This week We looked at sustainability and how this relates to textiles:

  • Sustainability and textile lifecycles
  • Approaches to sustainability
  •  Examples of practitioners working with sustainability
  • Film: The secret life of your clothes

The textile industry started to become unsustainable in the 18th century since the industrial revolution. This was due to needing to process materials faster and cheaply which mean they had to improve the technologies they were using. This was also due to the use of mordents that were harmful to the environment and the horticulture aspect of fibres. The necessity of mass production was mainly responsible for this.

The Textiles Lifecycle

Design -> Raw Materials -> Production -> Packaging & Transport -> Consumer Use -> End of Life    (Fletcher (2008) Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys)

The most damaging area within this diagram is the Consumer Use because industries have no way to monitor this area as the product is now out of their control. The reason for this, is the way that people take care of their products, i.e. washing and care, also how people dispose of their products and how often they do this.

  1. Which areas of sustainability are you interested in? I am interested in looking into the consumer use in the textile lifecycle to see how we can get people to think about how they care for their products so that they can reduce the impact that this has on the environment. I am also interested in upcycling and recycling in order to find alternatives for the end use of products once their original purpose has been fulfilled.
  2. How would you start to research this topic? I would begin by looking at what other artists and practitioners have done in order to see what ground has been covered and from there I would pick out key areas that I feel will work and find out what people do when they are finished with a product and what they then do with it.
  3. What type of approaches to sustainability appeal to you? In terms of art, the main thing that appeals o me is art that has a message and gets the viewer to engage with it and make them think. This would be through upcycling materials and changing them to make them look like something else, not just a load of rubbish that has been shoved together and called ‘Art’. 

We went on to watch a video about where our clothes go when we donate them to charity. It was quite eye opening because it is a whole other world that I did not even realise went on.

The Secret Life of Your Clothes – Ade Adepitan

This programme was amazing because it shows that the clothes that we donate are actually being sold and sent to places such as Ghana and sold to people throughout the country. This industry is a multi-million pound industry in Ghana and has massively impacted them. One of the main impacts is how the local, traditional style of dress has been pushed to one side in favour of these second hand clothes. It has impacted them because less people are buying them and having them made because they are far more expensive than the clothes that we send there. This is destroying their culture because it has impacted the manufacture of the fabrics due to lack of demand, which is causing the industry to collapse. Although this is not good for their history and culture, the other side of the coin is that the clothes that we send have provided many Ghanaians with a livelihood which they would have otherwise not had, this has enable them to feed their families and fight off poverty, especially in the more rural areas where it is harder to find jobs. It is a debate that will continue to go on, as there are so many factors that influence the right or wrong answer.

I found this video really interesting because it shows another side of the impact that our actions have, that we never knew about, and never even considered.



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