The Covid-19 situation has led us to a world where our the provenance of our possessions will be in flux. “Up to 90% of all goods are made in China. We already know that the design processes for fall/winter (fashion) products are not happening as they should be.” – Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort

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People have been talking about “made local” in many ways, for several years now: farm-to-table, slow fashion, eco-friendly, re-shoring, and lowering the carbon footprint are only a few catch phrases describing this idea. Interestingly, for most of my mother’s life, “made local” wasn’t a hip idea, nor did it come from a studied voice of alarm for the planet. Made local was a survival mechanism. My mother grew up in extreme poverty in Southern Illinois, and her focus every day as she raised her family in the mid-20th century was making local. Not an easy task, but it served us well.

Depression-era mindfulness

In 1929 when my mom was five her father died from pneumonia, leaving her mother with three children and no way to provide for them. As a child, for a few years, my mom knew hunger and thirst like no child should. They moved in with my great-grandfather and things got a bit better. Stories of going to the movies for a quarter and long walks to barn dances reveal that she found pleasure in life. My mom was very smart, but she did not have a formal education past 8th grade. She tried going to high school, but she didn’t have money for clothes or books, so she started cleaning houses for 50 cents a week.

She and my father started a life together in 1942, living in the deep country (an hour by Model T Ford to the closest town of 1,000), when she was 17 and he was 20. His father was a farmer, so they lived about half of a mile from them and worked the land together. Along with our parents we all worked hard and prospered. Both of my parents have left this world and the family farm trust they founded helps their children and children’s children even today.

As a family when I was growing up, we ate farm-raised beef and chickens. During the summer, my mother’s enormous garden fed us all (they raised eight children) and she would often say, with pride (and sometimes exhaustion), that everything on the table came from our home.

The habits my parents formed during their childhood and early married life never left them, even when their finances were flourishing. “Waste not, want not” was their slogan. Pop would never let a jelly jar be tossed without adding milk to it, shaking, and drinking the sweet flavor. My mother never threw food away; what wasn’t fit to save as leftovers she tossed to the chickens or cooked into a mush for the dogs and cats. These actions were not for a cause, and they were no longer driven by external forces; they reflected my parent’s values.

Textiles and not wasting

In terms of textiles, mom and her contemporaries sewed clothes for their children and made quilts out of the left over scraps. I would estimate that in her lifetime she participated in the making of over a thousand quilts. She would get so aggravated at people who “went to the store” to buy fabric for a quilt. I sometimes sleep under a quilt made by the hands of my mother and her friends and cousins that was sewn with left-over fabric from one of my favorite sundresses as a teenager.

When my mom came to visit me in Paris, France, where we designed, manufactured, and sold our own line of clothes, what do you think she took home? No snow globe of the Eiffel Tower for her; she gathered the production scraps from our cutting room and took them home to make something else.

Local is worth it

So, I guess my point is, making and consuming locally-made food and clothing is nothing new. It’s more difficult in most cases than just buying a cheap import or processed package of food, but when we look at the overall value proposition, it is time well spent.

As we move forward in this complicated time – an environment of human-accelerated climate change, and now virus-imposed change, I believe we need to revisit our values – to teach ourselves, our contemporaries and the next generations that valuing our possessions and making the effort to buy local will be good for us all in the end.

I will close with a quote from another great person. Almost as great as my mom. LOL. Thanks to my friend Karin Beerten in Antwerp for the Facebook post:

“If you are cheap, nothing helps.” – Karl Lagerfeld


Published by fashionmatterstoo

I am a fashion designer, educator, and researcher. My theoretical research focuses on creativity, technology, and fashion systems while my practical research (fashion design) explores the relationship of fabric and the body, eco-effective design and wearable electronic textiles for health and well-being. Ph.D. in Human Environmental Sciences.

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