Can technology and ancient techniques coexist? While innovation has revolutionized our world, traditional practices have a real ability to do the same. Artisan textiles, in combination with modern technology, can create an unstoppable fashion industry for good. Artisan made clothing and textiles remind us to value our clothing, learn from the past, and genuinely connect to cultures outside of our own.
Valuing Clothing Again
As more customers become aware of the fashion industry’s unsustainable and unethical practices, the more interest in craftsmanship there is. Now, more than ever, we’re craving an understanding of how our clothing is made and what really goes into creating a garment. The slow fashion movement is predicated on an idea which has been practiced for centuries within artisan clusters and weaving communities. Last year, at a conference in Los Angeles, Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed spoke about the importance of returning to regional supply chains. To illustrate her point she told a story of visiting a artisan community in Mexico where she had the chance to observe the spiritual ceremonies practiced around a traditional, handmade garment. On the verge of tears, she urged us all (and the industry at large) to put reverence back into creating clothing. As artisan textiles gain more attention, they are changing people’s relationship to clothing. Fast fashion has robbed us of true connection to what we wear, pushed us to forget the memories sewn into each seam, and the hands which painstakingly created them. “There is an exclusivity to artisanal products, that can be valued by consumers, while simultaneously empowering all while supporting the maker,” Perino explains. Artisan made textiles are labor intensive, high-quality, and one-of-a-kind. Only through well-honed techniques and expert skills can they be created– making any clothing item made from them almost impossible to dismiss as disposable.
Learning From Tradition
In a world that is quite literally falling apart, it’s comforting to look to traditions which are centuries in the making. When the world feels uncertain, it helps to remember that which has stood the test of time. Artisan textile techniques are often passed down through generations, connecting communities and families throughout history. These practices can be updated and integrated into modern designs, though knowing that they have been largely preserved over the years is incredibly inspiring. “Culture, history and heritage, are priceless, and the authenticity of products made with heritage skill sets are a means of reinvigorating the over exposed branded luxury fashion market” Sass Brown, sustainable fashion professor and activist, pointed out in her paper “Can Global Craft and Artisanship be the Future of Luxury Fashion?” The fashion industry seems to be constantly attempting to reinvent the wheel, yet skilled craftsmanship has the ability to defy the trend cycle. Instead of chasing after the next big thing which will capture customer’s attention for a few months, the industry could learn from the slow and steady pace of artisan-made textiles.
Additionally, the fashion industry could greatly benefit from artisan textiles’ conscious use of earth’s resources. Many traditionally crafted textiles are made within indigenious communities which have a unique understanding of how to live in harmony with nature. “The fast-industrial fashion system, where profits go mostly to those at the top, and which produces high volumes of deliberate waste, is a dinosaur that will not survive the transition to sustainability,” Phys.org declared in 2018. While the fashion industry contributes to climate change, artisanship continues to set an example of how we could be creating without destruction.
Connecting To Culture
When we purchase, wear, or experience artisan made textiles in any way, we are connecting to another culture. These techniques give customers a special opportunity to understand another community’s values and background. Many artisan-made goods carry cultural traditions, stories, and religious values within them. Artisan textiles provide a straightforward opportunity for the industry to participate in cultural appreciation, instead of appropriation. Cultural appropriation most often occurs when a designer or brand tries to replicate a style or design from another culture without permission, consent, or credit to that culture. However, the more fashion highlights artisan made textiles, the better chance we all have at appreciating the stories behind the fabric. When done correctly, brands and designers utilizing artisan textiles can make the world a smaller, better place. “Telling the story about the provenance, the cultural significance, and how it was made is important,” Caroline Poiner, creator of social enterprise Artisan of Fashion, tells “The Green Hub.” With understanding comes genuine connection and appreciation.
Audrey Stanton was born and raised in the Bay Area and currently based in Los Angeles. She works as a freelance content creator and manager. Audrey is incredibly passionate about conscious fashion and hopes to continue to spread awareness of ethical consumption.