Trashion. If you’re green and fashionable, you’ve no doubt noticed it’s everywhere you look these days. And this “creative reuse” in fashion may have finally gone too far. It’s time to question, for the sake of eco fashion’s future viability, the plethora of “trash to treasure” initiatives touted as sustainable fashion genius.
It is time to do more with less, and this includes reducing our predilection for “trash to treasure” designs and stories that glorify less than marketable fashion.
The thing that concerns me as someone who also observes how trash is now utilized in eco-art and gallery installations is the message suggesting that we can increasingly find a tidy place for the trash in our lives. Creative reuse needs to move beyond the glorification of trashion and recycled art projects in order to address long term solutions for waste reduction and sustainable economic development. Our primary focus should be on managing this toxic bloom via critically important economic, environmental, and health initiatives.
For sure, timeless design has a transcendent and culturally revealing quality, particularly when it comes to the innovative reuse of materials and cast-off bits. Are we currently aiding or hindering the sustainable fashion movement if we do not make a distinction between designs that measure up as genuine fashion innovation and those that are clever, eye-catching creations that make “trashion” seem fashionable?
Junky Styling’s recycled men’s suit coats: an empowering approach
Creative reuse projects can be large or small. In the case of fashion, several bold designer initiatives have genuinely overhauled the industry’s patterns of waste and excess via the resourceful recycling of textile surplus and unsold stock. Standout labels like From Somewhere, Junky Styling, Goodone, and Reet Aus, to name a few, effectively take yesterday’s unwanted goods and artfully re-shape them into tomorrow’s covetable items. This design strategy is genuinely empowering for the fashion lover who is investing in environmentally sound and fashion-forward design.
From Somewhere‘s upcycling of Speedo’s LZR Racer designs
The recent collaboration of From Somewhere with Speedo to create a capsule collection upcycled from unsold and obsolete Speedo LZR Racer designs might seem like an odd pairing to some. However, an industrial fabric challenge like this clearly demonstrates how unwanted waste can be transformed into eco-luxe couture.
Recycling should and must be an engaging activity, particularly when it comes to labor-intensive DIY projects. Some of the most rewarding fashion moments are definitely those where something useless or outdated takes on new life with imaginative tinkering and whimsy. As Kate Black of Magnifeco recently shared with us:
“When it comes to recycling, we have obviously been doing it for years, in all cultures. Textiles that can no longer be used as garments are incorporated into household items like quilts and pillows and now it’s not just recycled textiles making the news in eco-fashion: candy wrapper handbags, pull-tab accessories are front and center, too. When recycling or upcycling in fashion falls short, though, I generally find that it is from a taste perspective, not necessarily a design perspective.”
I wholeheartedly support projects that provide fair-trade jobs to artisans who create one-of-a-kind accessories and art-objects out of dumpster and landfill pickings, so I am certainly not attacking these folks for the honest craft and handwork that they do.
Ecoist ‘Botero’ handbag crafted out of candywrappers
I do think, however, that we should exercise caution regarding what is an increasing inclination to sanitize and incorporate trash into art, fashion, and design projects for our own aesthetic amusement. Let’s not forget that this everyday refuse should not exist in the first place, at least not in the volume that we are now grappling with. We need to ensure that we do not become de-sensitized to just how out of control our garbage epidemic is. It is one thing to source from surplus textile stock, recycle trash in the waste stream, and get one’s hands dirty with some gritty DIY projects, but not at the expense of garbage becoming a part of our ongoing design lexicon, much less the focus of our attention.
Via Trendhunter: A condom hat may be great for ginning up clicks, but it’s bad for eco fashion progress.
‘Trash to treasure’ is a dangerous term, and one that might soon need to be upgraded or upcycled within the sustainable fashion glossary. Our long term efforts should continue to be focused on cradle-to-cradle design initiatives, zero-waste garment production, acknowledgment of indigenous technologies and crafts that actually aid specific regions, and sustainable economic development that improves the lives of people everywhere so that they can move beyond having to rely on garbage as a means of livelihood.
The ready-made object is a surrealist phenomenon. Fashion is about personal expression and the ability to be transported to new layers and states of being. Let’s not allow ourselves to get swept up by “quirky” design projects that demonstrate how clever we can be with Coke tabs, Barbie doll heads, condoms, or heaps of televisions and computer monitors, all in the name of recycling – but in reality only keep our movement one step further from legitimate entree into mainstream fashion or, worse, from being taken seriously by leaders in the fashion world.
‘Household goods’… deceased Estate by Claire Healey and Shaun Cordelro
This is not meant as an attack on the resourceful re-purposing of waste materials for home, fashion, and personal use. Recycling is definitely a significant part of the sustainable fashion story, but recycling without an ability to edit is doing us no good.
There is a time and a place for trashion and art of this nature, but we have a responsibility to shift away from scenes that mimic the dying “portraits of global mass culture” (a la work of photographer Chris Jordan) as we look to a greener future.
Lead image courtesy of Goodone; Household goods images via The Sydney Morning Herald.