Author: Mary Corbin | Published: November 14, 2016
We all know the phrase, “you are what you eat” and we certainly take that seriously in the Bay Area where the heart of local, sustainable and organic practices beats fervently and strong. But what about extending that ethos to the clothing industry, with the same level of commitment? Harvest & Mill, a clothing company with a design studio based in Berkeley — and sewing mills in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco — does just that by providing a product that is organic, locally grown and manufactured using sustainable practices from seed to seams.
Founders Natalie Patricia and Paul Wallace are both self-described “jacks-of-all-trades.” Patricia, an East Coast native who has lived in Berkeley since 2009, has worked as a farmhand and gardener and started designing and sewing custom clothes one piece at a time in 2012. Wallace, originally from Cork, Ireland was the original organizer of the Heirloom Expo and manager of the Petaluma Seed Bank. He homesteaded in Sonoma for over ten years and has known about the benefits of pure fiber for decades. Together, the pair are sowing the seeds of the “grown and sewn” revolution in a community that provides fertile ground.
If your vision could be summed up in three words, what would they be?
“Local. Agrarian. Authentic.”
What is the connection between food and clothing?
Patricia: “Food and clothing come from the same place, the soil. While we consume food through the inside of our bodies, we consume clothing through our skin, which is our largest organ. All of the issues surrounding personal health, environmentalism, pollution and farming apply to food and clothing alike.
“In the 20th century, our food and clothing systems were drastically altered. Chemical ingredients replaced natural ingredients and globalization changed what we ate/wore and who grew/made it. Now, we can go to the big box stores and buy a GMO grown cotton t-shirt, that is drenched in agro-chemicals and toxic dyes, that was shipped around the world and made by people earning pennies a day. Replace ‘cotton t-shirt’ in that sentence with ‘apple’, and it’s the same story!
“On a foodie level, people know that fresh, local food tastes better and is healthier. The same goes for cotton. Our cotton is the cleanest, softest, purest and healthiest cotton grown in the world. You can feel the difference.”
Wallace: “The connections between food and clothing are extensive and the manufacture of clothing is an eco-system, like a farm or a garden. Clothing is the next frontier and the natural extension of what the local, organic food movement has done.
“Our consumer choices here in Berkeley can affect people, communities and environments all over the world. We have an incredible opportunity to change the world for the better by focusing on who, where, why and how our clothing is made. We have to take a step back, see what’s really going on and make the changes we want to see.”