Fashion and our Soils
14 / 01 / 2020
The Zoo Beneath our Feet
Each year the leaves fall, autumn arrives , winter rolls on and a miniature citadel of microscopic living organisms break down the leaf litter, old tree branches, animal corpses back into micronutrients that in the spring are used by mycorrhizal fungi to help new growth, a renewal. Our job is to understand this miniature world better and not to poison this eco system with our ill considered waste and landfill.
From Soil to Grasses and Forbes to Wool Meat and Sheepskin to Jacket to Reuse Repurpose and finally to compost where the Shredders and Saprotrophic fungi that break down the natural materials into macro and micro nutrients that the Mycorrhizal fungi take to help the plants; Grasses and Forbes grow. A truly circular Ecological Economy where the planet takes precedence not business.
Investigating the ecology of organic tanned sheepskin, biodiversity and Fashion’s relationship to living matter in our soil.
This Eco Fashion Practice research is a start in unpicking the complex ecosystems that surround fashion fibres and materials. It looks to developing new methods in exploring responsible design practices that examine how our clothes are directly linked back to the soil. This is demonstrated through the making a replica Irvin WW2 jacket in organic tanned sheepskin. I trace the material origins back to the soil and investigate each of the different processes from raising healthy sheep, to curing and tanning sheepskin and examining all components such zips, organic cotton thread and brass hardware to make an iconic Heritage garment.
Raising sheep has been a new adventure. I do not come from farming stock and did not start this venture lightly but with a strong sense of responsibility to 5 living creatures; Domino, Agnes, Jack, Mango and Mulin.
My blog S.O.S. Shepherdess https://sosshepherdess.tumblr.com/ catalogues my journey and experiences of being a Shepherd with a small flock of Shetland Sheep and my growing understanding and relationship to the land and soil through wool, sheepskin, sheep health, herbage and grass. I have gained insights from first hand practice and also through mentorship from Phillip Cowan a highly respected breeder of Shetland Sheep within the Shetland Sheep Society in the UK. I had wanted to use Shetland sheep for my practice as they are a primitive breed small in stature and with soft crimped fleece. An asset if you want soft-cloud wool next to your skin and also a breed that are almost self-sufficient in their own needs of food, lambing and living outdoors with little shelter. Such breeds are used to the barren hills of windswept Shetland. Over the past 3 years, I have experienced the joys and woes of birth, death and illness and have still managed to raise healthy playful sheep with their own individual personality’s and character.
My design and craft practice in making the WW2 Irvin Jacket has been influenced by other people’s craft practices; particularly those of tanner Nikki Port and museum archivist, colour expert and WW2 jacket enthusiast Glen Moon and Phillip Cowen’s expertise in sheep health. The making process of the of the Jacket is recorded in blog https://soil-jacket-soil.tumblr.com/ where each process is considered from the staining of the suede side of the sheepskin with walnut crystal solution, dyeing organic cotton zip with French walnut powder to researching and obtaining GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic Cotton heavy weight thread to sew the garment together. It has been a detective story in understanding how each process has influence on the whole and needs to be considered to make a complex Organic Garment. The narratives around organic cotton explain the flip side in the exponential use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides on GM cotton. My research has led me to a deeper understanding of Why Organic textiles are healthier for farmers in the growing process, the soil and its micro biome and ultimately the wearer around their bodies.
Through this work I argue that to improve our health and the health of our planet we must look to how we sequester carbon and water in our soils in growing both food and fibres. To radically move away from the low quality material culture of Fast Fashion and move to a Fashion or Clothing economy that respects the soil, the land, the maker and the user. To make Clothing that can be worn, passed down, repaired or re-worked and ultimately composted to reinvigorate the soil. Whereas in contrast clothing made from Oil based fibres/plastic fibres (acrylic, polyesters, nylons elastanes etc.) that destroy our planet through Fast Fashion and their ultimate disposal in Landfill. Landfill accumulates at ever faster rates and that continually leaches poisons into the land.
Mindful Design and Making
Mindful Wearing and
Mindful Consideration for End of Life of Garments.
More on this project to follow....