Are You in a Relationship with Slow Fashion?


The Road to Sustainability Starts with You


Put on Your Boxing Gloves and Join the Crusade!

In my almost seven decades on this planet, I have seen the fashion industry explode from one of the more expensive line items in a family's budget, to a cheap runaway commodity that is out of control. The damage to the planet and population serving the needs of this industry are becoming more and more transparent every day, and yet as consumers, we continue to buy and throw away clothes at an alarming rate. Because our pocket books are fuelling this disaster, it is our duty to withhold spending money on fast fashion as a matter of protest.


While we are learning more and more about this disastrous industry, it does not seem to be changing our behaviours. We continue to indulge in this fashion 'addiction'; buying cheap clothes, and tossing them. How do we change our behaviours when the destruction of the industry is over there, rather than here. How do we stop buying clothes when they are so cheap, and shopping is fun! Doesn't it help third world countries that are making our clothes put food on their tables and afford roofs over their heads if we buy fast fashion?

I think we really need to ask ourselves what we need and why do we need it. We all want to look our best, just as we want to eat healthy foods and keep our bodies in shape. But learning to regulate consumption in our diets is just as important as learning to curtail spending on our clothes.

Labour is cheap and human rights a low priority in third world countries where fast fashion is manufactured. The factories producing these clothes are not regulated or inspected, so standards are non existent, and working conditions often unsafe. The well established corporations contracting for these goods are not responsible for the conditions of these workplaces; building owners are not regulated; no one is financially responsible for the devastation that this industry produces.


Fast fashion boils down to cheap fashion, which is one of the keys to understanding this industry's problem. We are not paying the people who make our clothes a living wage. The money we spend on fast fashion is not financing a healthy industry. Employees are at risk, buildings are collapsing, pollution is widespread with no end in sight. None of the money we spend on fast fashion is paying to solve any of these problems.

For fashion to be healthy, the cost of your clothing has to have enough overhead built in to be redirected into improvements. The money you currently spend on inexpensive clothing will have to increase to account for these changes. The cost of fashion will have to cover reversing pollution and improving the infrastructure. So just as fashion used to be one of the more expensive line items in a family's budget, for this industry to repair itself, it will have to become that way again.


As a circular fashion economy begins to explore and experiment with fast fashion alternatives, new cost structures are emerging that are both effective and fashionable. While some of them may go by the wayside, and others catch on like wildfire, my personal believe is that reuse is at the core of fashion health. Reusing keeps clothing out of landfill. None of the pollution that resulted in producing that original garment will be repeated. Business models such as trading or renting clothing provides the freshness of 'new' that consumers expect.


Reusing also buys us time. As we learn to shop responsibly, and keep the clothing that we have rather than replacing it, we are slowing down the fast fashion engine. And while reuse does not immediately invest in a healthy industry, it does allow us to step on the brakes while we reflect and build on more sustainable practices.


Fashion boils down to a simple common denominator: we all want to look good to ourselves and others. The growth of the personal health and fitness industry is an excellent example of this. According to PolicyAdvice, this industry is growing at 8.7% year over year. Personal Trainers, a career that did not exist until the late 1900s, now brings in an average salary of $40,000/year.

So when are we going to apply our interest in health and fitness to style and fashion? When are we going to slow down and spend the same amount of time that we spend at the gym on our personal wardrobes? When do we adorn our beautiful bodies with environmentally healthy and personally flattering clothing?


My fashion advice is to invest in a stylist, friend or professional, who can help you understand and define your personal style. Take them shopping with you, and/or invite them into your wardrobe to help you evaluate what your best styles and colours are. This will go a long way toward helping you make fashion purchases in the future that will not end up in the recycle bin. This is how to use your wallet wisely, because frankly, you are worth it! And so is the environment.


Photographer Sam Breach

Model Kerry French

Designer Darcy Fowkes and Margot Silk Forrest


Where Has All The Fabric Gone

Sing to Melody "Where have all the flowers Gone?"


Where has all the fabric gone, long time passing?

Where have all the fabric gone, long time ago?

Where has all the fabric gone?

Gone to landfill says this sad song.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

Where have all the sad songs gone, long time passing?

Where have all the sad songs gone, long time ago?

Where have all the sad songs gone?

Gone to deaf ears everyone.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

Where have all the deafness gone, long time passing?

Where has all the deafness gone, long time ago?

Where has all the deafness gone?

Replaced by ignorance one and all.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

Where will all the ignorance end, long time passing?

When will all the ignorance end, long time ago?

When will the ignorance end?

When mankind decides to mend.

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?


Will Fast Fashion Kill Couture?


The golden age of Fast Fashion is over, and has left a multitude of scars behind in its wake. The very nature of this cheap commodity driven manufacturing engine, with consumers hot to participate in this 'buy as much as you can market and throw what you don't want away' marketplace, has left wounds deeper than we can reach, let alone understand. Like climate change, there is no turning back. There is only triage. 


One of my biggest regrets with this Industry is that it has crippled the natural fabric market with cheap oil based fabric blends. Exacerbated by cheap labor ahd high production manufacturing demands, we are left with an insurmountable amount of non compostable waste. Unlike our natural fibers that improve with age and handling, these chemically produced blends degrade significantly with washing and wearing, so become unsuitable for recycling. 


Because natural and luxury fabrics cannot compete with Fast Fashion, the high standards of couture sewing cannot compete as well. Today's fashions are destined for landfill only. There is no place in the in the archives of tomorrow's fashion and history museums for these disposable garments. 


For those of us who are inspired by and value fashion, this is a dark reality and a grim picture. Your choices for what to do about this are limited and boil down to what each of us can do individually to encourage change. We can't stop the throw away culture, but we can curb our own over consumption. We can't stop the manufacturing machine that drives over production, but we can make a dent by not buying Fast Fashion.


Fast Fashion is a strong and well indoctrinated Industry, and provides an economic safety net, albeit an exploitive one, for many poor countries. so change will be slow and possible difficult to detect. Triage itself, by definition, needs to balance a multitude and sometimes contradictory objectives simultaneously. Boycotting this industry in the West will not change the damage that has already been done to our planet, but I do believe that over time, if we put the brakes on our own behaviors, change will have room to foster and grow, and new sources of luxury, whether it's in the fabrics of our garments or the quality of their creation, will begin to re-emerge.  


When Rude Comments Sting

I've joined a number of Facebook groups that revolve around supporting women transitioning to their natural gray hair. Most of the members of these groups post selfies of themselves with both full heads of their natural colors, as well as slender roots of their gray at the beginning of their transition. Some are more confident than others, but the main theme of all of these groups is to foster support for the process.


The most painful posts are those chronicling loved ones reacting poorly to the woman transitioning. 'Why are you letting yourself go', or 'you look so much older with gray hair.' The fact of the matter is that it is simply nobody's business what color a person chooses to wear, whether it's the color of their hair or the color of their clothing. 


We all have color pallets we incorporate into our lives, from the walls of our homes to the towels in our bathrooms. These pallets are desirable (I won't grow tired of blue) as well as pragmatic (doing what works best). Either motivator is personal, meaning IT IS NONE OF ANOTHER PERSON'S BUSINESS.


Sorry to raise my voice here, but whenever I read a painful post about someone reacting poorly to a woman's hair color decision, I wish it was me they were addressing. Because I would have no problem smiling in response, and saying politely, 'my hair color is not your business'.  


I recently posted a selfie to one of my gray hair FB groups wearing the knits in the photo on the left, with the comment "Today I am going gray gracefully with soft cashmere knits to ward off the cold. I love mixing and matching light gray knits, as the fibers bring out the textures in my hair!"

One of the comments on this post said that I should not wear gray, as it washes older skin out. I was curious enough to look this woman up, and there she was, a very pale Irish woman with light blue eyes. And yes, this color would wash her out. My ruddy skin color and dark grey eyes work fine with these colors.

When we realize that whatever people say to us is their truth and not ours, it becomes easier to stand strong and confident.



Design Secrets of ReUse

Magazines that follow the Slow Fashion Movement have published widely about the value of ReUse, both in terms of investing in a more circular fashion economy, as well as the practice’s promise to keep clothing out of our planet’s landfill as long as possible. We pretty much know the statistics of this astounding by product of Fast Fashion consumers. One in two people throw their unwanted clothes straight into trash according to EDGE fashion intelligence. This boils down to 64% of the 32 billion garments produced each year ending up in landfill.

Not only do I have first hand knowledge of this phenomenon as I am the 'second hand rose' in my family, but as such, I cut my design teeth on a lot of this hand-me-down bounty. Some of the items were good to turn around and reuse: others gave me a design canvas with which to practice my up cycling skills.

My drive to learn to up cycle was inspired not only by the statistics mentioned above, but also by the particular value I saw in my stepmother’s discarded wardrobe. These treasures were fascinating puzzles. If I liked an item, but it didn’t quite fit, that was one puzzle to solve. If I liked something, but it was not quite ‘me’, that was another design challenge to embrace.

As an experienced seamstress, learning to up cycle was just an extension of skills I had already acquired. I was not afraid to use my scissors. But repurposing existing garments and home sewing are two very different animals. One gives you patterns to use, and very detailed instructions to follow. The other can only be described as the wild, wild west of designing. The good news about this lawless practice is that there are 

  • No rules that you can break,
  • No mistakes that you can make!

Plus up cycling is much easier to learn than sewing from scratch. Much of your garment is already made, so you get to your finished product faster. But you do need some sewing skills, as I mentioned above, you cannot be afraid to cut.

I started my repurposing journey with t-shirts, as they are cheap and stretchy, and the world has way too many of them. So no matter what the outcome, you are doing the planet a favor. You can take them in, add panels to the sides to make them larger, cut new necklines, shorten or create cap sleeves, slice and dice the backs for all sorts of creative looks, or change the hem lines completely to dip in front and back, or create a high low hem for a layering garment (or to expose your gorgeous belly). 

I graduated from my t-shirt boot camp with a perfect pant pattern that fit me every time. My ensembles often start with the pants, and I build them from there. This ‘pattern’ gave me the confidence to branch out into other garments.

My design process starts with the fabric of a pre-loves (used) garment, or a combination of fabrics from a couple of garments. The next step is determining what part of the garment can be reused. In the picture above, both yellow pants were repurposed from men’s shirts. The garments’ sleeves became my pant legs.

The teal shirt pictured in the middle outfit above is the combination of two shirts that complimented each other. The plaid added some eye-popping detail to the teal top. To add even more ‘pop’ to the top, a yellow necktie was combined with the plaid fabric for a whimsical accessory. 

These ‘looks’ might not be everybody’s eye candy, but they do successfully illustrate that up cycling can be a fun and successful path to an incredible wardrobe. And one that you can be sure, can and will never be duplicated. So take the plunge and jump in. You will discover a new and refreshing side of fashion. 

Designer/Model Darcy Fowkes

Photographer @suzmcfaddenphoto


‘Identical Twins’ Model Sustainability with Thrift and Repurposed Fashion Ensembles

Designer Darcy Fowkes dresses identical 'twin' models in the same garments coupled with different tops and accessories  to illustrate how extensible a few core garments can be. In this photo above, Darcy couples a repurposed pashmina scarf with baggy hammer pants (made from damaged linen yardage) as her core ensemble. 


Both outfits are coordinated with different tops, hats, and belts. The outfit on the left picks up the blue in the vest, for a more spring/summer look. This outfit's cloche style hat is trimmed with a thrifted men’s silk tie that also picks up the detailed pattern on the vest.


The outfit on the right supports the brown colorway in the ensemble and a longer sleeved top for a more fall/winter look. Fish leather belts in blue and brown add detail at the waist for final accessory touches.

In this photo both models are wearing home sewn tie-dyed jersey capris coupled with two different tops and headwear. The oversized green linen top on the left is accessorized with a green snood scarf, repurposed from a t-shirt. The thrifted orange tank top on the right is accessorized with a hemp linen cap designed from seasonally discarded upholstery samples. 


Again, the outfit on the left features fall colors and styles, while the one on the right is clearly a summer ensemble, complete with bare feet! Just by adding these two tops and their corresponding head wear to this one pair of pants, these capris can now be worn from summer to fall.

In this photograph Darcy dresses the twins in a pair of repurposed capris cut from a thrifted pair of bell bottoms. Darcy tops the outfit on the left with a gifted, altered top, and a matching cap and neck scarf designed from a piece of scrap lace. The model on the right wears a thrifted tissue jersey cap sleeve top with a coordinated thrifted scarf. Sandals are upcycled/painted with Jacquard Lumiere leather paints.


While both outfits are indeed summer attire, they do not look anything alike. Refreshing one pair of pants/capris with different 'looks' helps us keep our clothing out of landfill. 


All three photographs illustrate how extensible any one item of clothing can be when you style them into different looks. This is an effective tool for updating core garments, keeping your wardrobe fashionable fresh all year long. Bottom line: by thrifting and repurposing, you can use extensibility to practice sustainability. 


Photo Credits: Suz McFadden


Winter Wear; Goddess Hats!

Mantra Handmade Treasures helped me stand out from the crowd at the Pivot Fashion Show at the Anne and Mark Art Party's closing night bash.  The event featured fashion designer, artists, and performers, so so I needed a little help from my friends , like a cookie can use some chocolate chips, or ice cream hot fudge.  So my daughter Morgan Levay stepped up to the plate and offered to make some of her hand knit hats for the event.


These outfits would have paled without them, but I also could have slapped blue jeans on these girls and there presence would have been just as stunning.  So if you are reading this blog, and have any winter sports activities planned for the upcoming winter season, visit her web site at and pick out a hat to make your winter appearance unforgettable!




Angora is the New Cashmere


Upcycle Sweaters into Fashionable Winter Hats

Sweaters make a great holiday gift (or gifts), but seem to be vanishing from the shelves of most ready-to-wear department stores and boutiques the rest of the year.  There are many theories for this; mine is that they are largely too warm or bulky to wear comfortably under most winter jackets, and that fabric technology has advanced enough so that today's jackets are efficient enough to do the job this garment was originally designed for.  Also, unless you live on the east coast where you need sweaters for most air conditioned events in the summer time, they take up a lot of drawer space for a garment that is not used very often.


A good solution?  Up cycle them into hats and scarves.  Other accessories such as boot socks and/or arm warmers are easily harvested from sleeves.  The point is that your entire sweater can be used and enjoyed again.