The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry on the planet. From shipping clothes, to chemical dyes getting into rivers and permanently destroying them. Not to mention labor conditions in many factories. There is a different way, older ways, that are healthier for not just people but the ecosystems we best thrive in. Here are some of the ways to participate in regenerative fashion, as well as more information about the regional benefits of regenerative fashion production.
Fibershed – a project for encouraging more people to make and buy clothing produced entirely within their own watershed. Fiber farmers live livelihoods that are more connected with nature and less glued to a screen inside of a box. Regenerative land management practices build healthy soils so that more nutritious crops can grow and healthy cycles of water retention are restored.
(incomplete): Section on fair labor. Tearfund is New Zealand’s report on ethical fashion.
Local clothing shops: Many cities have consignment stores that stock clothing made by local artisans. Google “local clothing” and your town, or ask your artist friends
Natural dyes: Did you know that you can dye fabrics with plants, fungi, and even lichen? Yes, shrooms can make rainbows happen in multiple ways ;). Different cotton varieties produce fibers that are naturally green, yellow, red, or brown. You can cultivate dye plants in your garden, or use existing foods such as onion, avocado pits, or walnut shells to dye fabric.
Book recommendation: Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess – a guide to gathering plants to dye with, in the wild or growing them. Specific to North America.
Sheep, llamas and alpacas, and goats all make wonderful natural fibers to make clothing with. And they’re fluffy friends to have around (baa-aa!).
Goats are also a fantastic permaculture animal – the way they graze helps with everything from fire prevention to fertilizing coffee plants to increase yield and more.
Vegan leather can be made from pineapple agriculture waste (the stems), and from mushrooms! Shroom leather, yes, it exists. A pineapple leather is called Piñatex.
Researches at MIT developed a way to make silk structures that don’t kill the silkworms. Normally, unless it’s Ahimsa silk, that luxurious material involves boiling many silk worms in their cocoons before they can become moths
The importance of culturally diverse leadership in fashion companies: Adimay‘s blog is a great resource for this. Amie Berghan writes about the underlying problem of colonization in the fashion industry.
Indigenous Textile Advocacy
IP issues facing indigenous textile artisans: Many companies are using traditional designs created by indigenous communities, with no compensation going to the original creators. This contributes to a whole complex problem of ecological and economic inequality and destruction. Mayan weavers in Guatemala are organizing to create IP laws that support their cultures.
Often traditional textile patterns carry complex information, such as regional maps, or symbols representing cosmologies or relationships with animals and plants. Craftsmanship is a deeper process of interrelationship and care for all life, than simply commerce or garments. For this reason, wildcrafting (harvesting wild plants) by settlers can also be problematic. Bloom encourages people to learn about the Indigenous people whose traditional lands they live on, and listen respectfully to requests and support their leadership.
Closing the Waste Loop
Biodegradable fabrics: California Cloth Foundry’s textiles are biodegradable. They are working on developing a biodegradable spandex. Wider adoption of biodegradable fabrics and natural dyes across all textile supply chains will be wise.
Polyester fabrics shed microfibers into the water supply every time you wash them. You end up drinking them. Fish end up drinking them. It’s not good for us. Cora Ball makes a ball you can put in your wash machine to catch the fibers and responsibly dispose of them. You might put them in a bottle-brick so they don’t end up in the landfill either 🙂
(incomplete): Mills that reclaim waste or used fabric exist. Links?
Reclaim waste clothing and fabric: here’s the story of the Intercept group in New Zealand. There are also waste fabric reclamation hubs in New York City (Fabscrap), San Francisco, LA, and perhaps near you!
Upcycled fashion – Sashiko is a Japanese approach to visible mending. Medium Reality is a re-manufacturer making clothing entirely from recycled materials. Adding applique to thrift store clothes is one way to make one-of-a-kind art pieces and avoid buying new garments that contribute to toxic industry. Old clothes can also be made into quilts for warmth.
Funsies! FabBRICK is making waste clothes into structural bricks.
Lastly, magical-ies: regeneratively produced clothing from all natural fibers and dyes feels, so, good. The author of this article has a cotton scarf dyed with St. John’s Wort, and…. if you’re a fan of that herb, it feels like having a hug from it, it’s so lovely, and such lovely shades of green. It was made by a women’s weaver collective in Guatemala who was teaching more Mayan women traditional natural dye techniques as part of recovering their cultures and relationships with plants.