In the mid-1990’s globalisation brought on a decline of the textile industry in Northern California. Most of the spinning mills and knitting machinery had gone obsolete due to processes being outsourced to countries like Southeast Asia and South America. Despite the region’s crops rich in high quality cotton and its 70,000 lbs of wool going to waste each year, fashion businesses sought other means for their textiles to meet higher economies of scale.
With a goal to illuminate that regionally grown fibres, natural dyes and local talent was still affluent in Northern California, Rebecca Burgess sparked a movement in 2010 that would help rebuild local textile business consciously by connecting farmers and artisans within a specific bio-region called Fibershed.
She began by embarking on a year-long commitment to wearing a wardrobe whose dyes, fibres and manufacture were all sourced no further than a 150-mile radius of her own Mill Valley home.
Since then, she has worked with pioneers such as Sally Fox and her naturally coloured cotton, and designers like Myrrhia Resneck of Myrrhia Fine Knitwear in enhancing the textile industry of Northern California.
Rebecca’s ‘Fibershed’ prototype has now inspired 15 similar projects in different parts of the world.
SOURCE speaks with Rebecca Burgess about how a ‘Fibreshed’ supply chain works, what the challenges and opportunities are in localised, regional farming and manufacturing, and advice for designers looking to source local materials.
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