Does the future of fashion lie in recycling?
The future of fashion is a topic of much debate, and its relationship with the environment is becoming increasingly important; today, we are constantly thinking of innovative ways to recycle our waste with special systems in place for plastics, metal, paper and now, interestingly, fashion.
Commonly seen as disposable, clothes from stores like Primark might seem like a bargain at the time, but cost us all much more in the long run.
Textiles are now the UK’s fastest growing waste products, but by reusing and recycling them we can reduce the amount we send to landfills significantly while giving unwanted items a new lease of life.
Jane Francis, BA Fashion Jewellery course leader at LCF, explains: “The recycling of waste is often seen as part-solution to over consumption, yet the process itself involves the use of energy and transportation as well as good management. While many synthetic materials can be effectively recycled, many are reliant on diminishing world oil supplies. Natural materials such as cotton are significantly more difficult to reclaim and require extensive irrigation.”
In other words, recycling isn’t always the best option, but in between buying your clothes and throwing them into the recycling bin, there is another option: ‘upcycling’.
Upcycling is the latest buzz word in the fight against throw-away fashion; it looks past what a garment is and sees what it has the potential to become, with a little creativity and perhaps some nifty sewing skills.
Clothing charity TRAID aims to minimise and improve the impact of clothes on the environment and explores the possibilities of working with textile waste by upcycling.
“For TRAID, the problem of clothes waste goes beyond UK landfill into the fields, factories, homes and mills where clothes are made. Embedded in every piece of wasted clothing are huge quantities of scarce natural resources like water, oil and land,” they explain.
“Clothes given to TRAID as cast offs and waste we transform into high quality stock for our charity shops. TRAIDremade makes clothes ethically in the UK [by reusing] unwanted textiles including vintage and end rolls to create every piece.”
“Embedded in every piece of wasted clothing are huge quantities of scarce natural resources like water, oil and land.” – TRAID
As part of UAL’s Green Week 2014, whose theme is waste and recycling, TRAID will be encouraging students to steer clear of shopping in high street stores and to sign the TRAID pledge.
For the next six months, the charity wants students to vow that 50 per cent of their clothing will be either from charity shops and clothes-swapping events, or be something they’ve created.
Green bins will also be dotted around colleges where students can donate their unwanted clothes and textiles
Some students at LCF have already explored the potential of up-cycling and reusing second hand goods.
Working with the Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL), second year BA Fashion Jewellery students were tasked with designing statement jewellery made of non-textile items including cassette tapes, old reading glasses, books and toys.
“The purpose of working with the college [LCF] is to draw attention to the value of unwanted items and how they can be transformed into something amazing. Although we specialise in textile recycling we also occasionally receive non-textile items and the message here is that lots of things can be recycled, so think twice before putting anything in the bin!” says Paul Ozanne, National Recycling Coordinator at Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd
Shannon Hayes took part in the upcyling challenge as part of her second year BA Fashion Jewellery course; her designs used scraps of Perspex and old colouring pencils that she laminated and moulded to created geometric shapes used in large triangular earrings and a matching pentagon ring.
“I wanted to use scrap Perspex after reading about the great Pacific garbage patch which is like a big ‘island’ that floats in the ocean made up of plastic rubbish,” Hayes told Arts London News.
“Plastic isn’t biodegradable and is a big threat to the environment, especially to the wildlife as they often mistake it for food. So I thought using the scrap Perspex would be a good way to reuse what otherwise would have been rubbish and would have also been a problem for the environment.”
Though impressed by each of the designs by the 24 students who took part in the challenge, 12 were chosen by Ozanne to exhibit their work in the fashion section of the International Recycling and Waste Management conference.
“We were really impressed by the creativity of the students, given that they were presented with a really mixed bag of materials to work with. Items that stood out in particular were the piece made from pencils and the tea strainer that had been turned into a pocket watch-style accessory. It’s amazing what they all managed to do with everyday items and we’re delighted they took on the challenge and embraced the up-cycling spirit,” says Ozanne.
With more than 6,500 clothing banks and more than 150 charity shops, SATCoL is the UK’s largest textile and clothing recycling company.
Next to the government it is one of the largest providers of social, community and welfare services in the UK, available to anyone in need.
SATCoL was created to provide jobs, benefit the environment and help fund the work of the charity, and gift-aided an impressive £22.5 million between 2010 and 2013.
“Ethical and sustainable fashion is definitely more headline grabbing than ever before and we’re really pleased to see young designers embracing its message.” Paul Ozanne
Ozanne explains: “It seems that up and coming designers are getting more and more conscious about how their clothes will be produced in the future and how they impact on the environment and communities, which is a really positive thing. Ethical and sustainable fashion is definitely more headline grabbing than ever before and we’re really pleased to see young designers embracing its message.”
The upcycled jewellery designs are currently on display at LCF’s Mare Street campus, and will remain on show throughout Green Week from February 10-14.