A few years ago, Burgess traveled to Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, where she witnessed firsthand the damage the garment industry caused to the people and environment. “Labor is sought for cost first and foremost, not its quality, leading to massive exploitation and many unstable jobs,” Burgess writes on her website. “We have offshored the effects of our consumption, which has led to a great disconnect of the actual environmental and social costs of our clothing.”
“We have off-shored the effects of our consumption, which has led to a great disconnect the costs of our clothing,” says Burgess.
Burgess started the Fibershed project to “swing the pendulum of our production and consumption” to a happier medium by integrating organic fibers, natural dyes, and local economies. “In my community alone, thousands upon thousands of pounds of wool are composted or thrown into the landfills each year,” says Burgess. “We have a 13 percent unemployment rate, all the while if you go to a store to buy a wool undershirt, the raw material is from New Zealand and the production from China.”
Although it started out as an experiment, Fibershed has evolved into a model for sustainable garment production. Burgess plans to drum up support for her fibershed network first by building a cotton mill on Foxfibre’s organic farm in the Capay Valley, then by buying industrialized weaving equipment and knitting frames for Bay Area designers to work with local fibers.
Although it started out as an experiment, Fibershed has evolved into a model for sustainable garment production.
With the help of with photographer Paige Green, Burgess distilled her experience into a book, Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes. Each section includes a knitting project using wools colored with seasonal plants. Her book, like the project that preceded it, extolls a “bioregional wardrobe” that not only “speaks the language of the landscape” but also provides a template for communities everywhere to adopt and adapt.
[Via The Bay Citizen]