Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Fiber Art in Action: Do you Dress Locally or do you Dress Globally?

Rebecca Burgess
Have you ever made an effort to eat local, organic foods? I belonged to our local CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) co-op last summer and enjoyed food grown near my own backyard. I love the idea of keeping my purchasing power in my own part of Colorado! It is environmentally friendly to do this, especially as you consider the reduced effort required to ship or transport items to my front door.

I recently learned about Rebecca Burgess who has been inspired to start a fiber co-op, called a Fibershed, that has been built using this same love of keeping things local. In a working Fibershed, folks combine forces with their neighbors to capitalize on their various fiber "processing" skills, like weaving, dying, hemp cultivation, spinning, and garment sewing, and then they join together to sell the combined products of the larger community.

So my question to you is, have you ever considered "dressing locally"? If you were required to dress yourself and your family using only fabrics or clothing manufactured within 200 miles of your own home, would you even know where to start?

There are obstacles to this type of green economy. Rebecca reports that the largest barrier to dressing locally is that there are few fiber artists who loom fabric made with locally-grown raw materials. Finding people to sew clothing for you, if you are unable or unwilling to sew it yourself, is also an obstacle. So perhaps we won't be able to buy clothing made totally from local raw materials, but we can certainly open our minds to that possibility!

Do you find in your community that people have developed the habit of buying clothing that is made inexpensively and without regard to the conditions under which those clothes are made? One of Rebecca's comments that really hit me between the eyes is her explanation about dyeing fabrics in the August 2013 issue of American Craft magazine. She talks in that article about the externalized costs of ecology and labor. Take the manufacture of blue jeans for example. "The face-value cost to shop at Walmart versus the real cost of shopping at Walmart: the Pearl River Delta [an industrial region in China], where most jeans are made [along with the resulting pollution]; genetically modified cotton fields; suicides related to that kind of practice because farmers are so deeply in debt" ...all of this is part of the narrative that Rebecca provides consumers about the way most of us in the US have gotten used to shopping for blue jeans: convenient, fast, inexpensive, and easily available. Perhaps you are ready to step away from this "fast-food" mentality regarding the way you dress? I know that I am!

What kind of alternatives are available to you and me for buying clothing made in healthy circumstances with fibers that have a reduced polluting impact on the Earth?
Fibershed has created an online marketplace to connect farmers, artisans, and consumers. That choice means that the manufacturing of the clothing may not happen directly in your own community, but it does mean that you and I will be better informed about the health of the garments we buy. I am always in favor of supporting independent artisans.

Bullet Blues is a company in Florida that makes from American-made denim fashionable blue jeans that are sewn in Florida. For me, that's a step in the right direction.

Earth Creations is a company that I have recently found and find helpful in my desire to shop for clothing that is made in healthy circumstances. "The sewing facility where most of our garments are sewn is located in rural Alabama. Our employees are paid a fair wage and work in a clean and safe environment. They actually believe in what they do and enjoy their work. By providing local jobs, hopefully we help keep a piece of our rural American culture alive."

What resources have you found to dress locally where you live? Are you a fiber artist who would love to be connected with a Fibershed community in your town or city? I would love to hear from all of you!

Thanks for stopping by,

1 comment:

Marybeth Tawfik said...

Thanks for this! It is so important, not only to the environment but to empower the people of the world to have better lives. I am struggling to make locally-made home decor using organic materials using a printing process that is environmentally friendly AND durable AND made by people who make a living wage! But I am inspired to continue to find ways to make this happen by the good company I'm finding along the way!