A needle to the haystack of fast fashion

A needle to the haystack of fast fashion

by Charli Cox

In celebration of Second Hand September we sat down with one of Koha’s seamstresses Mallory Mason, who has taken a needle to over 100 of our damaged donations, giving them a second chance at being loved. From her Auckland based home, we discuss her fine arts degree, how she first started volunteering her time to Koha and some of her recommendations for lowering our environmental footprint when it comes to clothing consumption.


What made you want to donate your time to Koha?

I first learned about Koha at a camping trip in which a mutual friend had invited Charli to join. Over the weekend I got to hear more about how Koha works, her passion driving it and educating people, I was hooked. The cause and purpose of Koha really hit home for me; clothes are a basic human right for everyone. I believe that everyone should benefit from the functional aspect, as well as getting a chance to experience the joy of figuring out their own style or putting something on that makes them feel fabulous. On top of all those reasons, I have a skill that I don't use enough (sewing) and what better way to practice it than on giving preloved clothes a second chance for people in need.

You see the impact that fast-fashion has, with a large amount of barely-worn donations, some only with minor damage. In your option what’s the best thing we can do to lower our environmental footprint when it comes to our clothing consumption?

There are a few things I would recommend, which you can choose from to best suit your personal circumstances:  Take care of your clothing. Follow the recommended care instructions and if something is damaged or stained make an effort to repair or repurpose it before choosing to throw it away or donate. For example, you could dye old stained light colour clothes to black, or shorten a dress into a top. For damaged items, take the time to repair them or get to know a local seamstress/ tailor - not only will your clothes get a face lift but you get to #supportlocal.

Shop second hand. This takes patience and planning but can be really rewarding. If you know you need or want something new try to plan ahead and set yourself a goal of going to second hand stores BEFORE going into the fast fashion shops. You will likely find something that has more character and is unique in comparison to the $30 top that you will wear a handful of times before it falls apart or is too worn to keep using it.
If you do want to buy something new, try shopping for something ethically-made and constructed of natural or sustainable fibres. There are a lot of brands these days that have a focus on reducing their carbon footprint when producing clothes. Yes, sometimes this means you will pay a little more, but you will likely use it for years and years to come if well cared for. Then, when you are ready to pass it on, it can likely be loved all the same by someone new or if the item reaches the end of its life you know it will decompose or can be recycled.
How did you get into sewing, have you always fixed and repurposed your own clothing?
I have a degree in Fine Arts, majoring in Fashion Design. Becoming a seamstress was a part of my degree. I always have loved the way clothes can make you feel, how they function and how you can express yourself and personal style with them. I loved being creative with materials when I was a kid, as I got older I knew I wanted to learn how to create my own designs. I never ended up as a designer for my career but I have maintained my skills by sewing my own clothes, commission designs, or repairs for friends and family over the years.
I have thought about a potential return to the fashion industry over the years, however, thanks to Koha, I have come to learn about the problem of fast, disposable fashion and the impacts on society and the environment. I believe my time and skills are better suited to impacting the clothing and overall fashion industry in a positive way - like donating my time and skills to Koha.