I have no time.
I’m so stressed.
Life is going too fast.
These are familiar complaints, but there is an antidote to this manic modern way of life. The Slow Movement since 1986 has been making a case for a re-evaluation of the hectic pace of modern, western life; to slow down, regain connection to community, family, place, food and clothing.
‘We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods’…
So states Carlo Petrini in ‘Slow Food: The Case for Taste’, in 2001. Petrini started the Slow Movement to protest (unsuccessfully) against the opening of McDonald’s on the Spanish Steps in Rome. He was intent on showing people that we are losing our heritage, in his case, the proud Italian heritage of good food, grown ethically and consumed with awareness.
What we wear is also becoming a problem. Australians purchase more clothes per year than ever before, but we discard them at a growing rate too. The latest statistics show that in 2009-10, 501,000 tonnes of leather and textiles went to landfill. Clothing uses more synthetic fabrics derived from petroleum products too. Recently, scientists have discovered that these fabrics shed minute micro-plastic particles which make their way into the food chain possibly ending up on our plates. Not everyone can make their clothes, but we can all make conscious choices about what we wear.
Talking to a group of friends recently who love textiles, I asked them why making things was important to them. Each of them said that hand making items, whether sewing, knitting, crocheting, or re-using and re-purposing old clothes into new, made them feel relaxed, connected them to the item being made and gave them a sense of satisfaction.
‘Making things makes me slow down…it’s meditative and quiet’.
Parents and grandparents passed on their skills to these ladies. One lady sewed tiny dolls clothes from scraps her mother gave her. Another spent a lot of time with her grandmother who showed her how to sew. This connection with previous generations and the handing down of skills is also at risk of disappearing.
Although my friends didn’t know of the Slow Movement, they recognized they were participating in its ethos. By caring where their clothing came from, reducing waste by re-using and re-making things, using natural fabrics rather than synthetic and valuing the meditative process of stitching, of being ‘in the moment,’ totally focused on the task at hand.
It is possible to say no, to the fast paced world we find ourselves in today. By caring about what we eat, wear, and what we discard, we can feel more in control and be able to slow the world down to a more livable pace. To be content with less, but richer in connectedness to the world we live in and the choices we make.
Honoré, C., In Praise of Slowness, (HarperSanFrancisco, 2004)
Petrini, C., translated by William McCuaig. foreword by Alice Waters. ‘Slow Food: The Case for Taste, (New York, Columbia University Press, 2001)
Milburn, J., Slow Food and Slow Clothing TEDxQUT talk on April 8, 2017.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4655.0.55.002 – Information Paper: Towards the Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts, 2013
 Tina Whiteley, interviewed, 8th April, 2017