’ve visited Schönbrunn during the winter and early spring and now, finally, also in the summer. No comparison! The whole mood is completely different, the flowerbeds are colourful, the fountains are switched on again. And there are more people, as well…. But the park is so big, I wandered alone most of the time. I did meet two very sweet squirrels though, I think they are completely spoiled by all the strollers who feed them and that’s why they were so tame and came so close – I could have touched them easily but was afraid that they could bite (they are wild animals, after all). Can you spot the one in the picture above?

I hope you’ll have a quiet, stress-free weekend, here are some calming green pictures of Schönbrunn from the first official day of summer.

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn

schönbrunn

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn

Schönbrunn

The True Cost

the true cost

Last weekend, I went to a screening of the movie The True Cost. I was deeply touched and coulnd’t get it out of my head – my mind was spinning with information, ideas, examples, fears, personal stories etc. To calm all this noise, I sat down, opened my laptop and just started to write. I jotted down my thoughts, bringing order into this chaos. What I ended up with is an essay about my own, personal relationship with sewing and how that is a statement against fast fashion. How it evolved from sewing purely for pleasure into much more. Many questions came up while writing and I realized that sewing your own clothes is only a very small part of breaking the chain. But it is a good start.

I submitted my essay to Colette’s Seamwork magazine, let’s see what they will have to say about it. If they aren’t interested in publishing, I’ll dedicate another blog post to it. This way or another, I’d really like to share my thoughts on this subject with you and hear your opinions. I’ll keep you updated what’s going to happen with the essay!

Spielberg, Austria

spielberg

Austria, my home-country. What do I do? Should I do something very traditional? Should I look at Austrian designers? Should I do something purely inspired by the landscape again? Or the history?

I ended up creating something a little traditional, like using traditional fabrics and an ‘alpine’ colour palette, but the clothes themselves are actually quite fresh and modern. Adriana’s outfit consists of a pair of Lederhosen (not the traditional kind, though) and a crop top. The top is very boxy, but slightly gathered underneath the bust. It closes in the back with a snap button and a knot. I think that it evokes this traditional costume feeling, which I wanted to achieve, but at the same time it is a very fresh take at it, without being to literal or kitschy. Also, it is perfect for summer. Only the weather on Spielberg didn’t really play along today.

spielberg

spielberg

spielberg

spielberg

spielberg