Facing down fast fashion with up-cycled clothes
Author: Billy Pringle
In an effort to curb the environmental and ethical cost of textiles manufacturing and waste, more and more people are choosing to up-cycle their clothes or buy second hand. This ‘slow fashion revolution’ encourages consumers to think about the entire life cycle of their wardrobe.
The ABC’s War on Waste series recently revealed that Australians dispose of 6 tonnes of clothing waste every 10 minutes, and according to WWF, a single cotton t-shirt can take 2,700 litres of water to produce. While awareness is growing, only 20% of clothing is recycled worldwide.
Fast fashion presents ethical concerns as well as environmental ones. The Rana Plaza collapse of 2013 remains a stark reminder of the unsafe conditions in which many of our garments are made.
As part of Melbourne Fashion Week, Kangan Institute and Red Cross are presenting a ‘Rags to Runway’ fashion show, which aims to address the real cost of fast fashion by promoting behaviour change and better practices among both consumers and producers, according to Kangan Institute fashion educator Vicki Nicola.
“This collaboration is a great example of education, sustainability and popular culture coming together to really make a difference during Melbourne Fashion Week.”
The show will be styled by celebrity eco-stylist Alex Van Os, featuring donated garments from Red Cross Shops that have been up-cycled and redesigned by Kangan Institute’s fashion students.
DIY fashion is another increasingly popular way to dress sustainably while staying on trend. Sydney based content creator Annika Victoria started a thrifted and vintage fashion blog in 2011, and a YouTube channel in 2014 that showcased thrifted outfits, sewing tutorials and her Make Thrift Buy series, in which followers challenge her to make affordable, sustainable versions of popular garments from second hand and upcycled materials.
“A huge amount of the clothes that we wear are made in awful conditions because of the demand for clothing to be both always on trend and cheap at the same time.”
“Fashion isn’t worth people dying over, yet millions of people are exploited for cheap labour at almost every stage of the manufacturing process.”
What started as a hobby for Annika has turned into a full-time job that combines her love of fashion with a talent for teaching.
“I also aim to show people that shopping second hand is both fun and does a lot of good for the world.”
For parents, keeping up with the rate that children outgrow their old clothes can make sustainable fashion a challenge. Vigga Svensson is the founder of a Danish company that rents out second hand baby and toddler clothes to parents, ensuring the longest possible life-cycle for the products and reducing the amount of textiles that end up in landfill. While the service is currently not available in Australia, the company is working towards an international rollout.
As the slow fashion movement gathers pace, more clever and fun ways are emerging to rethink our approaches and make our wardrobe a whole lot greener.
- Visit local second hand, vintage and op-shops to try and avoid buying first hand
- If your old clothes are still in good condition, donate them to a local op-shop or charity rather than throwing them in the bin
- Host a Swap Party, or keep an eye out for public Swap Parties during National Recycling Week
- If you have the skills and time, repair your clothes
- If you are planning on buying new, try and research the manufacturer and, where possible, support ethical and sustainable producers
- If you’re in Melbourne, check out the ‘Rags To Runway’ show, 50% of ticket prices go to Red Cross
When: Wednesday 6 September 2017
Where: 524 Flinders St, Melbourne Victoria, 3000
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