“Most t-shirts have probably travelled more than the average person in New Zealand, but we don’t really factor that into our decisionmaking, or the cost,” says Jennifer Whitty, senior lecturer in fashion design at Massey University, academic researcher and cofounder of fashion label Space Between.
With Holly Mcquillan, Whitty has created a brand that provides a platform for social change as well as chic designs. The duo’s latest project, recycling never-worn clothes into new designs will likely be available mid-year via online pre-order. Whitty says around a third of clothes in stores are never sold and incinerated, and around a third of the clothes that are bought are never worn. A pre-order approach ensures less wastage.
Whitty travelled to London last year to give a presentation on sustainable fashion at Tate Britain in conjunction with an exhibition and research paper she was involved in at the Chelsea College of Arts. She is also a mentor for the Unschool, a New York-based fellowship programme which focuses on designs supporting sustainability.
“Currently we don’t pay the true cost for clothing,” says Whitty. “We only account for the cost of tools, buildings and labour – we don’t factor in what it costs to make a garment in terms of its impact on the environment, for example the use of renewable and nonrenewable materials or the impact on people’s health and communities.”
It’s cheaper to ship an item across the globe three times than to make it locally, according to Whitty, but she believes costs will balance out once more brands convert to sustainable practices. Until then, she says designers are responsible for educating consumers about why ethical clothes costs more.
Jennifer Whitty, cofounder of Space Between.