Rosie from “DIYCouture” about Sewing Patterns and the Ethics of Vivienne Westwood

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UPDATE:

+++ If you want to win Thread International’s denim and a printed sewing pattern of our brandnew Sewing Pattern Holly Jacket, then scroll to the end of this post. But please read this post before…!+++

POSTSCRIPTUM: The Denim from Thread International’s denim and a printed sewing pattern of our brandnew Sewing Pattern Holly Jacket goes to Bele. Congratulations!


 

Today is already the last day of the Fashion Revolution Week and today our Fashion Revolution Week blog tour ends with a – as they say in Bavaria – “Schmankerl”, i.a a goody.

I am very happy that Rosie Martin from DIYCouture completes the sewing blogger round with Ulrike von Moritzwerk, Zoe from Blog So, Zo … and Portia from Makery.

Also, I asked Rosie a few questions about sewing and sustainability and again got so interesting answers that I would actually like to meet her this afternoon for a coffee (or tea) and continue discussing …

Interview with Rosie Martin from DIYCouture

 

Dear Rosie, first could you please tell us something about you. Where do you live, what is your profession and what was your motivation to become part of the DIY movement?

Hiya! I live in very far east London. I work for a large charity that does all sorts of things to help blind and partially sighted people in the challenges they face in society. I play drums and sometimes other instruments, and of course I love to sew. I don’t remember choosing to become part of the DIY movement, it’s just something that is a natural fit for the way I behave I suppose! I have always enjoyed making things and got the sewing bug as a teenager in the 90s. My friend scribbled out some instructions showing me how to make trousers – so I began sewing in a very DIY way! Then as I got older I became more politically engaged and I leaned towards the anarchist side of things, boycotting unethical companies, being involved in direct action protest, and taking an ‘opting out’ approach, living ‘off grid’ in a van and attempting to carve out an existence that was slightly free of a standard capitalist model. I must come clean right here and say I haven’t been able to keep up this vigilant approach to my lifestyle, and live in a much less radical way these days.

Until now you released two books. One is called “DIY Couture” and the latest is “No patterns needed“. With both books you offer “a set of simple, visual instructions which enables the readers to make their garment themselves” rather then buying them. How was this idea born? 

So my first experiences of sewing were patternless and I absolutely loved being able to make my own clothes. I met so many people who told me they would love to make their own clothes but felt it was beyond their capability. I knew this wasn’t the case. At the time, sewing patterns were the tool available to learn to make clothes, yet they seemed to turn simple construction processes into bafflingly complex instructions with barely any diagrams. If I had not already been emboldened by my sewing friend and her hand written instructions, I probably would give up if presented with a sewing pattern. I felt passionately that I’d like to help other people to construct their own clothes, so creating simple, visual instructions seemed like the way forward! I actually printed 3 short instruction booklets myself before the two larger books were born. I called this project ‘DIYcouture.’

Already some years ago in 2012 Vivienne Westwood encouraged her customers during a fashion show not to buy any clothes. More precisely she said: “Of course I try not to waste and my way of wasting is to try to concentrate on quality not quantity. And you know my message, it is buy less, choose well, make it last. Even better, don’t buy anything, Don’t buy clothes for ages until you really have to” 

Could it be that Vivienne Westwood is your soulmate and what do you think about quantity vs. quality in relation with garments?

Ha ha ha I love this question! I have this thing about Vivienne Westwood… I find her politics extremely problematic. Right at the start of DIYcouture I made a video where it looked like I was slashing one of her jackets in a lift at Selfridges! I think it’s easy for a wealthy celebrity who sells expensive clothes to lecture people on ‘choosing well.’ Much as she branded herself ‘punk’ without truly having a punk approach, she has branded herself ‘ethical’ yet her company doesn’t pay their interns, has no environmental policy in place to reduce the impacts of its operations and makes no mention of paying the producers of the garments she sells at a premium a fair wage. I find her lecturing people and charging £100 for a Tshirt which was probably produced by workers being paid less than $1 a day speaks of absolute lack of class consciousness.

I do deeply believe that ‘quantity’  is destructive. This is a model that we have created and adopted, where production is fast and the ‘success’ of businesses relies on ever increasing consumption, all to the detriment of producers and the environment. A focus on quality rather than quantity could be part of challenging this model. I find it a shame that someone like Vivienne Westwood who has the power to literally affect change for many people in her own business instead chooses to take a shallow approach that speaks of being ethical without really living those values in practice.

Where do you buy your clothes? Or do you make most of your garments yourself? 

I do make most of my clothes now, though I still buy jeans which tend to be from charity shops or cast offs from other people. I am not an ethical angel at all though. I buy my shoes and underwear from your average high street shop. I have to say that I am complicit in giving money to companies that do not value their labourers. So maybe me and Vivienne have more in common than I like to think!

On your website you call the DIY movement a slow revolution and define it as the antithesis of fast-fashion. How do you feel – on the other hand – about social media that became THE voice for the DIY movement and all the creators. Great on the one hand but also very fast, virtual and full of whitewashed content on the other hand. Isn’t this contrary to the „slow“ DIY revolution?

Hmmm interesting question! Personally I love technology, and I don’t necessarily think that ‘slow’ is positive and ‘fast’ is negative – it just depends what you’re talking about. I guess I think one of the revolutionary powers of sewing is that you experience deeply what it takes to make a garment – something that is often hidden. This then becomes something you talk about, and I think discussion is a powerful part of challenging the status quo. So I do see social media as being valuable in this discussion. We are all sharing our complex thoughts on how sewing fits in with fashion revolution, and reflecting on whether or not our approach to making our own clothes can be considered ‘ethical’ or even ‘slow’. So this conversation can be transformative. However I do also feel our emotions are deeply tied to the capitalist model. Capitalism makes us have feelings of unworthiness, as conveying idealised lifestyles is part of branding, and we often turn to consumption to help us feel better. It’s interesting to think about how social media fits into this – when it is people sharing and having a conversation, and when it leans over into negatively affecting people’s mental health by creating a sort of lifestyle comparison. I don’t know if this answers the question at all!

Following especially your Instagram account I love your unpretentious, straight ahead, NOT whitewashed and sometimes kind of melancholy snapshots. What do you want to convey with the social media channels you use and what is your favorite … and why?

Well thank you! I have to say I have no intentions of conveying anything particular! I have sort of fallen off Twitter as I basically followed too many people and my feed became meaningless. So Instagram is my main channel and I enjoy being part of the Instagram sewing community. I love taking photos, and I guess I just post pictures of things I come across that I like the look of – often buildings and landscapes (because I do love the world!) as well as sharing what I’m making. Maybe my photos look melancholy because I don’t tend to include people in them? I usually try to avoid people because I feel it’s a bit rude to take people’s pictures! Ha ha!

I really would like to know who is your favorite fashion designer? Can you explain why?

I’m pretty unloyal when it comes to fashion designers – I like different people’s designs at different times. I do find catwalk fashion very inspiring, but I just tend to browse around, perhaps checking in on a few favourites like Kenzo, MSGM, Miu Miu and Prada. I guess these are all fairly bold, forward thinking brands. I find Prada constantly cutting edge and inspiring, both in the clothes they make and the way they present them in photos. Their photos recently have been so fun, and included big groups of people that are diverse in lots of ways, including age. I think I get attracted to designers that use colour and print in interesting ways, and take garment design in innovative directions.

And last but not least: What is your wish concerning the textile manufacturing industry that is still one of the most dirty ones with often awkward conditions for the workers and an awful impact on the environment?

Wow, well, the word ‘wish’ suggests I can go full on dream-world here! I wish ethical production was not a niche but an all encompassing approach to how we create objects globally. The dream would be for all textile manufacturing to be done in a way that does not dry up water sources, or pollute them with chemicals, or cause people to have life long illness, or barely be able to afford to eat. This would need a blanket approach to charging true costs for end products, and balancing the profit across the supply chain. Harnessing technology, respect for the environment, and a new (slow!) approach to work and wealth, I do believe we could achieve this enlightened state of existence! But we are so far away from it aren’t we? It can be quite overwhelming.

Dear Rosie, thank you very much for your digression into the past, your thoughts and your statements. Your wishes for the future of the textile industry is a wonderful claim at the end of this blog tour.

*

The 25% voucher from True Fabrics goes to Celine! Congratulations!


We started the Fashion Revolution blog tour with a new pattern and now finish it with a new sewing new pattern. Brand new and fresh in the shop – Sewing Pattern Holly Jacket with a detailed video sewing tutorial,  you can watch on our schnittchen patterns You Tube Channel.

For the Holly Jacket with the tapered collar shown here I used a great denim from Thread International. Thread International has launched a wonderful project some years ago and produced fabric from old plastic bottles. So too this denim …

Thread International no longer sells fabric, but there is something new coming up … For more information just check their website and sign in!

However, I am very happy that I can give away 2 yards of the great Denim as give away at the end of this great week, because they still had a little bit in stock.

So if you want to sew a Holly made of denim, you can win a printed pattern and the denim here. Please leave a comment until tomorrow (30.4.) 12 p.m. CET here below this post and with a bit of luck the Holly package will be yours! Good luck!

 

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