Restlessness and Patching up

Do you recognise this uneasy feeling of urgency, when you hear about the damage caused by our garment production system for the umpteenth time and then realise nothing substantially changed in the last ten, twenty years? The speed of consumption and waste actually seems to go up, not down, pushing more risk and stress towards those with the least buffers: workers and the environment.

When I observe this sensation of restlessness in myself it looks like a double faced shadow. On the one hand it is a reminder that I do care about this sector and its issues, and it still makes sense to invest time and energy into it. On the other, it can make me cynical. I hear myself saying to a friend who just bought a new dress “Yes it looks nice on you, but I don’t suppose it’s organic or fairtrade, right?” Downer…

Fast fashion is clearly the enemy of a healthy planet and a happy next generation. But maybe expectations of quick results are unhealthy too? They both share the illusion of instant gratification. Just like our clothes ask to be mended and patched up with matching colours, so too our collective work of building a sustainable garment industry asks for continuous improvement and maintenance, plugging holes with a variety of initiatives.

So here’s to a movement that welcomes ambiguity and diversity to hold the tension between what we know we should be doing and what we see ourselves do day after day. A movement that celebrates fresh achievements and milestones like the Textile Exchange’s annual ranking of top buyers of organic cotton, but also treats threadbare heirloom pieces such as the 70 year old ILO conventions on labour rights with gentle loving care. So that next time a dark cloud of bad news casts its shadow upon us we can stroke the corduroy memory of civilised struggle and be moved to keep caring.