Guest post by LCF student Alice Davidson
The more I learn about the industry, the more I consider and question the ethics of the consumption and manufacture of fast fashion. Subcontracting has enabled companies to evade responsibility for the people who make clothes for them, and accountability of any environmental as a result of production processes.
This industry is something, in a society where we can now globally communicate and connect, desperately seeking our question. I hold the current #whomademyclothes campaign in high regard, as it is paving the way to a more transparent supply chain. Without the consumers driving the force, I struggle to see how to bring about change.
My professional and personal interests are in creative media, such as film, photography and directing, I have been able advance these via a BA fashion media at the London College of Fashion. Alongside my studies I have had some industry experience with several different low or no pay internships, including working in the London studio of a global high-end fashion designer for well below minimum wage. Although these experiences weren’t always positive, they gave insight to the components of the media and business industry, and importantly, how they work together.
Combining my newly acquired passion for ethics and sustainability my studies began with a promotional briefing to brand and market a new fragrance. I learned perfume bottles often cost more than the perfume itself, and developed a concept that eliminated both environmental and economical costs of fragrance packaging. Using off-cuts of leather infused in essential oils, I designed, styled and photographed minimal modern accessories, under the title NOUV-EAU. Inspiration was drawn from the olden day “glovers perfumiers” in Grasse, France. There are one or two higher end companies with fragranced jewellery; however, they didn’t seem to hold sustainability as a priority.
My latest series of work is a response to fast fashion as a global industry. HASTE (from the phrase, ‘haste makes waste’) challenges production, manufacture and consumption. I began to consider costs that aren’t factored into the prices we see advertised, such as exploitation and environmental damage. Similarly to how interning exposed me to the less glamorous reality of the industry, my hope is to bring these issues to the forefront of the audience’s mind.
Fast Fashion’s ‘micro trend’ strategy enables a constant worry of being ‘passé’. Low prices help to render these purchases ‘guilt free.’ Personalised ads, video blog ‘hauls’ and celebrity endorsements are but a few elements contributing to the industry’s exponential growth. Cheap things are often bought and never worn, bought and worn once or twice, or worn until they soon break, and then thrown away to landfill.
For HASTE, I began considering sheer quantity, and of the phrase of ‘having nothing to wear.’ I created three outfits, each made up of several of the same or similar items, for example a ‘gown’ made of thirteen pairs of blue jeans and a caped dress, with a train of tiered black and grey t-shirts stitched together, to highlight the indulgence cheap fashion has enabled consumers to have.
The environment pays the highest price for our cheap clothing. To demonstrate the pollution of water during the dyeing stages of production, I used the process of chromatography. A dress with a stroke of black ink is left hanging over a tank of water, as the water is absorbed up the fabric, colours separate and ‘dye’ the garment.
Film reels and a live art performance both play on the term ‘fast fashion’ in a literal sense, demonstrating the contrast between the past of four seasons of trends per year to the now weekly new ‘micro- trends’ we see refreshing shop windows.
The short film shows re-using clothes in real time. Poorly reproducing clothing from unwanted items, I attempt to dress the model at the top of the runway. She then paces the runway, as I hastily rework the next look.
The performance features myself alone, sewing clothing in front of an audience in real time. This piece highlights our dependence on garment labourers in ‘developing countries’ to produce clothing for our disposal. Clothing myself undressed in front of an audience, I hoped to remind consumers of the hands that worked to make their latest purchase. I cannot cut patterns, design or use a sewing machine properly. I barely know my own measurements.
Alternatives to garment factory work in ‘developing’ countries for labourers – the majority of which are women, are often far worse, but via consumption and silence we allow businesses to take advantage of this. Prices are lowered as a convenience for us at others’ expense. We can afford to buy less for a higher price.