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Handmade VS Machine-made Fashion | Is The Future Of Fashion Sustainable?
Is The Future Of Fashion Sustainable?
24 th Apr 2016

At Strand of Silk we put a lot of emphasis on handmade clothes because we champion artisans from different regions of India who use traditional techniques such as block printing and tie and dye to create garments. These traditional techniques have been used for generations and have provided a livelihood to thousands.

There is great merit in the slow production of clothes, not least because the process means that the garments produced are unique, intricate and therefore carry great value. This is of course not to say that garments produced by machine (which of course more are, even on our site) are inherently less valuable, or intricate, but that in our fast-paced society where we demand instant gratification it is nice to take a step back and appreciate the time and immense effort that still goes into creating some of our clothing.

Having these opinions are all very well, but we decided to seek out an expert to get their opinion on fast verses slow fashion, and where the future of fashion is headed. We therefore spoke to Sarah Gresty from Central Saint Martins, London who is a senior lecturer and is currently researching fashion knitwear. With her background and expertise, we were interested to know whether she thought it was important or in fact necessary to reassert the value of the handmade over the machine-made. She responded saying that she thought handmade and machine made garment are both equally relevant in today’s fashion industry and hold similar clout. “Increasingly we yearn for creativity and craft when we express ourselves through our clothes, whether that be through traditional skills such as hand knitting and crochet or creative stitching and garment construction.” This brings up an interesting and often overlooked point which is that using a machine to make clothes doesn’t mean that the clothes in question are less intricate or detailed, in fact the opposite can sometimes be said because more complex stitching and garment construction can be achieved by a machine than compared to a person.

Of course where a handmade garment may hold more clout than one made by machine is that how an item of clothing is made does have an impact on how it is consumed. A cheaply produced generic item made in China and sold by the thousand to high streets around the world will be consumed very differently to a conceptual; hand produced one-off piece by an up and coming designer sold in a boutique or in a market. The reason for this is quite simply that the way we perceive the garment and the importance we give to it is much greater. Handmade garment are seen as more special, and as something to be worn on a special occasion, in part due to the often high price tag.

In conclusion, both machine-made and handmade fashion has pros and cons and ultimately in order to meet the demands of our very modern society it is imperative that both exist.

The other hot topic at present in the fashion industry is sustainability, with a lot of designers starting to promote organic materials and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. These practices don’t typically go hand in hand with machine made clothes, where as they are more prevalent in the creation of handmade garments. We asked Gresty whether she thought it was possible for fashion designers to create solely sustainable designs and her response was surprisingly positive. “Manufacturers are sourcing and producing more sustainable materials for designers to work with. At Pitti Filati last month more yarn suppliers and spinners than ever are concerned with the future of the environment and ethical issues when developing their products. More spinners and fabric suppliers have a transparent production process and are trying to make every step ethical and sustainable.”

The next question is where the future of sustainable fashion lies and whether the current momentum can last. At present the trend and the way in which we as a society are being forced to look at our environmental impact suggests that it will. More and more high end designers (such as The Kering Group brands) are making breakthroughs in innovation to produce sustainable fashion. Stella McCartney is growing forests in Sweden to produce sustainable viscose yarn. Indian designers such as Anita Donge, Charchit Bafna and Daniel Syiem are also all using organic materials and working with artisans to produce bespoke items. As big names are leading by example, this kind of forward thinking is quickly being adopted by an increasing number of brands.

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