‘ My Fat Wardrobe, human and Earth ’
issue #8 Pigeons and Peacocks, London Fashion, magazine
I started to do an audit of 21 of my UAL friends’ clothes together in their wardrobes for my Master’s project. 298 is the number of clothes in my wardrobe. It includes jackets, trousers, skirts, shoes, bags and accessories. Some might be surprised how I have this many clothes. However, I was not extremely surprised and indeed was inwardly relieved. Because the numbers ranged from as high as 470 to 68 so far and the average was between 200-300. My number is comparatively average. Moreover, presumably my wardrobe has remarkably been slim as compared to 1,000 units clothes, which I owned until a few years ago. So now is not the first time I embarked on a wardrobe diet. I have become a serial wardrobe dieter.
As a teenager, I dreamt of grasping visionary fashion while analysing each issue of Vogue for three hours at a time. When the new season collection was released, I felt impelled to join the ‘New season trend’ and buy new items, or a similar. When I worked in a fashion advertising agency, we were not allowed time to reflect who the consumers really were and what the aim is for adverts which we created because we competitively needed to produce strong and provocative new adverts to generate more consumption. I was just striving to encourage others to consume and couldn’t think beyond the advertisement brief. So, the depth of my life was confined to the layout of the Photoshop editing tool.
Next, when I operated my own fashion online business, consumption was always with me. My home, office and car were overflowing with clothes. My conspicuous consumption was necessary and beneficial for my company to thrive, because of the fashion consumption system.
Firstly, I needed to understand the latest market trend which helped me to produce relevant items. Secondly, the company emptied my customers’ pockets, and then, returned to me as capital. Lastly, I received the capital then sacrificed it by consuming fast or luxurious fashion which is economic black holes. Thus, I worked hard and bought hard to be the ‘tool’ of desire for making my supersize wardrobe. I never pictured what the origin of my clothes was or by whom or how they were made, nor how they affected the people and the earth while they came to my wardrobe. So, it was in 2011 that my own doubt and questioning about my wardrobe lead me to discover sustainable fashion. The term of sustainability was not at that time as common as it is now. It was not that I understood the concept of sustainability through the word. I saw the big picture, for instance, a structure such as capitalism and other socio-political systems. I started to understand the contents of my wardrobe at a deeper level beyond, its appearance. Consequently, I encountered the sad fact that my fashion consumption contributed a lot to the carnivorous fashion system in the dark ecology.
The sad fashion facts have two aspects: Human and Earth. The first issue is about an inhumane aspect of the fashion industry. The pyramid structure of society which is composed of the ruling, exploiting and exclusion class in capitalism is also present in the fashion industry. Let’s start from the bottom. There are millions of animals which are over-used to be fashion items. I very quickly skipped through passages of the video of “How crocodiles die for $150,000 Hermes Birkin bags?” which was recently released on the Internet. I could not watch the whole video after watching the versions about mink, angora and so on. The awareness and sympathy towards animal cruelty have resulted in minor changes in the industry. However, a fashion industry still loves to call luxury leather items a ‘classic,' probably except only Stella McCartney.
Next fashion labourers, who might be called modern enslaved people, work in sweatshops in the developing world has received more public attention after the Rana Plaza disaster. Fortunately, the victim’s families will be compensated, ”The Rana Plaza Coordination Committee are delighted to announce that the $30million target required in the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund has been met, following a large anonymous donation received in the last few days”. Clean Clothes Campaign force specific fashion brands which were connected with the accident to compensate the victims. Furthermore, ”The True Cost” which is a fashion film that tries to tell us the accident’s back story, the hidden story of the price of fashion and warns us about our fast fashion addiction today. One day, I searched “Fashion labours” on YouTube. All of these titles appeared “Would You Still Buy That Dress After Watching This?”, “Child Labour: 11-year-old Halima sews clothing for Hanes,” “Child labour-Out of Fashion," “Stop Child Labour” under “Chanel Haute Couture Show”. Fashion Revolution, one of the well-known sustainable fashion organisations, has asked us the question, “Who made your clothes?” I looked at the photographs of the people who responded with their own photographs and the slogan, “I made your clothes”. I felt sorry for them and speechless because of the complexity of the situation, ”In Bangladesh, the garment industry makes up about 70% of the economy. If they stop mass production, their economy will probably collapse.” Yes, it is not that simple and not only the fashion industry’s problem but it is also connected with the government. It clearly needs governance and an international agreement to stop this fashion theatre of cruelty today.
The second issue is the wellbeing of the Earth, ”Second to oil, fashion and textiles are the most polluting industries in the world. Every stage in a garment’s life threatens our planet and its resources. It can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of cotton, equivalent to a single t-shirt and pair of jeans. Up to 8,000 different chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothes, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes.” According to Greenpeace’s report in 2014, hazardous chemicals were found in many global fashion brands, including Adidas and Primark and they say that toxic little monsters are in our wardrobes. Moreover, the chemicals could affect wildlife and contaminate our bodies through air and water, too. Undoubtedly, these chemicals in fashion manufacturing result in water pollution that has stolen a small amount of clean water from the poorest people who live in such distant and secluded areas around the world. Consequently, the fashion industry has become the most brutal polluter. What is next? The thing left for us is a giant landfill. ”Twenty-million tonnes of textile waste, originating from industry and consumers, is thought to be generated every year in Mainland China. And an average of 296 tonnes of textiles was estimated to enter Hong Kong’s landfills every day in 2012, according to Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department.” Sometimes I think about where my clothes, which were discarded by me five or ten years ago, are today.
Nevertheless, we should applaud some high-end and fast fashion brand’s sustainability policies and announcements of a transparency in terms of many other brands’ ignorance these days. However, when I saw the H & M conscious collection at the flagship store at Oxford Street, I found myself asking the question, “Can I contribute to making fashion sustainable if I buy their conscious collection?” I was rather dubious and cynical about the whole “green wash and corporate environmental tokenism which might offer them insurance.” There is no doubt that the main problem is “Mass production.” I believe that if they would cut down their stockists, then I would be unsparing of my praise to them, but they seem like a child saying, “Look at me, am I not sustainable?”
When I planned “X. MY WARDROBE X," my priority was to eliminate the boredom which I’ve felt through the existing sustainable fashion mediums. Everyone knows that “Green” or “Ethical” are well intended. However, most protests may trap as a good intention somehow and one dimensional and old-fashioned. Today people prefer to press “Like” in support of a campaign as well as taking part in a protest. I cannot stop questioning the effectiveness of current sustainable messages. Thus, my first consideration was about “Fun” and “Humour” to maximise its expandability. A sincere design must be for a user, not for a designer. Satire is a literary device used to create change through the use of sarcasm, humour and ridicule, it is powerful and catalyses creativity and a higher form of users’ thought. As a result, I intentionally designed a new creative way to rationally reframe a formulaic definition of sustainability.
Furthermore, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” Undoubtedly, the ideas of fashion people dominate a fashion industry. So, we need a customised movement by fashion people. Thus, for those who work in the industry, a change of awareness is the priority for designing a collective intelligence of sustainable fashion. As a result, I vigorously designed a new creative way to cultivate sustainability to the young generation who will alter the future of fashion. Through the action, “Counting Clothes," the participants confront their wardrobe history. Next, the “Wardrobe Diet” is an alternative fashion consumption model which encourages the participants to be more selective and conscious about what they own and consume. I also will design a fashion consumption manual to reform people’s self-awareness about their own consumption. Moreover, the industry forces us to over consume even though we are enough and we have enough. So, I want to emphasise to them the messages, “ You are enough,” “You are fashionable” and use the titles, “fashion Heroes” to help their resilience in this project.
My second consideration is spontaneity. 21 UAL students got involved in counting their clothes through the use of participatory design. To tell the truth, the counting clothes action is historically an unprecedented fashion experiment. It is exhaustively private and radical. The moment when a participant counts his clothes he becomes a performer. I put a non-judgmental attitude first. I tried to sympathise when the students expressed their guilt while they counted their clothes. I sincerely hoped that they would realise within themselves how many clothes they own, but how many they actually needed. Self-awareness from the action might linger in their minds and it allows their new realisation about a sustainable fashion.
The third is for designing a fashionable sustainable fashion media. One of my bad habits is that I frequently become blind in front of aesthetically challenging visuals. Fashion is a thoroughly visual language. I confess that I never stayed too long to engage the current sustainable media. Thus, X. MY WARDROBE X aims to produce high-quality visualisation. Hopefully, it will communicate with young people who are excluded from the conversation about sustainability.
A sustainable fashion came to me as “Illusion of fashion” which I couldn’t grasp in my teens. It is also my new spirit of fashion and “Creativity” which I can’t see anymore in inanimate fashion collections and show windows these days. The topic is simply complicated. However, let us put aside the “Complexity” so that we simply and easily can start from our wardrobes. First, I hope you would count your clothes and have the wardrobe diet. And then, let this new desire to bring out style from the inside. You, who take a conscious consumption and to be socially responsible, you deserve the title of genuine “Fashion hero”. Because, you are enough and you are fashionable.