How can waste in the fashion design process be reduced?

The three R’s in fashion: How can waste in the fashion design process be reduced? A student group tries to find the answer

Fashion is about storytelling through clothing and, when done responsibly, it becomes sustainable. Simply put, this is the use of environment-friendly practices in designing, manufacturing, distributing, and consuming clothing.

Over the years, the fashion industry has exceeded its production. The time for which a piece of clothing is worn before being thrown away has fallen by 40%. The discarded clothing is either burned or dumped in landfills. Of what gets collected for recycling, around 12% will end up being made into insulation or cleaning cloth, or shredded and used to stuff mattresses. Less than 1% will be used to make new clothing.

The Changing Room: a symbol of what can be done with waste. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Even as the pandemic came into the picture in 2020, this dire situation has raised pertinent questions about our priorities and what we choose as fashion designers of the future. On our college foundation day, we decided showcase our responsible creativity. ‘The Changing Room’, as we named the 25ft garment installation, tries to pose the topical question of need vs. want. We conceptualised, designed and creating the huge garment with industry waste, while following the principles of environment-friendly fashion.

Our team also included the entire fifth semester batch of B.Des Fashion. We started by collecting garment waste from the fashion designing lab. The idea came from our mentor, Archana Surana, and took shape from the question of how the waste introduced specifically in the fashion education design process, in the form of patterns and test fits, can be better dealt with.

Recycling to create new

Test fits accumulated over time were retrieved, the garments segregated, and piles of muslin brought in from the storeroom to contribute usefully to our creativity. From blouses to trousers, shirts, tops and skirts, all the test fits were used to give shape to the bodice.

The placement of the clothing waste was like putting a puzzle together, using the process to define the flow of the garment. What we liked the most was how the skirt was used to span the torso giving it an old retro-Western style. After positioning the back and front of the installation, we sat down to sew the garment. The Interior Design students also helped realise a proportionate wooden structure, along with the hanging cables and chains to bear the weight when we hung the finished work.

‘The Changing Room’ was hung from one corner of the highest point of the college building’s front façade for two weeks so that the world could see how creativity comes out of waste. Clearly, the use of clothing waste helps reduce dependency on natural resources and also minimises the risks of fashion ending up in the dump. In these times of conscious consumerism, a responsible way of functioning, combined with designing creativity, can help us have a new purpose to work towards a more sustainable fashion future.

The writers are students of Fashion Design at Arch College of Design and Business

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