Slow Fashion Made From Deadstock Fabric,
In Cape Town, South Africa.

Eat Dessert First is for my love of food and sharing my favorites with you.

Hi, I’m Lillie. Previously a magazine editor, I became a full-time mother and freelance writer in 2017. I spend most of my time with my kids and husband over at The Brown Bear Family.

First and foremost, we believe in the importance of brand accountability. Although it may seem to be a simple question, by asking where our clothes come from, we can hold businesses to higher ethical standards and continue building a community of care and support for workers the world over. This is a particularly important question to ask in South Africa. Our violent and unjust Apartheid history still affects workers in our country every single day, including the thousands of garment workers who are predominantly black women. It is critical to us at Studio Candor to set an example to other businesses when it comes to workers’ rights. Our production team, composed of BIPOC women, and others productions teams alike have been taken advantage of time and time again by big corporations who shamelessly exploit the skills and energy of garment workers. We want these women to work without fear, to enjoy their craft and to be respected by all. We want to go against the grain and prove that a successful business model does not have to be built on the dehumanisation of its workers. I remember the first time I met these incredible women: In the heart of Woodstock, constantly defying the steady gentrification of the area by wealthy white property developers, Sabrina and her family have been making garments for over two decades. As I walk up the dimly lit stairwell, I smell the delicious aroma of frying samosas as our designer leads me to the production room. Our designer has been working with Sabrina and her team for over two years now and the greeting I receive is a warm and welcoming one – “We have heard so much about you!”, Sabrina joyfully exclaims, while laying out fabric across a large table. We are lucky that Sabrina and her team share our passion for upcycling – every leftover scrap of material is put aside and saved for us to turn into something beautiful for our customers. As for the pieces that we are unable to reuse, they are set aside for a passionate local artisan known as Lappies who makes a living by selling his wares from the Woodstock streets. After taking a moment to meet everyone, I get chatting to Sabrina, who holds a matriarchal presence in the workroom. I hang onto every word as she tells me about her start in garment production. “l worked for this lady for very long, for 20 years, I started young. Just out of school at 17. I was running the business, I had almost 50 or 60 people working for me. One day, all of a sudden, she started a new business, and we got closed down. I had just gotten married and we had just bought a house… but now we had no work. Then I thought, we have two machines at home. And that’s how we started our business,” Sabrina explains. I am taken aback by this incredible and challenging start for this thriving family business. Sabrina continues on, explaining the slow and steady effort made to build up their workroom. “That machine standing there,” she motions to where Baby sits, “l have had that machine for 25 years. When we began our own production room, we only had two machines. We started simple, making t-shirts for fashion brands. Each month, when we started getting more work, we decided to buy a new machine – we would keep a little money aside each month and pay off the payment. And there is the machine, 25 years later.” I look at the strong, sturdy machine Sabrina is pointing to and feel the utmost respect for this hard-working businesswoman. “It must have been difficult,” I respond to her, “I’m sure, especially during the times when there were not many work opportunities for black women in South Africa. That must have been tough.”” Yes!” Sabrina passionately exclaims, “We had to work hard. And everything had to be perfect. When we took garments to companies, in order to create a business relationship, nothing could be out of place. I had to be prepared and focused.” Sabrina ends off our hearty conversation by explaining how her family has been working together for over 20 years. Although times have been hard, these women have used their tenacity, passion and drive to make their business flourish. “We are family,” Sabrina tells me, “We work together, we get into arguments together, but we sort it out, and we will always love each other.” My heart is warmed as I look around at this family of strong women; you can feel the understanding, care and comfort in the room as Sabrina and her kin work together. “We love working with Studio Candor,” Baby confidently tells me as she works on her machine, “Candor is down to earth, and that is important to us. It is not always like that.” Estelle chimes in and explains to me, “We can get a feel for a person, when they want to work with us. We could tell, when Candor’s designer approached us, that this person is down-to-earth, met ‘n sagte hart.” I smile and look across the room, where our designer and Sabrina are exchanging news, chatting about the upcoming designs and laughing together. When I say my goodbyes, the team waves us off with warm smiles, and Sabrina tells me, “You must come visit again.” We leave the workroom (with our bag of carefully kept fabric offcuts) and I am filled with hope, as well as a sense of awe of our amazing team. We want to amplify the voices of the POC women we work with, who have suffered, fought and stood strong together. We need to build a culture of asking, “Who makes my clothes?” We must be cautious of blindly trusting fast fashion companies, whose workers are made invisible in the massive money-hungry mainstream fashion industry. Empathy, care and compassion should always take priority over profit. As we drive away from the Woodstock workroom, the smell of samosas and Sabrina’s warm smile, I feel happy knowing that I know exactly who makes my clothes. A family of strong women, who we can help continue their clothing production journey – but with proper compensation, communication and, most importantly, respect.

Who made my clothes?

First and foremost, we believe in the importance of brand accountability. Although it may seem to be a simple question, by asking where our clothes come from, we can hold businesses to higher ethical standards and continue building a community of care and support for workers the world over. This is a particularly important question …

Who made my clothes? Read More »

Slow Fashion June 1, 2020 UPCYCLING DEADSTOCK FABRIC It is incredibly challenging and expensive to own and run a completely sustainable and ethical clothing business in the contemporary fashion industry. The difficulty here lies in a wide-spread lack of initiative for a more natural process, when it is imperative to increase this demand. Every day, the fashion industry is insisting on faster and cheaper. Cumulatively, the fashion world is the world’s second largest polluter and creates 20% of global industrial water pollution. The world suffers immeasurably from fast-fashion’s environmental impact and this is all too easily brushed over by society and mass-media because, well, we have to get dressed, right? We are a brand that strives for absolute transparency; these articles are not meant to butter you up or greenwash your conscience away. This is simply a reminder that it is every single living person’s responsibility, on this big and beautiful planet, to stay informed about where their products are coming from. Otherwise, we can all equally consider ourselves culprits. Well, your journey with us starts here! We are hopeful that these discussions will form part of a greater educational, artistic and tangible force – something that will grow into a widely accepted and practiced movement. It is time for us to expose the reality of the past and reflect on how we can change our methods for the future, whilst pushing for more vigilance and regulation within the industry. Our mission isn’t just to strive for change, but rather to actively show that things can be done in a natural and sustainable way, without losing the creativity and expression of one’s brand. Realism is the mantra of our time – we need to face it and embrace it. One of the ways we can do this is by using deadstock fabric for garment production. Deadstock material can come from many different origins: a roll of fabric that was dyed the wrong colour, leftover material from massive fast-fashion production runs, and fabric with minor flaws. These are just a few of the ways to come across these relegated textiles. There is much speculation when it comes to the use of deadstock fabrics: some say it isn’t a sustainable option because of the way many factories purposely over-produce material in hopes of anticipating future orders. Others say that the rolls never actually make it to the trash as wasted fabric because they go into storage until buyers can be found. Quite frankly, there is a laundry list of internet trolls out there finding ways to disrespect and try to undermine people making clothing with deadstock fabrics, as if there is no consideration that, for the majority of the time, these textiles sit in abandoned warehouses, completely unused. The reality is that deadstock fabrics are special fabrics; they need someone to take the care to look at them metre by metre and take the time to cut around imperfections, as well as restore their colour. All this care and effort is far too time-consuming and exhausting for a corporate brand to work into their production. Consider this: if you have a company looking to manufacture tens of thousands of units weekly, a roll of fabric that doesn’t meet strict specifications and is less than 100 metres in length is entirely irrelevant to them – it is considered yesterday’s newspaper. The deadstock fabric that Studio Candor sources is from an old South African textile dealer who spent the heyday of his trading career sourcing fabrics from China in order to make them available to local CMT’s (Cut, Make, Trim) in the late 1980s. Cape Town has such a rich textile history and it has completely transformed and enriched our business’ story as we’ve grown. Some of the deadstock fabrics we are using could be compared to fine wines: spending decades in cellar storage until they are unearthed and appreciated, like some forgotten treasure. When it comes to Studio Candor’s garments, you can feel the high quality of the 1980’s textiles married with vintage-nuevo patterns, hand-designed by our Creative Director. We celebrate our garments as fleeting moments in time because there are only so many that can be made: we only source between 40 – 100 meters of a roll of fabric, never more, and often much less. While our material supplier has asked to remain anonymous, we wish to express our extreme gratitude to him for having taught us about the treasure-trove of deadstock fabrics that lie in Cape Town warehouses, unused and unappreciated, and furthermore for connecting us to a holistic way of breathing life back into them. In Cape Town alone there are millions of metres of fabric tossed aside and left unused because large companies are not willing to source fabrics that are not guaranteed to satisfy their gargantuan profit margin goals. The truth is that unfortunately the majority of these deadstock fabrics are synthetic. And while in the future we would love to cultivate and source our own natural fibres, these forgotten materials must still be used. 72% of all the clothing in the world is made up of synthetic fibres, and while having a completely natural-based wardrobe is a beautiful concept, it is not the reality for most of us. Now, imagine the year is 1983, you run a small industrial textile manufacturing centre and you realize that you can significantly increase yardage and decrease costs by incorporating non-natural fibres. For you, this could mean a) your dependency on the weather for rain to grow cotton has been rendered unreliable, and b) you can minimize cost and production-time as synthetic additives are cheap and often very effective in taking dyes, plus are often wrinkle-resistant, durable and stretchy. Without the knowledge of climate change, this seems like the most profitable and consumer-friendly option to use as a professional wanting to grow their business. There is no time machine that can go back and unmake these synthetic fabrics and luckily, many of these textiles still test very low on the toxicity scale. Many have presented the argument that if one continues to buy waste materials left behind by ‘fast fashion’ companies, then they will know that they can just make more of it. However, this is not the case for Studio Candor. Our material source has spent many years caring for the fabrics we use and in doing so has also tirelessly held off people trying to overturn the storage space and have all the deadstock materials tossed away. While there is still much to glean from this source and our partnership with our supplier, this stock will eventually run dry. We are proud to say that we can at least rest easy knowing that these deadstock fabrics are being used for sustainable creative projects, rather than spending the next 200 years decomposing in fashion’s graveyard.

Upcycling deadstock fabric

It is incredibly challenging and expensive to own and run a completely sustainable and ethical clothing business in the contemporary fashion industry. The difficulty here lies in a wide-spread lack of initiative for a more natural process, when it is imperative to increase this demand. Every day, the fashion industry is insisting on faster and …

Upcycling deadstock fabric Read More »

Slow Fashion June 1, 2020 HEMP: THE STAR OF SUSTAINABLE TEXTILES Hemp, also known as ‘industrial hemp’, is a textile created from the hardy natural fibres of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Now, I know what you’re thinking… isn’t that like marijuana? Here’s where a common misconception lies: hemp textiles are indeed derived from the same plant as the popular recreational drug, but they have no link whatsoever to the psychoactive properties of the parts of the plant processed for recreational use. This misconception is one of the greatest barriers to the widespread use and production of hemp-goods. Sewport explains that, “Over thousands of years, Cannabis Sativa has been bred for two distinct purposes. On the one hand, many generations of cultivators of this plant have selectively bred it to be high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other psychoactive chemical constituents called cannabinoids. On the other hand, other cultivators have consistently bred Cannabis Sativa to produce stronger and better fibres and have purposefully reduced the levels of psychoactive cannabinoids produced by their crops.” Cannabis Sativa has been popularised across the world for its intoxicating properties, but it is high time for hemp to take to the stage and for the world to turn a spotlight onto this potentially life-changing textile. Currently and unfortunately, it is illegal to grow hemp in South Africa unless the grower obtains a special license to do so. However, more countries across the globe are rethinking their preconceptions and misconceptions about the Cannabis Sativa plant, including South Africa. South African adults can now enjoy personal consumption of cannabis in the privacy of their own homes, but regulations which prohibit the sale and purchase of cannabis still remain intact. How this ruling is to be enforced remains murky but increased interest in legalisation hopefully means that the state may become more open to the wonderful possibilities in the textile industry that this crop could produce. As the South African government becomes more open to the possibilities of hemp as an environmentally friendly textile, not to mention with the added potential of great contributions to the local economy, increasingly extensive experimentation of growing the crop has been put into place. The profile of hemp fabric is an impressive one: this natural textile is extremely breathable, contains high moisture-wicking abilities, a medium stretch and a hardy thread count between 250-300(threads per square inch of fabric). On top of this, hemp also has superior insulation properties, is resistant to mildew and I-JV rays, is relatively easy to dye, less susceptible to fading than cotton and is 100% biodegradable! First produced in Asia and the Middle East millennia ago, hemp is commonly used for a variety of household textiles, as well as a plethora of different types of garments, from socks and underwear to sweatshirts and dresses. Hemp textiles are the golden child of the sustainability world, and there is good reason for this. When compared alongside other popular fabric options, hemp has always come out on top because of its high level of biodegradability and low-waste production process. The fashion industry is the second-biggest polluter in the world and an increased use of a sustainable textile like hemp could contribute greatly to the shrinking of this massive carbon footprint. First Nations communities have been using hemp as a versatile textile for thousands of years, long before the Western world grew hip to this amazing plant fibre. Archaeologists have found evidence that hemp has been grown since approximately 8,000 BC, suggesting that it may have been the first plant ever cultivated as a crop! While a widely-used plant-based fabric like cotton may be lauded for its biodegradability and dying ease, many don’t know that cotton consumes massive amounts of water, often along with various fertilisers and pesticides. 20,000 litres of water is needed to produce one kilogram of cotton – enough for only a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans! Other plant-based textiles such as linen, rayon, bamboo and soy silk all have potential as sustainable textile options. However, the majority of companies using these are forced to employ environmentally damaging techniques to produce a high-quality product. Hemp does not require irrigation, nor pesticides and even improves the quality of soil in areas it is planted. The possibilities for hemp also stretch far beyond that of the garment and textile industry – on top of natural fabrics. companies can use hemp to make paper, oil, eco-friendly plastics and building materials. Another exciting use that is currently being explored is the use of hemp for biodiesel, using the plant’s seeds, and ethanol and methanol fuel extracted from the plant’s stalk. Medium explains that “Hemp is the only alternative fuel that can run in any unmodified diesel engine, and provides a solution that is more efficient, more affordable, and most importantly, more sustainable than traditional fuel.” The only complication to hemp’s production is that the process often requires specialised machinery, but a greater push for the use of this miracle textile would result in a higher demand and therefore increased ease-of-access to the correctly processed natural fibres. As the seed of Studio Candor grows and blossoms, so does our dedication to a sustainable future filled with beautiful garments. Join us as we learn more about eco-friendly textile options and make sure that we are leaving behind a carbon footprint that shrinks with each new commitment to means of protecting our earth. Studio Candor hopes to keep pushing for South African companies (and the world over) to join the fight against climate change by setting an example as a sustainable business hell-bent on and dedicated to being as green as possible. Here’s to a continued journey of education and intention which has the potential to rock the mainstream fashion industry.

Hemp: The star of sustainable textiles

Hemp, also known as ‘industrial hemp’, is a textile created from the hardy natural fibres of the  Cannabis Sativa plant. Now, I know what you’re thinking… isn’t that like marijuana? Here’s where a common misconception lies: hemp textiles are indeed derived from the same plant as the popular recreational drug, but they have no link …

Hemp: The star of sustainable textiles Read More »

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