Jane Milburn believes leadership is an action you take, not a position you hold.

After completing postgraduate leadership study in 2013, Jane Milburn began advocating for a slow clothing lifestyle through upcycling. Slow clothing is about thoughtful, ethical and sustainable ways to enjoy the garments we wear every day while minimising our material footprint on the world. “Clothes do for us on the outside what food does inside. They protect and warm our body, and influence the way we feel, therefore we need to make good choices not just follow fashion,” Jane said.

The Slow Food movement began in 1986 in Italy as a response to fast food and today we are back in gardens and kitchens, preparing meals from scratch, because we have realised processed food is unhealthy and unsatisfying.

Seeing the need to think about clothing in the same way, Jane set up Textile Beat to explore how what we wear affects our health, the health of others and the health of our planet. Ethical issues associated with contemporary clothing culture include escalating consumption,

changing fibres, waste and pollution, modern-day slavery, and a loss of understanding and knowledge about how clothes are made. “The way we now buy, use and discard clothing has seen average global apparel fibre consumption double in the past two decades from seven kilograms per person up to 13 kilograms each — and the Australian average is twice that at 27 kilograms per person,” Jane said.

While food waste returns nutrients back to the soil, clothing waste is adding plastics to oceans and landfill, because two-thirds of new clothing is now made from synthetic fibres (derived from petroleum) that shed micro-plastic particles into the ecosystem.

In the global context of limited resources and climate change, there is growing interest from local governments, schools and sustainability groups in the environmental impact of clothing.Becoming more hands-on and engaged with our clothing by making and upcycling involves experimentation and play-based sewing and hand-stitching — as explored during Jane’s Sew it Again campaign in 2014 and The Slow Clothing Project in 2016. Such projects are about growing awareness

in dressing creatively and letting your personality shine through.

“We are marketed to on every level today and sometimes in the rush to own things for reasons of status and looks, we lose the opportunity to be mindful and resourceful by making and creating,” Jane said. “What we wear is a statement about our personality, values and perspective on life. It is empowering to step away from comparisons and keeping up with trends, to become more individualist and self-sufficient. We can develop our own style when we embrace the slow clothing manifesto: think, natural, quality, local, care, few, make, adapt, revive and salvage.”

Before you buy anything new, take time revisit what you already have and consider how it may be revived, repurposed or recreated because upcycling creates clothes that carry a unique story of reuse of garments that may otherwise go to waste.

Through Textile Beat workshops and talks, Jane shares her knowledge and skills about slow clothing and natural fibres while exploring ways to apply old skills in a new world.