Sustainable and ethical fashion is everyday life for Uma. My very special guest today. I wanted to ask Uma about her opinion on the current fashion industry situation because I was fascinated by her work and her sparkling energy. Let’s take a look.
Could you quickly introduce yourself? Where are you from and what is your main occupation at the moment?
I was born in Antalya, the south coast of Turkey. I lived and studied between Italy, Czech Republic, France, Germany and finally found Portugal really beautiful and inspiring so I just decided to stay here. I make a living out of my handmade business; upcycling old materials into new, to give them another life. My work consists of hand embroidery and painting; recently I started to design and sew clothes too.
How did you start with embroidery? For how long are you doing it?
I worked in a fast-fashion brand after graduating. There, I realized what happened with Rana Plaza and how fast fashion killed people. I wanted to do something to promote slow fashion and slow hand sewing. I have learned sewing from my mother and I am so grateful for that. I grew up with my crafty family who can design and build anything. My mother has been ‘sewing things’ for a living since I know myself and that had a big impact on my whole life perception. Needle and thread can make magical things and there is no limit to creativity. I believe slow hand embroidery is the best way to protest the imposed fast fashion industry, so I have been hand embroidering full time since 2017.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Natural everything. Cotton, silk, linen, hemp, bamboo. I avoid man-made fabrics like acrylic, polyester, rayon, acetate, and nylon etc, which are treated with harmful toxic chemicals during production. My absolute favorite is vintage florals and all colors of vichy fabric 🙂
What is your inspiration?
Many things: my moods, faces I see, the feminine figure, nature, vintage everything, books, ancient civilizations… My favorite artists like Matisse, Picasso, Gaugin, Renoir, Chagall. I am also influenced by Eco-Feminism, Mythology, Spiritualism, Astrology; Goddesses, Berber signs and carpets…I also watch around and observe a lot, everything I see beautiful inspires me.
How do you want to see the future of the fashion industry?
Fashion industry promotes toxic consumerist behavior and it exploits workers, harms the environment.
I believe we will change the fast-paced fashion industry to a more mindful and careful system.
Before ‘consumers’ we are humans with values, therefore we should stand for what we believe. I know right now sustainable fashion is costly. But imagine what happened with the organic food, it was too expensive at the beginning and as more people demanded it, it became cheaper. If we choose more of slow ethical fashion and support local and transparent businesses it will be cheaper. When we all realize that loved and quality things last longer, we will refuse cheap and poor clothing.
How can we contribute to the positive shift in the industry?
We can start by educating ourselves; it is never too late. There are tons of books, movies, articles, podcasts out there.
We can be a better consumer by putting ‘quality over quantity’ and invest in more sustainable items.
Ask questions; who made it? Where was it made? Am I going to keep this for a long time? Do I really need it?
We should go through our wardrobe and realize how much we already own.
Very importantly learn how to hand sew, repair and preserve what we have… But we should not be hard on ourselves, it is okay to do our best! To shift the industry we should raise awareness, starting from people we love. We should talk about the issues and the facts about fast fashion and help our friends be the change. And together spread the change!
Where do you buy your clothes?
Recently I started to make my own clothes out of second-hand materials like bed sheets, table cloth or old clothing. When I feel like buying, I only buy second hand and vintage clothes from thrift stores and join swap events. But I like to support local makers too. When I love something made by a small business I don’t hesitate to buy it!
Anything else you would like to add?
For our own survival, we need to find a way to co-exist with our environment. Our choices have an impact on everything. It is the same as ‘voting’. With our purchases, we choose who to support. Either local and sustainable or cheap and unethical.
I believe we can together be change-makers and make a positive impact on the industry.
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All the photos in the post were kindly provided by Uma.