In the past two decades, mass produced fashion has overtaken handmade clothing in handwoven, organic textiles, by leaps and bounds, leaving the latter in obsoletion. Recognizing and supporting the development of this cultural heritage opens doors to glorious opportunities to improve economic, environmental and social conditions of communities. Not only does the production of handmade products have a lower carbon footprint, but it also creates a trickle-down effect, improving environmental health conditions and the economic status of future generations to come. This derivation from a circular model, paves the way for the artisans, towards a sustainable lifestyle and it also provides them with the opportunity of improving not just their economic but also social status by moving from being wage-based producers to entrepreneurs.
Although many non-profit and profit organizations are now taking a keen interest in keeping the craft of handmade clothing alive, by providing sustainable livelihoods to the artisans and their families, efforts need to be made from the consumer as well. When you acknowledge, appreciate and purchase handcrafted products instead of mass manufactured through modern technology, a demand generates for these products. However, there are many apprehensions, that have over the years, culminated into myths about handmade clothing, deterring us from making conscious choices on this front.
Certainly, in the frenzy of social media, we often fall prey to these myths, but we will try to debunk these, so you can make conscious, well-informed choices, henceforth.
Handmade fashion is ugly
True, it is not feasible for artisans, to design their garments in the reigning couture trends from the runways, which is piece of cake for the automated production capacities of fast fashion businesses. But, by no means, does that equate to misshapen designing.
HMade Collective Resort 2020, Image Credits: @quang.ming
On the contrary, handmade clothing offers the artisan, the opportunity to create multiple design aspects, for instance with layering, use of different textiles, all into one design, which isn’t a feat available with many computer led productions. There are exceptions, found in the form of low quality handmade apparels, but they aren’t the rule to the growing community of entrepreneurs working to this end.
Accessible to a niche market
Continuing from the above discussion, people often complain that handmade clothing comes at a higher cost and is consequently only affordable by a small segment of the market. But sadly, we are susceptible to overlook the intricacy and number of man-hours, that go into developing handmade designs, which are significantly higher, as opposed to what fast fashion has to offer and additionally, this process doesn’t allow artisans to mass produce. The true cost of fast fashion is often ignored by our desires to have runway fashions for cheap (which is all so normal and human!), so its only fair that we pay for the hard-work that went into making our purchases and contribute towards entrepreneurial communities. There are numerous entrepreneurial brands who are either working directly with artisans to create a fair supply chain, such as ourselves and or, are artisans trying to create their own mark, but get overshadowed by the billion dollar marketing budgets of fashion houses. Irrespective, in retospect, we really only pay extra by small margin, contributing much towards the reduced energy consumptions and emissions, while creating an awareness about these smaller labels as well.
Handwoven textiles don’t fit contemporary fashion
Another myth surrounding organic textiles is that it doesn’t fit many occasions and hence has limited wearability - the truth couldn’t be farther from this. Many cultures such as Indian, Mexican and Indonesian, proudly create contemporary, urban fashion, from handwoven textiles, which have been a part of their lifestyles since ages & are doing great at infusing them within pop-culture. Textiles made from handwoven hemp and bamboo, make great eco-friendly options for summer fabrics and can be styled for most occasions, from formal to casual.
Secondhand clothing equates handmade eco-fashion
Thrift shopping is often a stepping stone, for many into the world of eco-fashion, but it is still a long way to a sustainable lifestyle. True, purchasing secondhand clothes, reduces the waste into our landfills, but it’s only considered by a small section of the society, which doesn’t mean that it's not an effort gone wasted. A more inclusive manner of transiting into a more sustainable lifestyle, starts with researching and understanding organic textiles and transparent supply chains. An update from the Pulse of Fashion Industry has reported that the growth of sustainability in the fashion industry has slowed down and the industry in unable to counterbalance the negative impacts of its rapid pace. To that end, handwoven textiles, cottons, hemp and bamboo fabrics, which haven’t undergone the strenuous dyeing and chemical printing and are either in their natural fibre colors or dyed with plant based colors, are certainly more easily recyclable as opposed to the former. Second-hand clothing reduces the consumption of polyesters, but eventually they will end up in the landfills, whereas these organic textiles are relatively easier to decompose. The two are as distinct as apples and oranges!
Handmade purchases can’t desaturate the fashion industry
Decades before fashion became the fourth largest contribution of pollution on Earth, Gandhi said “there is no beauty in the finest cloth, if it makes hunger and unhappiness”, which has sadly turned to a reality in our times. Post the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, the world finally took a turn to the fashion industry and began a domino effect globally. Consumers are now more conscious than ever, with almost 73% of millennials, willing to purchase more sustainably and this is the single most important drive for demand to change. If the end consumers push for such a change, just as the awareness we are seeing in the climate change movement, more and more consumers would stop believing in these myths and each purchase will certainly culminate into a call for change.
As a takeaway, it’s encouraging to know that not all that you read about the accessibility of handmade fashion, hold much truth and that e-commerce has made it much more easier than ever to research before we commit to purchases. We’ve debunked some of the more widespread myths, but we would love to hear some of the misinformation that has have deterred you from considering handmade clothing.