A reflection on the connection between humans and nature by Jon Moy
To trace the story of cotton is to trace the Anthropocene. In cotton, we can see the heights of human ingenuity and the depths of our cruelty. Cotton has been cultivated, modified, and pampered at all costs. Empires built upon slavery and inexplicaple inhumanity lived in service to a plant. Civilization has been engendered in the cotton boll.
To grow, process, and eventually create garments and objects from cotton is nothing new. The seed itself is hundreds if not thousands of years old. The cotton used for this collection is an ancient native cultivar grown in India. Perfectly acclimatized to the region, it requires neither pesticide nor fertilizer inputs and relies solely on rainwater for irrigation. The textile traditions relied upon to create these garments developed alongside this special cotton, creating a symbiotic network of farmers, weavers, transporters, and consumers that endures today.
"The master growers and artisans responsible for this spectacular process should not only be able to sustain their lifestyles, but actively improve them through the fruits of their labor."
Focusing on sustainable growing and manufacturing processes is nothing new. Using scrap fabric to create beautiful patchwork clothing is downright ancient. But ensuring that the human beings behind these ancient traditions and wearable works of art are enriched and their lives made better, just as the soil and environments they live and work in are through their farming practices, is a relatively new concept in the fashion industry. Sustainability cannot solely focus on carbon sequestering or the elimination of petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides. To do so would be to deny the very humanity that undergirds our love of this fabric. The master growers and artisans responsible for this spectacular process – of turning the seed dispersion mechanism of a plant into clothing – should not only be able to sustain their lifestyles, but actively improve them through the fruits of their labor. Rethinking a process as fundamental as making clothes requires a reimagining and recontextualizing of agriculture itself.
This collaboration between Stòffa and 11.11/eleven eleven is not only a production of beautiful garments, but a combination of two different but overlapping philosophies into a collection that embodies the literal and figurative patchworking that must be done to connect seed to stitch in an ethically and environmentally sound manner. It shows that a garment can be imbued with the spirit and culture of those who made it. Quite literally, a bolt of patchwork fabric is the summation of this cultural quilting of agricultural and textile traditions and our own design sensibilities.
The goal is to not only honor the cultures and skills that create the items that sit before you, but to re-personalize the consumer good. To remind us all that humans are responsible for breeding and raising the seeds of the plant whose cellulose fibers we wear. That humans have to manage the soil and learn the patterns of nature; to operate the looms and work the needles that take a fluff or organic material and turn it into a functional, beautiful object. This knowledge and these techniques do not exist in a noumenal space, but rather, are the direct products of human experience, knowledge, and culture. When we marvel at the intricacies of a stitch, or the unique hand of a particular garment, we are marveling at a human being’s handiwork, at millenia of knowledge and its immutable connection with the cycles of nature.
Jon Moy is a freelance writer based in Detroit. Alongside his passion for fashion and fabrics, he’s a lifelong gardener and recently completed a master gardening course. An enduring interest in natural fibers and dyes has led to his fascination with the agricultural processes that underlie the production of these beautiful fabrics.