Could Men In Sheds - MIS - become the male equivalent of the WI, I wonder? A study coming out of Leeds Metropolitan University confirms that men coming together in sheds for conversation and to share talk and tips on hobbies, in other words interaction, has a positive effect on their well being. No longer one man in his shed but men together in sheds.
Face-to-face conversation and interaction are given elements of the WI and the sharing of knowledge of crafts, and interests and skills have added to the wellbeing of our members for 96 years so far. And nowhere was it more in evidence than last Thursday at the NFWI's Little Black Dress sustainable fashion show at the London Fashion and Textile Museum. The show saw 35 WI models modelling their creations designed either by themselves or another WI member. But these were dresses with a difference.
Members chose to enter one of three categories:
• The Best New Dress, designed from scratch.
• The Best Re-made or Upcycled Dress - made using existing clothes updated, adapted or refashioned
• The Best Eco-friendly Dress - made using any material, fabric or otherwise but must be made to minimise the impact on the environment such as recycled materials, organic textiles and environmentally friendly processes.
The models were accompanied by fellow WI members and supporters, and with competition in mind, the judges were Baroness Lola Young, ambassador for the Ethical Fashion Forum and the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ethical Fashion in Parliament; journalist Lucy Siegel whose work in championing ethical fashion and exposing the truth behind the high street labels has brought the issues behind ethical fashion into focus; and Marylyn Haines-Evans, NFWI Public Affairs Committee Chair. The competition was the culmination of the current stage of the WI's Fast Fashion Campaign which aims to raise awareness of the environmental and social impact of fast fashion. The modern high street is increasingly dominated by this type of fashion and like fast food; the fashion is low priced, mass produced and designed for instant gratification. However, the surge in demand for cheap disposable clothing produces a range of negative impacts for people and the planet.
The NFWI has called on retailers to be more open about where and how their clothes are made, and it wants retailers to use their influence to improve the working conditions throughout their supply chain. Every year in Britain we throw away 1.2 million tonnes of clothes but only 25% of textile waste is recycled. Most of these clothes end up in landfill contribution to the mountain of waste that our children and our children's children will have to deal with way into the future.
Now onto the dresses – they were all wonderful! Many harped back to the ethos of make-do-and-mend of years gone by, which is highly fashionable. Others chose to use camellia leaves or newspaper, not to mention stinging nettles and old tights, materials from men's suits and ties, video taps and plastic food trays. Imagination ran riots but came up with designer clothes to die for.
The whole event was a celebration of women sharing their talent and their friendship and I feel sure their well being was well and truly catered for. And don't forget, many of the craft skills used by these talented members can be learned in the WI's own college, Denman College, in Marcham, Oxfordshire.