Educating consumers on how to make, mend and alter clothing can lead to more sustainable shopping practices, new research has found.
Academics in the UK measured the behaviour of people who took part in textile workshops and asked them to audit their wardrobes and keep journals. Participants learned about spinning, dyeing and weaving, pattern cutting, and how to repair clothes to help them better understand the human and environmental costs of fast fashion.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Arts and Communities, was conducted by the University of Exeter, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Wolverhampton, and Falmouth University. The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
“We know the production of cheap clothes has serious social and environmental impacts. But we have also shown that it is possible to change people’s shopping behaviour by providing them with new skills and knowledge, with appropriate equipment and meeting spaces, and peers with whom they can share their thoughts,” says Professor Clare Saunders, who led the project at the University of Exeter.
Dr Joanie Willett, also of the University of Exeter, adds: “Having a deeper engagement with the clothing industry helped participants have a greater awareness of the time it takes to make clothes, and how garment construction started long before fabric is stitched together to make clothes. They were surprised by the processes required to create thread and construct cloth.”
Participants filled in a questionnaire before and after the workshops so researchers could measure changes in the ways they think, feel, and act in relation to clothing. A total of 16 out of the 20 participants who completed a questionnaire said they would no longer buy fast fashion. Before the project 19 out of 23 had done so.
The research group was also asked to keep a clothing diary in which they recorded their experience of making, adapting and thinking about clothes, and how their shopping habits had changed.
They also each selected something they owned to renovate and were asked to take part in “wardrobe audits” where they completed questionnaires designed to help academics understand the number of clothes people own and their relationship with them. The audits found participants often underestimated the volume of clothes in their homes.