This year may be famous for dealing out the most widespread blows of any year in recent history, but for Mia Berisha from Lily & Honey in Candelo, it’s been “one of my best years to date”.
The combination of moving to an area she loves and finding a passion for slow fashion has contributed to Mia’s love of a year others can’t wait to see the end of.
The 22-year-old moved to Candelo in late 2019 from Crescent Head in northern NSW and loves the area for its people, who, she says, show abundant awareness of the limitations of resources and who inspired her to start making her own clothes.
“Lily & Honey really began when I asked my nan to teach me how to sew a scrunchie, but being here in the Bega Valley has been a huge contributor to me starting to make clothes, being in an environment full of likeminded people,” says Mia.
She only started sewing about two years ago, but now Mia – whose middle names are Lily and Honey – often sews orders for Lily & Honey for up to six hours a day, squeezing the work around her day job as cafe manager at Mormors in Merimbula.
“People are often shocked when I tell them I make clothes and do alterations, especially older people,” she says. “It’s a bit of a party trick.”
Mia makes clothes that are “basic, bright and comfy” in sizes 6-20 and often from secondhand and vintage fabric or natural fibres such as linen. She says she can whip up a top from a design she’s practised in about 45 minutes, including all cutting, pinning, sewing and ironing.
While she never considered herself an especially fashion conscious person, Mia cares deeply about ethical fashion and ensuring her clothing choices aren’t hurting others or contributing to the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor.
“I look around big stores selling new clothes and think, ‘I don’t want to support that,'” she says. “We know where these clothes come from and at what cost they are made versus the profit that’s gained for big business.
“I don’t trust any of that so I’ll make clothes myself.”
The fashion cycle, which tells us our clothes are not good any more even when they are still in good condition, has a lot to answer for in our wasteful world, says Mia.
“The fashion cycle is about 30 years so everything does come back into fashion if you wait long enough,” she says. “Let’s just hope low-rise jeans never come back though!”
Some fashions fit with being sustainable and ethical, such as our current love of linen, which Mia says is now difficult to source due to a worldwide flax shortage.
“Flax is a very fast growing plant and every part is used to make fabric, including the roots so linen is a very sustainable option, as is hemp,” explains Mia, adding she is yet to find a good supplier of hemp.
In the future, Mia would love to work at Lily & Honey full-time and have enough stock to sell regularly at local markets.
“My dream is definitely to sew all day, every day,” she laughs.