Research Point – Textiles Today

As an introduction to this research point, I have read ‘Textiles Today’ by Chloe Colchester (Thames & Hudson 2007), and it has been fascinating. The main part of the book investigates the interaction of textiles and science, particularly in relation to medicine, the military and architecture, but the thing that has really stayed with me is rather closer to home. I like to think of myself as quite environmentally and ecologically aware, but I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t really given much thought to the origin of my clothes. I make a lot of my own clothes, and having written about my home-sewn dress in a past blogpost, it occurs to me that I have no idea where the fabric was produced. I now assume that it is probably from China. The yarns that I buy tend to be imported from South America, although looking at the Fyberspates website, they buy from the UK, Peru, Italy, Spain and the USA.

I had a look through our bought clothes to look for country of origin, and was quite surprised to find no information about this on some labels, particularly the more expensive brands such as Diesel and Fauve underwear. In terms of underwear, synthetics tended to be from Tunisia, and cottons from Sri Lanka. Leggings and Jeans were from Turkey or China. All knitwear was sourced from China, with the exception of one British jumper of my husbands. Printed items such as skirts all came from China. My T-shirts were as follows, by brand:

  • Monsoon – Romania
  • White Stuff – Portugal, India
  • Peter Storm – China
  • GAP – Jordan, Bulgaria
  • Dorothy Perkins – Mauritius
  • Miss Selfridge – Turkey
  • New Look – Bangladesh, India
  • Peacocks – Bangladesh

Our towels are all from Portugal, and bedding from China. I am assuming that the country of origin refers to the manufacture of the fabric and the final product, but can’t be sure.

I have found this exercise quite illuminating, and given the environmental impact of manufacture and import miles, I feel even more strongly that I would like to focus on developing a wardrobe of items that last well rather than following the fleeting fashion of the season, and looking more at second hand items. This sits well with the current move towards vintage, but I think that the motivation for this in most people’s cases is one of fashion rather than environmental concern or finances. There have been many press articles about seeking out vintage items and saving money as we are in a recession, and to champion recycling, but shops and magazines are full of ‘vintage inspired’ fashion and furnishing. I think that we are experiencing a move towards homely patterns, natural materials and craft based objects as an antedote to the stark minimalism and synthetic-laden 1990’s. I love vintage styling, particularly from the 1930’s to 1960’s and we have furnished most of our home with found items. Part of the appeal of this is to develop an individual ‘look’ made up of objects we love. In the world of Cath Kidston everyone ends up looking the same again.

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