We’re all huge fans of artist Saima Kaur’s work. Her beautiful illustrations and embroidery pieces inspired by Indian folk embroidery are so full of colour and character, with a deep respectfulness towards materials and the slow process of hand stitching. Through her work, Saima shares thoughts which are sometimes personal (life as a parent to a severely autistic child, dealing with life in lockdown) and sometimes global in their outlook (elephants dying in Botswana, the fast fashion industry), combining humour and sadness and all the beautiful complexities of life. Check out her work on Instagram and we challenge you to spend less than 30 minutes there, drinking it all in – we’ve never managed it yet.
When Saima told us she had taken on a personal fashion fast, pledging to love and make more use of her existing wardrobe by mending and upcycling, we had to hear more. So we’re delighted to share this guest blog with you. Read on to find our more about Saima’s fashion fast, and how you can join in! Including a creative challege LIVE with Saima this month and a link to buy some of her stunning embroidery templates!
Over to you Saima!
In May 2019 I decided to go on a ‘clothes diet’. I challenged myself not to buy any clothes, old or new, until January 2020. I did however allow myself the luxury to cut, print, paint, embroider or change existing clothes.
Perhaps May isn’t an obvious time to start a ‘diet’, but it was a culmination of fragments of information about the fast fashion industry that finally came together. I had watched the rise of fast fashion with growing sadness and anger. The anger wasn’t with the consumer, but with an industry that perpetuates a never ending cycle of greed for more and more and more and more fashion, covertly convincing people that enough is never ever enough and somehow, they are never enough.
My fashion fast wasn’t just an emotional response. It was also informed by news of thousands of suicides by debt ridden cotton farmers in India, the rise of unaffordable patented cotton seeds, the increased use of environmentally damaging pesticides and the ever declining water tables throughout the world.
And then there was the Rana Plaza incident. I remember watching a documentary about young garment workers in Bangladesh. One said something on the lines of, “we always wonder how beautiful the people who wear these clothes must be…we always wonder why they need so many clothes” she laughed. Something about that sentiment broke my heart. I wondered what she would think if she knew that according to reports, nearly 30% of clothes in UK wardrobes never get worn. What would she say if she knew that in 2019, 300,000 tonnes of clothes ended up in landfill? What would she think if she knew that people rarely cared about these ‘beautiful clothes’? What would she say if she knew that we rarely even thought about the people who made our beautiful clothes? Would she still view us as ‘beautiful people’?
So, with these sentiments in mind, I started my clothes diet. A small gesture I know, but something I could control. I’m not a big shopper and usually buy from charity shops, so assumed that it would be an easy experiment.
The first thing I did was go through my wardrobe and gave away all the clothes I rarely wore. This included items that no longer fit, had no sentimental value or brought me no joy.
The second was to fix all the clothes I love but rarely wore because they are either too long, plain or just had strategically missing buttons. It was genuinely amazing how tiny fixes like shortening a hem or replacing a button could make things wearable again.
The third was to print, paint and embroider some clothes. This was perhaps the most fun element of the experiment.
And the final thing was to experiment with my styling. I had to think a LOT harder about how I could combine different items of clothing to make new outfits for the changing seasons.
So, what did I learn from this fashion fast? Well, I learnt that there’s just no point buying ill fitting, poorly made and worn out clothes in the first place. These clothes will rarely look good no matter how magical your upcycling skills. I sadly also discovered just how shabby I could look and how seasonal changes made me desperately want to buy new clothes.
This experiment also engendered a new appreciation for the resources, skills and creativity that are required to create our clothes. It made me fall in love with some of my items and truly enjoy the way they moved and made me feel.
It made me never want to buy cheap, thoughtless items of clothing again because they simply never bring joy. Above everything, it made me stop and think about my clothes in their wider global, social and environmental context.
I am now embarking on another three month clothes diet. Unfortunately, all I am thinking about are the gorgeous new colour pallets coming out in spring, but I’m sure that craving will pass…
If you would like to join me on a clothes diet for a month then please do! You’ll find here a few design ideas that you can adapt to paint or embroider onto your old clothes and make the experience a lot more fun. Please do contact me if you have any questions or queries.
Good luck and thanks for reading.
Thank you so much Saima!
So what do you think everybody? Could you do a Fashion Fast? You could commit to one month, join Saima’s three month fast, or even try nothing new for the whole year of 2021? Alternatively, how about joining Labour Behind the Label’s Six Items Challenge, starting on 17th Feb – this is a sponsored challenge to wear only six items of clothing for six weeks, with all funds going towards LBL’s work to support garment workers.
Also, get excited because on Weds 17th Feb at 6pm Saima will be joining us for a stitch-along and Q&A.
Join us via Instagram at 6pm, when we’ll be sharing a video message from Saima telling us more about her amazing work, sharing upcycling inspiration and giving you some tips on using her templates to add beautiful embroideries to your clothes.
She’ll also be there to answer any questions or comments you have in the comments.
Bring along a non-stretch item of clothing and we’ll stitch together.
We cannot WAIT!
Buy Saima’s embroidery templates. There are three different collections of designs; Flowers, Figures or Folk Motifs, at £2 each. After purchase you’ll be sent a link to a downloadable pdf to print at home, or you can trace them straight from your tablet.
If you need some of Saima’s art in your life, you can buy all sorts of beautiful prints, cards and embroidery pieces from her online shop.
Stitched Up x