Think Style: Does cotton wool come from sheep?
In the second of a three-part blog series, Think Style‘s Zoe Robinson tells A Good Week why it’s important for us to recapture the satisfaction of using our hands to mend, fix and make our way to a more sustainable wardrobe…
We spend so much time online, on trains and generally plugged in, that many of us spend little if any time working creatively with our hands. Cooking, making, mending and fixing are all in danger of becoming lost arts and as a result we lose the sense of achievement that comes with such tasks.
A good meal we cook from scratch will inevitably be more satisfying and fulfilling than something we buy ready-made (unless you are an incredibly bad cook, that is). Likewise, a second hand dress I buy, or find in my wardrobe, that needs mending or a few alterations will be so much more satisfying to wear once finished, than one I could buy brand new.
Sewing machine bought in a local charity shop.
This way of doing things is also far more sustainable, because we consume less and therefore use fewer resources. This may seem obvious to many of us – if you’re reading this, you either know me or are already interested in sustainability – but the process of learning to make or fix a garment can be hugely illuminating. It does a wonderful job of demystifying what it takes to produce an item of clothing, and I feel passionately that we need to put textiles and home economics firmly back in the classroom.
A conversation I recently had with a man in his 20s, born and bred in London, was surprising and perplexing at the same time. Like many people he was unaware about the ethical issues related to the clothing industry and was curious to find out more. I started to talk about cotton and the issues with farming, pesticides and water usage.
Grey hat and gloves I made from wool sweater that was at the end of its life.
He looked confused and it was then I discovered that he’d never realised fabrics were derived from plants; and certainly never knew that some derived from oil! Until that conversation he’d thought, or just kind of assumed that fabric came from animals – that it was all ‘wool’ of some sort.
This reminds me a little of scenes from Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s various TV series, where they show a select group of budget supermarket shoppers where meat comes from.
We, the audience, are shocked to discover that some of the chef’s ‘students’ had no prior awareness that meat was actually the flesh of an animal (I’m paraphrasing slightly, but you get the picture). In the same way I took for granted that consumers know where burgers come from, I had also assumed that we all have some notion of what fibres are made of.
So, like Jamie and Hugh I believe that the way to change our habits and mindset is through a more engaged, creative and hands-on approach, whether that’s by cooking, growing or sewing from scratch.
– Zoe Robinson
Sustainable fashion and lifestyle writer, founder of ethical style consultancy Think Style