Stitched Up co-op welcomes fast fashion study

Learning how clothes are made has a “transformative” effect on people’s relationship with fast fashion, the study has found

Fashion co-op Stitched Up has welcomed the findings of a study conducted by University of Exeter on fast fashion.

The research has found that when people are given space to learn about clothing production through activities such as mending workshops, they are more likely to engage in sustainable practices.

Published in the Journal of Material Culture in March, the study worked with community partners in Cornwall and the West Midlands to host workshops where participants took part in textile making and discussed their feelings around the clothing industry. 

The report points out that the UK’s current relationship with fast fashion has a human and environmental cost: the textile industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than aviation and shipping combined.

It found that creating opportunities for people to learn about how clothes are made in a practical way, and within a supportive group, rather than trying to ‘educate’ people on why their current behaviour is wrong, was more likely to change the way they look at the clothing industry and their relationship with it.

Dr Joanie Willett, one of the researchers, said: “We found the driving factor for avoiding fast fashion lies in realising clothing and the materials that it is made from are precious, and embody labour and time. After the workshops people expressed a desire to reduce their clothing either by buying fewer goods of better quality that they expected to be able to keep for longer or choosing not to buy anything at all for an extended time.”

Stitched Up is a community benefit society based in Greater Manchester. Celebrating its tenth birthday this year, the co-op runs a clothing hub and promotes sustainable fashion through practical activities such as sewing and mending workshops and repair cafes, as well as talks and clothes swaps.

On its website, Stitched Up said the idea put forward in the Exeter study “has been the driving force behind Stitched Up since our very beginnings in 2011 and it is embodied in our work on a daily basis, so we’re delighted to see these ideas being backed up by academic research.

“Something we’re always keen to emphasise is the fact that mending, reworking and making your own clothes, as well as swapping and sharing them, is not just more sustainable, it’s more fun and provides much-needed opportunities for connection. Sustainability isn’t all about sacrifice – it’s about finding a more fulfilling and enriching way to live.”

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