Jane Milburn ‘Slow Clothing’ Advocate

Slow Clothing reflects author and refashion advocate Jane Milburn’s own unique style, independent of “fast fashion” trends.  Upcycled from denim jeans, the dress Jane wore during her talk at a local BCC library had the potential to look strange but was distinctive and quite beguiling.

Jane, sustainability consultant and founder of Textile Beat, touched on several key elements during her talk––environmentally unfriendly fabrics and dyes; sweat shop labour; landfill; passive fashion; synthetic vs natural fibre; signature style and minimal wardrobe.  Hot topics included recycle by exchange, shopping tips, Sew It Again mending and creating new from old.  Jane tends to hoard fabric offcuts and used buttons, and has a passion for real cotton thread.

Rethinking clothing culture doesn’t mean wearing your clothes until they fall apart at the seams, it means mindful immersion, repairing and refashioning your garments.

An attentive audience, Jane encouraged us to make thoughtful, ethical, informed choices to reduce our clothing footprint on the world.  Until recently, she regularly visited charity shops for secondhand garments but is currently resisting the temptation and working with what she’s got.  “We believe secondhand is the new organic and mending is good for the soul.  In return, we are liberated and satisfied.”

In her book Slow Clothing: finding meaning in what we wear Jane shares insights and upcycling advice.  She has created templates like Upcycled Collar and History Skirt, guiding home sewing conversion of a beloved garment to reflect the changes in our lives.

To provide meaning and story to her own favourite pieces, Jane Milburn restyles and sews her clothing by hand.  Currently testing t-shirt cotton drawstrings as an alternative to underwear elastic (elastic is made from synthetics) Jane stitches everything by hand.

Help! I can hear you say, nobody has hand-sewn an outfit since the mid-twentieth century––except maybe Vivienne Westwood––but don’t panic, Jane’s book provides testimonials, illustrations and clear instructions for eco-dyes and upside-down jumper skirts through to sewing on a button.  Eco-fashionistas unite!

Although Slow Clothing is a multifaceted, easy-to-read book with positive chapter headings (Purpose, Authenticity, Creativity, Action, Autonomy, Reflection) amid the ingenious apparel, I am missing a frivolous note, perhaps a ball gown?  On a serious mission, Jane has created a Slow Clothing Manifesto with ten tags to keep in mind when out shopping: think, natural, quality, local, few, care, make, revive, adapt, salvage.

IMG_20180723_091617Quotes from Jane embody the Slow Clothing philosophy “Slow Clothing brings wholeness through living simply, creatively and fairly” and “We buy thoughtfully, gain skills, and care for what we wear as an embodiment of ourselves.”  Personally I am hoping to see people clutching their Slow Clothing Manifesto cards at an op shop near me.

The current trail Jane Milburn is blazing makes fascinating reading.  Arts Queensland, meeting VIPs, War on Waste ABCTV, visiting 103-year-old Misao Jo in Osaka, hosting a Clothing Repair Café, conducting workshops and championing natural-fibre, Jane says “It has been personally satisfying to see the uptake of upcycling as a conscious practice with many young people interested in its potential for customising their clothes.”

Unfortunately I didn’t get to ask Jane Milburn how we go about combating the greed of designer labels.  But the clear message is––help reduce landfill by upcycling your clothes to reflect your own unique style.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward