What is solarpunk, and how does it relate to what I do as a custom sewist and fashion designer?
I first learned about solarpunk from my partner, who delights in online sci-fi and fantasy fandom culture and is always stumbling upon interesting topics and points of view.
Solarpunk is defined by Solarpunk Magazine as “an artistic movement that envisions what the future might look like if humanity solved major modern challenges like climate change, and created more sustainable and balanced societies. As a genre and cultural aesthetic, it encompasses literature, visual art, fashion, video games, architecture, and more.”
All of the gloom-and-doom apocalyptic screenshots of tweets getting passed around on social media, all of the emails in my inbox that remind me every few minutes that “everything is going to shit, unless you give this nonprofit or politician $5 RIGHT NOW...” none of it eases my anxiety or makes me feel particularly inspired to create a better world.
Discovering solarpunk as a concept has been like a soothing balm on my anxiety and existential dread. We don't have to live like the end of the world is just around the corner. We don't have to just shrug and doom-scroll and throw our hands up in despair. We could actually just decide to believe that the future that we want is already beginning to unfold in small ways all around us.
Since I learned about solarpunk and started reading some of the recommended texts, I’ve been really inspired to think about how to apply these concepts and narratives to clothing and fashion.
What does it look like to obtain clothing and build our wardrobes in ways that rely less heavily on global supply chains and exploited labor? How much clothing do we really need, and what items are especially important? What if we made an effort to connect with and order from local talent, or to sew things for ourselves? How would breaking our fast fashion habits transform our relationship to trends, to personal style, to textiles?
Outlined below are my six personal commitments to weaving the values of solarpunk into Spokes & Stitches for the next six months:
- I commit to volunteering 3 hours per month of my time to sort textile waste at Fabscrap Philadelphia. My intention is to remain conscientious of textile waste and the end-of-life fate of the materials that I use. If you are local, I invite you to join me!
- I will be discerning in the fabrics that I use for each item I produce. Different projects require different kinds of materials, but I will always do my best to source organic, ethically produced, recycled, or deadstock options depending on the project.
- I am working to reduce paper waste from pattern drafting by transitioning to patternmaking in a digital format in conjunction with using a projector. I can estimate that this change in process has already cut my paper waste by about 50%!
- I commit to supporting other local businesses who are working towards waste reduction in the city of Philadelphia, and checking these vendors for what I need before relying on big box chain stores.
- I will be thoughtful and intentional with all waste generated from the Spokes & Stitches studio. All paper waste is recycled, and all textile waste is brought to Fabscrap Philadelphia to be tracked and sorted. I am very proud of the fact that I produced only 7 lbs of textile waste over the past two years. I make an effort to reuse larger scraps whenever possible, for test swatches, mock-ups, and rags.
- I am joining the Circular Philadelphia textiles working group, a coalition of volunteers working on implementing solutions to textile waste in our city. I will attend monthly meetings and lend my support toward their current initiatives!
Other aspects of my business that I see as equally important to embodying a solarpunk ethos are:
-setting an hourly rate that reflects my skill level and allows me to live comfortably
-providing educational resources to home sewists and people who want to learn how to make their own clothing and accessories
-thinking about the energy that I consume and being conscientious about turning off/unplugging appliances, machinery, and equipment when I am not using it
-serving clients of all body types and genders
-focusing on quality over quantity when it comes to the goods I produce
-building in room for future adjustments into my designs, improving longevity and versatility of the garment
I’m excited to see how these next six months unfold. I am also looking forward to connecting with other local businesses and organizations working toward similar goals of waste reduction and greater circularity of resources.