Founder seeks to build local “soil to sweater” textile ecosystem

September 30, 2019

Namita Patel dreams of walking down the street in Dayton and seeing someone wearing clothing that was grown, dyed and produced locally.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, she’s hosting Dayton Fibershed Day, a day-long conference about the region’s opportunities for local growing, weaving, dying and clothing production. Namita pitched the idea two weeks ago at UpDayton Annual Summit. Dayton Fibershed Day is co-hosted by Rust Belt Fibersheld, a Cleveland-area fibershed with a 250-mile radius.

Common fabrics we wear today actually contain plastic fibers — they are fossil fuels-based, & they wash into waterways and wind up in our food. “We are literally eating our clothes,” Namita told the UpDayton Summit attendees.

There is a better way to dress, she said.

“Fibersheds present an alternative to these models — they regenerate ecosystems, create community and grow local economies,” she explains in the event description. “We can translate the gains we have made in regenerative agriculture and the local food movement to textiles by re-localizing our clothing.”

Her vision is a cooperative in Dayton — a network for farmers, dyers and artisans, growing the plants to be spun into the fibers & fabrics, growing the plants to be used for natural dyes, designing clothing from the local textiles.

“I want to walk down the street and see stuff grown here, made here — soil to sweater,” she said.

Namita first became interested in the fibershed concept while working at BE FREE Dayton, a nonprofit tackling human trafficking — while sex trafficking grabs more headlines, labor trafficking and labor conditions are also major issues in the supply chains of the products we use, she shared.

” A lot of the clothing we wear is made overseas, often in sweatshops,” Namita said. “Re-localizing our clothing allows greater transparency into the supply chain & a reconnection to the people, plants and animals that clothe us.”

There is already a strong local food movement here, so local fiber is a natural next step, she said. The Dayton region already has shepherds producing wools and farmers growing flax that can be used to make linen.

Dayton Fibershed Day will kick off at 10a at Agraria, located at 131 East Dayton-Yellow Springs Road in Yellow Springs. The full ticket costs $50, or subsidized $15 tickets are available. Register here.