In the 26 years since professional gourmet Carlo Petrini coined the term slow food and ten since food activist Jessica Prentice coined the term locavore, access to locally-sourced food has increased for many who previously may not have thought about their meal’s geographic origin.
So why not slow clothing? That’s what then-33-year-old weaving teacher Rebecca Burgess thought in 2011 when she challenged herself to wear garments sourced within 150 miles of her California home. It wasn’t as simple as only buying from local stores: She had to wear clothing with fibers, dyes, and labor exclusively from her region.
“What started as a personal project spiraled into a community of people who helped create this one-year wardrobe: artists, designers, ecologists from UC Berkley who were getting their PhDs in environmental science,” Burgess says. “They felt passionate about the reduction in the toxic load, and of the prospect of making clothes from organic natural fibers.”
The toxic load Burgess speaks of are chemicals and heavy metals generated from producing and dyeing textiles, according to the EPA. In addition, Burgess says the textile industry in California alone produces a tremendous amount of material waste. “After my one-year wardrobe challenge, [Fibershed] did an analysis and found over 3.1 million pounds of wool in the state,” she says. “Over a million pounds are thrown out every year.”