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Photo: Jill Mead/The Guardian.
Fleur Britten with Simon Johnson at Pattern Project in south London. Covid got people going with sewing their own clothes. Sustainability concerns could make them continue.

Unlike me, not everyone is OK with wearing the same clothes for 30 years. But even fashionistas are starting to worry about how much clothing ends up in landfills or is sourced from factories paying slave wages.

Fleur Britten has an article at the Guardian about being mindful while having fun making her own clothes.

She writes, “My foot hovers nervously over the sewing machine pedal. I am cautiously working my way through a sew-it-yourself kit produced by Pattern Project, a ‘microfactory’ startup in south London. It has pioneered a laser-cutting machine that can cut patterns on demand, with minimal waste. The pieces for the dropped-sleeve dress that I am sewing have been snipped to my precise measurements by a zippy little laser, which whizzes over the crisp Irish linen, scorching faint seam guides into the fabric so I know exactly where to sew.

“Pattern Project’s founders, Shruti Grover, 34, and Simon Johnson, 35 – partners in life and in business – are seeking funding for their first shop. A ’22nd-century’ vision of fashion, says Grover, it will hold no stock, but will sell custom-fit clothing that is laser-cut in front of you within minutes, out of local, ethical and sustainable fabrics – and then sewn by you.

“They have already collaborated on a zero-waste pattern for the latest collection by the fashion designer Phoebe English, while last weekend they exhibited at the V&A in west London as part of the London Design festival. …

“The sew-it-yourself (SIY) movement has become something more modern, sustainably minded and social. For starters, sewers have been rebranded as ‘sewists’ – because who would want to be mistaken for a waste pipe? Plus, thanks to a new wave of independent pattern-makers, it is not hard to find on-trend designs, downloadable in pdf format anywhere in the world. …

“According to Jones, the new customers are ‘young and mostly female, against fast fashion and much more switched on about environmental issues.’ Many are motivated to sew because it enables them to avoid sweatshop production. …

“There is plenty of support available for newbie sewists, too. The Fashion District festival, a five-day celebration of sustainable fashion that took place last week in Stratford, east London, dedicated a third of this year’s programme to maker workshops, including a tutorial on upcycling scarves into kimonos, hosted by the community interest company Trashion Factory.

‘There’s a huge appetite for people to be involved in their own fashion,’ says Helen Lax, the festival’s founder. ‘This is a different incarnation of the good life. Rather than just following a pattern, the maker community is going off-grid and having a go. …

“For many sewists, the face mask was a gateway drug. After spotting a callout for 500 cloth masks from a homeless charity, Lydia Higginson, the founder of Made My Wardrobe sewing kits, rallied her followers to help. ‘It was a quick win – the perfect small challenge to get people back on their machines,’ she says. ‘And then they were like: “What else can I make?” ‘ …

“While you will find only British and European organic fabrics at Pattern Project (as well as an Italian polyamide that they claim will biodegrade about five years after disposal), the bigger fashion problem it wants to solve is overstock. It is estimated that 20% of the 100bn items of clothing produced each year are not sold; they are then usually buried, shredded or burned. ‘Brands always over-order,’ says Grover. ‘It’s cheaper to produce more and sell at mad discounts later than it is to produce less, but higher-quality, stuff.’ Pattern Project’s ultimate goal is to see its zero-waste laser in fashion stores and haberdasheries across the country, so clothes can be cut and sewn on demand, affordably and quickly.

“In the meantime, the sewists are playing what they call ‘pattern Tetris – making patterns fit into a smaller amount of fabric,’ says Atia Azmi, 38, a GP and a host of un:CUT: The Makers’ Podcast. According to the government’s 2019 report Fixing Fashion, ‘as much as 15% of fabric can end up on the cutting room floor … Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fabric are wasted at the design and production stage before clothing reaches the customer.’ Within the sewing community, downloadable zero-waste patterns have blown up online.

“Reducing ‘fashion miles’ – the distance a garment and its component parts travel through the supply chain – is also on the sewists’ agenda. The starting point for the newly opened Mend Assembly in Totnes, Devon – a two‑storey centre offering a makers’ space, dressmaking workshops, repairs and upcycling – was ‘clothing localism,’ says its co-founder, Joss Whipple.

“As well as utilising ‘existing waste streams’ (upcycling old sweatshirts into kids’ leggings, say), Mend Assembly hopes to work with the regenerative ‘farm-to-clothing’ concept of the non-profit group Fibershed, whereby local demand for clothing is met by using local, natural fibres in a closed loop. ‘We believe that when clothing becomes aligned with local practice, so many of the problematic elements of the global commercial model fall away, from reduced carbon and transport to deeper connection, respect and care for the clothes that we own and wear,’ says Mend Assembly’s website.”

More at the Guardian, here.

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