In Defense of Mending
Answers You Don’t Want to Know to Questions You Are Probably Afraid to Ask About the Textile Industry
Many of us here in the enlightened city consider ourselves environmentally responsible consumers in more ways than one. Maybe we shop at Whole Foods, or better yet, the farmer’s market. We don’t drive very much, or certainly not as much as the average American. And when offered the choice, we will most likely select a product with local and organic stamps over a conventional and undoubtedly cheaper alternative.
Today there is more widespread awareness about the kinds of corners that have been cut to make the conventional item the cheaper one. But we are still consumers, and the choices we have are only those offered to us by industrial producers. Finding the alternative to those limited choices requires more time and energy than most of us are able to spare; but staying informed is step one in that direction. And here you are, staying informed on the TAC blog…what could be easier? Step one.
For your consideration: some little known facts about the textile industry. Next to big oil or the military-industrial complex, it’s pretty tame. But here in the city we tend to spend a lot more on clothing than gas, and our purchasing power is nothing to sneeze at. So there is no excuse not to read on and learn about what you are directly supporting when you buy clothing. We’ve organized it neatly for you! Here’s what we learned on Treehugger:
The world clothing and textile industry (clothing, textiles, footwear and luxury goods) reached almost $2,560 trillion in 2010. Yes, that is a real number; no, we are not able to comprehend something that size.
In 2010, American households spent, on average, $1,700 on apparel, footwear, and related products and services.
Manhattanites spend the most in the nation on apparel at $362 per Manhattanite per month. (No data on Brooklynites?) San Francisco is number two.
More than half of this clothing is produced in China, our notoriously environmentally-unfriendly world power.
In 2010, China’s textile industry processed 41.3 million tons of fiber and accounted for 52-54 percent of the world’s total production.
Millions of tons of unused fabric at Chinese mills go to waste each year when dyed the wrong color.
A single mill in China can use 200 tons of water for each ton of fabric it dyes; many rivers run with the colors of the season as the untreated toxic dyes wash off from mills (see photo above).
Not that the US would do any better than China on the environmental protection front. It’s the US-owned clothing companies who have chosen to outsource to China, in order to take advantage of the cheap labor and efficient production created by low standards. If its cheaper to ship all of this clothing over from China than it is to make everything in Ohio, it must be pretty darn cheap to manufacture there (which is the favorite phrase of big business).
Employment in the U.S. apparel manufacturing industry has declined by more than 80 percent (from about 900,000 to 150,000 jobs) over the past two decades.
Almost every article of clothing you can buy here was made in China or elsewhere in Asia.
Step two, of course, is finding the alternative. Decide what’s best for you. Even by thinking twice before buying a conventional new garment, you can make changes. If you can’t afford organic cotton, shop at the thrift store. If you don’t want to shop at the thrift store, make more out of less of your clothing. Try a class at TAC and learn to sew and mend or embroider, and make something old into something new. Use your creativity and your purchasing power together: buy fewer things that will last weeks, and hold on to things that will last years.
People who have very little to begin with are exceptionally good at saving what they’ve got, and the Japanese are known for doing so with remarkable beauty. These are traditional Japanese boro textiles, made with leftover fabric scraps:
Here is an example of boro combined with a traditional Japanese mending technique called sashiko. TAC just held a workshop a few weeks ago taught by two ladies from Japan who are life-long sashiko artists. Some very beautiful Japanese fishermen’s coats are made with these techniques:
via Kimono Boy
Now mend! It’s a lifestyle.