The Lifecycle of Clothes | FASHION AS DESIGN


Welcome back to Fashion as Design. This week we’re gonna talk about the lifecycle of garments. We’re gonna talk about how they are born,
starting with the prime materials that are used to make them. And we’re gonna talk about how they die, and
sometimes are reborn. How they get recycled, reused, re-adapted. So we’re gonna really think of a whole cradle
to cradle. You probably know this term that was coined
about 15 years ago. A cradle to cradle idea about garments. We’re gonna look first at two of the most
poignant garments to talk about this subject. One is the white T-shirt, and the other is
jeans. Following that we’re gonna talk about garments
that come back alive, that are anew every single time they get passed on to new wearers. And last but not least, we’re gonna talk about
forever. About some particular garments and accessories
that are so well made that they last for a long time. Sometimes, they get passed on from a generation
to the other. Of course, they demand a bigger investment
at the beginning but the lifecycle is extended for decades. So, there are many different objects, as we
said, in this particular week. But I think we need to talk a little bit about
jeans, because I feel that so much current experimentation, and also so much work on the side of the companies that make jeans, is going into them. And one of the things I love looking at is
the [University College London] project on the global denim. And two anthropologists, the two professors,
have looked at the ways in which denim has proliferated so very much across the globe
in the last century or so. And how it means very many different to different
people, and yet has these really universal and standard meanings also to many. And so, they use it almost like a litmus test
or a barometer of modernity across the globe in different cultural scenarios and different
geographic regions. And it’s been really fascinating to think
about jeans. Therefore, it’s one of these key discussion points in the course, and also
in our exhibition. And that’s from the anthropological standpoint. But then, there is this sustainability and
technological standpoint. So jeans are a crucial example of comfort,
of universality, of personality. And also of waste. And the good news is that companies are taking this very seriously. They’re looking for ways to use less water. They’re looking for ways to recycle. Some is experimental, some is already advanced. But the technology that goes into making the
industry more sustainable is mind boggling. One final note on jeans, when we think of
the history of jeans, they were designed for durability. Right? So when we say jeans, denim had been around
for centuries. But when we say jeans, a pair of jeans, this
was really something that was born in the 19th century when rivets were applied to different
stress points of jeans, including the crotch and the pockets. So right off the bat, jeans were designed
to last forever. But also there are some unintentional long
lasting garments that are testimonials for our “Anew” section like the plannel. The plaid flannel shirt, one of the… I said the plannel. Let’s call it a plannel. Like the plannel shirt, yeah. So when we think of the plaid flannel shirt,
I think most of us right off the bat have images of, you know, hip cool sub-cultures,
grunge in particular. But really, the plaid flannel shirt is a lens
to look at how we up-cycle clothing. So it’s interesting because we’ve been looking
at ways to make garments more sensibly. We’ve looked at ways to make them last longer,
to repair them. Now there’s this kind of new life that they
can have. And then there’s the idea of garments that
last for a long time. And, for instance, the menstruation garments
that we see today. There are so many startup companies that are
working on something that is an old concept brought back to life. Unlike other menstruation products that are
designed to be used and then discarded and have an impact on the environment. Startup companies are thinking about the ways
in which might we use underpants that can be re-washed and reused. It’s actually a fairly old idea. And that’s the interesting thing that is happening
in all forms of design these days. We tend to have so much to learn. We always did but now we recognize it. We have so much to learn from ancient cultures,
from material culture, from parts all over the world. And interestingly, today we’re gonna talk
about another topic that is as old as the world, which is the topic of death. The week is gonna be closed by the ultimate
little black dress, which is by Pia Interlandi, a designer in Melbourne, Australia, that works
with people that are terminally ill and decides with them what they want to wear when they
die. And they’re gonna talk about biodegradability,
green burial. But they also will talk about what they want
to leave behind. Do you think that’s the difference then, Paola,
actually, if we are talking about Bernard Rudofsky was thinking about with “Are Clothes
Modern?” That was right at the moment when there was
a post-war boom of consumption. And design history at that point in time is
so often talking about how we might use design, consume design and bring it into our lives. This particular conversation about life-cycle
we have in the contemporary moment, a general atmosphere or general hope that we consume
less. There’s a sort of coming realization that
we have finite resources and so we’re thinking more about how we can consume less. The devil’s advocate position in this conversation,
is that, of course, fashion is a huge business. It employs so many people globally. And many of them are actually women who are
using the money that they earn from working in the garments sector to empower themselves,
empower their families, and really, can radically change their lives. It’s really a matter of awareness. And also it’s a matter of peer pressure. And it’s a matter of just creating a culture
that normalizes more ethical behaviors. So I feel that slowly but surely, if everybody
understands that one pair of jeans versus another is a choice that has impact, then
we will, as we say, vote with our wallets. And make the world more sensible by letting
companies know what we accept and what we don’t.

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