Being into making clothing definitely makes me notice textiles wherever I am. In London, I often use the proximity of the tube as an excuse to stare at strangers and try to work out how their clothes are made. When shopping, I check labels for the fibre content of the fabric and turn garments inside-out to see how they are finished. It’s an obsession.
I found myself doing the same thing on a recent trip to India. I looked at my taxi driver’s kurta and wondered whether it was handmade. I videoed men making alterations in the back of market stalls.
Since labour is so cheap in India, tailoring is much more commonplace. I had hoped to bring some fabric home and noticed some lovely silk in the shop where some friends were having dresses made.
Mukesh, the owner, quoted me the price (the equivalent of around £4/m if I remember correctly) but then said that it would only cost 200 rupees (around £2.50) for him to make something up for me. In the end, I asked him to make me a reversible wrap skirt.
In a single night, he made three Indian style outfits, two pairs of trousers and a top as well as my skirt. Plus he may have had other commissions to work on. The skirt alone would have been a huge source of stress for me, so it was nice to have someone else take that on.
My skirt is such a fun souvenir of the trip, even though I’m pretty scared of destroying it.
A taxi driver in Mumbai mentioned that Zara has a big factory there. Having an experience of the low cost of labour only adds to my growing sense of unease about the fashion industry. It’s hard to have another big thing to worry about, over which I have little control. Even if I made all my clothes, I have no idea of the conditions under which the fabric is made. Growing, spinning and weaving my own cotton seems like a bit of a stretch.
What I do feel I can do is renew my pledge to try and avoid the lure of fast fashion. I want to be mindful with my purchases and try to buy investment pieces where possible. I will continue to purchase second-hand when I can. I will also try not to have a ‘fast’ attitude to the things I make. I only want to create items that I know will be worn a lot, and try to waste as few raw materials as I can.