Rebecca Burgess is a pioneer in local and regenerative fiber systems. I (Lizzy Kahn, Social Media Manager of Kiss The Ground) was thrilled to connect with her and learn more about why she went on this path, why textiles? Lizzy knew the fashion industry is one of the most wasteful in the world. I also knew that most of the clothes in my nearby shopping mall were made oversees in probably not-so-great conditions. My big question was why and how was Rebecca going to transform our way of thinking about and making clothes?
RB: I had been traveling and in Southeast Asia in 2005. The factories I visited at that time were producing for western consumption. I saw color of dye in the nearby water ways, women and children working in harsh conditions all serving western markets. I knew this wasn’t right and I knew from that experience it had to change.
I got that the more we consume, the more you stress the people and all the ecosystems that are impacted by the supply chain. If we bring our production home and take responsibility for its impacts, we begin to get up close and personal with the costs of garment creation. I’ve experienced how proximity breeds a new ethic of appreciation, through an enhanced understanding and sensitivity for agriculture and manufacturing. Bringing production into our own auspices also takes the pressure off places in the world that do not have significant labor and environmental protections to ensure fair wages, clean water and air.We have infiltrated these lands and their communities with western ways. We’ve disrupted their culture, land, and tradition.
LK: How do we begin to change this system?
RB: We are encouraging a shift in perspective that there is beauty in reducing consumption and moving towards purchasing regeneratively farmed, naturally dyed, locally labored & constructed goods. This outreach work is part of our organization’s educational mission. Also known as the“The Zen Wardrobe” we admonish efforts for people to focus on what they really need. The idea is to just bring total mindfulness around clothing.
There is not much within the current global system of production that can truly sustain over the long haul given the water and climate implications of the current means of production. Some aspects are there but more accurately we need to focus on all of our systems becoming ”regenerative”. We want to create and support regenerative systems that bring life back and leave the environment better off than it was when we started.
LK: How is Fibershed working to improve this?
RB: We’ve been promoting a couple of things, particularly partnering with for-profits and non-profits that are working on developing the policy and infrastructure changes and shifts needed to bring a regional and regenerative ‘Soil-to-Soil’ clothing system into being. We need to support strategic changes in agricultural practices as well as the manufacturing systems that add value to the material. We encourage relationship building between farmers, ranchers and endusers, as these relationships tend to develop into new local production based businesses.
LK: Lastly, a recent documentary called “The True Cost” came out this past summer and focused on the fast fashion’s impact on the environment and social well being – what do you think about fast fashion?
RB: I don’t know why anyone would wear it. It is a health risk exposing yourself to a store full of a toxic dyes and fabrics that have been treated with endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins. Think about it, if you don’t want to eat it [chemicals], you don’t want to wear it.
Wearers must demand a new paradigm.