Fab­ric of of so­ci­ety

Is our ap­petite for fast fash­ion send­ing us down a run­way to eco­log­i­cal doom? Se­nior lec­turer at AUT Univer­sity’s Fash­ion School of Art De­sign, Kim Fraser, con­sid­ers the im­pli­ca­tions of our ob­ses­sion with what’s new and what’s next.

Element - - Fashion -

Mass runs of cheap knock-offs are the name of the game. As con­sumers we have suc­cumbed to a fast fash­ion era where we revel in $10 finds that will no doubt be dis­carded be­fore the sea­son’s out be­cause we can af­ford to – and are of­fered – an up­dated ver­sion at an un­prece­dent­edly ex­pe­di­tious rate. And to com­pete in the rapid pace to mar­ket, it’s the qual­ity con­trol that is skipped out of the chain, mean­ing we are buy­ing quan­tity over qual­ity.

We con­sider lit­tle of an item’s longevity, con­tent in the no­tion that we can re­place our cheap frills just as soon as a big chain can rip off a high end line’s next col­lec­tion.

Over the last five years, we’ve be­come a fast fash­ion na­tion. The 2004 tex­tile fi­bre agree­ment be­tween China and the US pro­vided our en­try ticket into the global wardrobe of ‘Mc­fash­ion’. As Fraser notes, the ma­jor­ity of New Zealand women now buy from fast fash­ion places. We don’t need to jus­tify splurg­ing on a good qual­ity trench coat by tout­ing it as trans-sea­sonal be­cause we could buy a cheap one for ev­ery sea­son if we so de­sired.

But what be­comes of that sag­ging polyester find from the bar­gain bin that you wore a to­tal of twice?

While it’s con­firmed both cheap threads and good qual­ity cloth­ing are com­monly dumped in land­fills in the US and the UK, it’s un­clear what hap­pens to pre-loved garb here in New Zealand. No one’s ever done the maths.

Through Fraser’s re­search, she set out to dis­cover the state of our ex­ces­sive fash­ion con­sump­tion and sub­se­quent waste, then con­sid­ered how we might re­dress the is­sue.

“I tried to find that in­for­ma­tion in New Zealand and I couldn’t. The

New Zealand gov­ern­ment points you to Bri­tish stats and fig­ures,” says Fraser, who is cur­rently work­ing on quan­ti­fy­ing cloth­ing con­sump­tion and waste data in a form com­pa­ra­ble with in­ter­na­tional find­ings.

While in Bri­tain cloth­ing waste is es­ti­mated at two mil­lion tons – a mere two per cent of to­tal an­nual waste for the coun­try – it can only be as­sumed we’re in a sim­i­lar league. The way our data looks, there’s prob­a­bly not much of an is­sue here, yet, says Fraser.

“In Bri­tain, they’ve raced down the path of con­sumerism, we’re go­ing down that path and we could do it an­other way.

“The world’s got this prob­lem, if we were able to change things down here, maybe we could cre­ate a model that could be used over­seas.”

Fraser’s re­search refers to Waste On­line, which notes 50 per cent of tex­tiles con­sumed ev­ery year are re­cy­clable. With this in mind she con­sid­ered a so­lu­tion in re­work­ing our un­wanted wardrobes into new gar­ments. But trawl­ing through op-shops re­vealed the bulk of cloth­ing was a dis­heart­en­ing ar­ray of chain-store trash.

“We’ve got re­ally low qual­ity here,” she says of the 90 per cent of stock deemed un­sal­vage­able for re­use.

Go­ing for­ward, the an­swer lies in sus­tain­able de­sign, some­thing Fraser ad­mits wasn’t even con­sid­ered when she went through de­sign school.

“Most peo­ple in the in­dus­try wouldn’t know how bad cot­ton is on the en­vi­ron­ment. The Aral Sea in Uzbek­istan was the fourth largest [in the world]. It’s shrunk in 20 years to two per cent of its size [a loss the UN claims to be one if the planet’s most shock­ing dis­as­ters]. Uzbek­istan is a na­tion that grows cot­ton, and there’s a huge amount of water used to do that. For ev­ery one kilo of cot­ton, 20,000 litres of water is used to grow it.”

While she sees hope in the work of younger lo­cal de­sign­ers like Lau­rie Foon of Starfish and fore­sight in AUT’S in­tro­duc­tion of a mi­nor in sus­tain­able de­sign, the game change lies on the sewing ma­chines of the big guns roar­ing out myr­iad designs in cheap cloth.

“There is a place for fast fash­ion, but they need to con­sider the fi­bre types; if it’s only go­ing to be worn twice, make it out of re­cy­clable fi­bre.”

But while we have no hard data here there’s lit­tle in­cen­tive for those big brands to re­con­sider their ways, she says.

“It’s very hard for es­tab­lished com­pa­nies with es­tab­lished sup­ply chains to change. They aren’t con­sid­er­ing it be­cause it’s not nec­es­sary. They haven’t seen there’s a need to change. This sig­nif­i­cantly im­pacts Kiwi busi­nesses at­tempt­ing to de­velop in­no­va­tive sus­tain­able prod­uct… given this lack of ev­i­dence, an ‘in­ter­ven­tion’ in New Zealand is not even con­sid­ered.”

Over the last five years, we’ve be­come a fast fash­ion na­tion. The 2004 tex­tile fi­bre agree­ment be­tween China and the US pro­vided our en­try ticket into the global wardrobe of ‘Mc­fash­ion’

Kim Fraser and her col­league Angie Finn have been awarded an AUT Learn­ing & Teach­ing Fel­low­ship for 2012. This will al­low the pair to work on a new cross-dis­ci­plinary Sus­tain­able De­sign Mi­nor pro­gramme with ‘On­line De­liv­ery’ sched­uled for 2013.

Photo: Ted Baghurst

Kim Fraser, se­nior lec­turer, AUT Univer­sity Fash­ion

School of Art De­sign.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.