Research Documents

Issue

  1. https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/video/activism-sweatshop-fast-fashion-improving-the-life-of-a-bangladeshi-garment-worker-activist-kalpona-akter
    1. Bangladeshi garment worker gives a talk about the unethical standards in working for a fast fashion garment factory. She was only paid around $6 a month and was physically abused by her supervisor.
  2. https://books.google.com/books?id=-31aDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=fast+fashion&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiAj9uhsLrgAhWKxFkKHdIjCCMQ6AEINDAC#v=onepage&q=fast%20fashion&f=false
    1. An online M-commerce app designed to provide brands the opportunity to foster their sustainable image. Bringing sustainable fashion brands to the attention of customers who are not accustomed to it or would not usually seek it.
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/fashion/luxury-brands-focusing-on-a-sustainable-future.html
    1. Luxury fashion brands headed towards a more sustainable future and possibly creating a universal logo to put on all garments that have been ethically made. Not only fashion being sustainable, but also jewelry as well.
  4. https://nypl.kanopy.com/video/responsible-corporations-primark-rbs-drugs-industry
    1. Short film about the fast fashion brand “Primark” and exposing the poor conditions of the garment workers. In response to the protests, Primark tries to fix their ethics.
  5. http://www.organicclothingalliance.com/Toxic-Chemicals-in-Fast-Fashion.html
    1. A thorough list of toxic chemicals used to treat clothing. Some cause health implications and birth defects to those who handle them

 

Idea

  1. https://ethical-hedonist.com/2018/09/05/five-sustainable-fashion-fabrics-of-the-future/
    1. “Econyl is a form of nylon that is made entirely from waste products. It is made from a range of post-consumer waste including abandoned fishing nets, carpets and rigid textiles and aims to be a green alternative to the original product which is made from a derivative of oil.”
  2. https://fashionunited.uk/news/business/10-sustainable-textile-innovations-everyone-should-know/2018090738711
    1. “Hemp fabrics kill bacteria, making them naturally anti-microbial, have the best heat capacity ratio compared to all other fibres, merge easily with dyes and do not discolour easily. Extremely versatile and keep the wearer of nettle clothing cool in the summer and warm in winter.”
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_Zyds7gZ9o
    1. Lab grown textiles using non-toxic chemicals for a more eco-friendly approach. This lab company also create bio-leather and spider silk.
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2DA0Xqtttg
    1. Tech company creates a textile dyeing machine that uses CO2 instead of water. Cuts down on water waste because not a single drop of water is used. Instead, liquid CO2 is used to dye the fabric
  5. https://books.google.com/books?id=Ik6kAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=sustainable+fabrics&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwh8GNvbrgAhVErlkKHd-1AlYQ6AEINDAC#v=onepage&q=sustainable%20fabrics&f=false
    1. Rainfed cotton offers an alternative to diverted and irrigated water supplies. However, this type of cotton often tends to produce irregular fiber qualities. 

 

 

Intervention

http://www.organicclothingalliance.com/Toxic-Chemicals-in-Fast-Fashion.html

This is an extensive list of toxic chemicals used to treat fabric. It also explains the hazardous effects that it imposes on those who wear it. The process of treating fabrics is done with most textiles that are not labeled as sustainable. Chemicals such as benzene and carbon disulphide are used in the production of making different types of synthetic fabrics can cause side effects including aplastic anemia, acute leukemia, bone marrow cancer, convulsions, and respiratory paralysis. This are a small percentage of the common chemicals used to treat textiles. It is reported that “over ten commonly and widely used chemicals in clothing affect fertility and reproduction in humans.” It is also noted that “one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer” in correlation to exposure.  

 

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/video/activism-sweatshop-fast-fashion-improving-the-life-of-a-bangladeshi-garment-worker-activist-kalpona-akter

This article and talk discusses the unethical treatment of the garment workers in Bangladesh, the second largest apparel producer in the world after China. This is a problem because the garment workers, who are young women, are abused physically and mentally. They are forced to handle these dangerous chemicals, as previously discussed in my first resource, and their wages are criminally low for the hours/work that they put in.

 

https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/CBD-Fiber-Selection-FS.pdf

This is an examination of how natural fibers and synthetic fibers compare in their environmental impact. Neither is better than the other. Actually, the best option would be to use recycled fibers. In the table on the last page, it shows common synthetic and natural fibers used in clothing and their impact on the environment. For example, although organic cotton may sound ethical, it causes a large amount of pollution loading from the dyeing process.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/02/fashion/luxury-brands-focusing-on-a-sustainable-future.html

This article discusses luxury fashion brands taking a new direction in having a sustainable future. They discuss possible coming up with a universal label to identify clothing that was ethically made. This would be an interesting approach to also include in non-luxury brands, so that consumers who are not aware of the implications associated with the fast fashion industry are exposed to it and can learn more about it.

 

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-04-03/fashion-environmental-impact-of-your-favourite-textiles/9382382

This article is a broader scope about different textiles used in the fashion industry and how they impact the environment. It reflects on the fabrics used in the fast fashion industry as well as other conventional fabrics used throughout the fashion industry. The article discusses why certain fibers such as synthetics, wool, cotton and linen negatively impact the environment.

 

https://www.newsweek.com/2016/09/09/old-clothes-fashion-waste-crisis-494824.html

This article discusses the expendable mindset associated with fast fashion and how toxic that is for the environment. It explains how we are on the brink of collapse due to our cheaply made clothing and how if we continue this cycle, our environment will face detrimental effects. Things such as the increase of the amount of textiles being produced and harsh chemicals used to treat them examined in this article.

 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-environments-new-clothes-biodegradable-textiles-grown-from-live-organisms/

I found this article to be interesting because it depicts designers experimenting with biodegradable textiles grown within live organisms. By using alga-based fabric, designers can use other plant-based dyes to create a new aesthetically pleasing piece.

 

Idea

For my invention, I am thinking of creating a garment or a textile that is recycled from either paper or plastics. I thought of this idea because when researching the topic of fast fashion, many of the resources I read mentioned the water pollution that is associated with the textiles used. Both the process of treating/dyeing the fabric while the garment is being made and the washing of the garment from the consumer contributes to the pollution of the water supply. In order to combat this, I want to create a textile or a garment that reduced this problem.

 

I am debating on whether to experiment with using recycled materials, such as plastics and paper or find natural fibers to create an ethical textile that does not pollute the water supply when washed. In terms of already existing inventions like this, there have been textiles made from clear plastics, but the chemicals used to remove the stickers from the bottle is very dangerous. I want to create a process that eliminates these chemicals in order to create a recycled fiber that can be made into fabric. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyF9MxlcItw

 

My idea is an adaptation from an already existing idea, but I want to refine this process to make it even more sustainable and effective. If I were to make a garment out of recycled plastics and/or paper, then the object wouldn’t necessarily be a ready-to-wear piece but a wearable piece of art. If I were to do this, I would want to take the ideas that I took note of at the Cooper Hewitt museum. Many of the designs and inventions that I enjoyed had a specific color pallete and were had a minimal graphic design approach. I could possibly dye the recycled paper with different plants/fruits and vegetables to create those colors.

 

Another idea for my object would be to take recycled scrap fabrics and sew them together to create a graphic design for a scarf or a ready-to-wear item. The idea is pre-existing, but I think I could take a different approach and make the pieces very bold and unique.  

 

  1. Clean Clothes Campaign https://cleanclothes.org/about
    1. The Clean Clothes Campaign is an organization that works to improve the hazardous working conditions for garment workers, as well as empowering them to ensure that their fundamental rights are being upheld. This organization also educates consumers about the poor conditions that garment workers are exploited to and mobilizes them to offer solidarity and support. A way that a viewer can get involved in this organization is to donate and to sign the petitions that they promote. The current petition is asking the viewer to take action on pushing H&M their commitment to their workers being paid a living wage.
  2. Textile Exchange https://textileexchange.org
    1. Textile Exchange is a nonprofit organization that works closely with all sectors of the textile supply network in order to transform the industry into one that uses sustainable fibers and textiles. As for viewer participation, the Textile Exchange offers you to become a member and donate to this organization which gives you access to industry experts, networking opportunities, one-on-one consulting, content standards, and the most comprehensive industry reports and tools in order to help you succeed as a sustainable brand.  
  3. Fair Wear https://www.fairwear.org/about/mission-vision/
    1. Fair Wear is an organization that works with garment brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and governments to transform the garment industry into one that is ethical and fair for everyone. For viewer participation, the organization offers memberships, in which brands that are looking to begin a sustainable journey can join and become apart of an influential network.
  4. Global Standardhttps://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/general-description.html  
    1. Global Organic Textile Standard is a worldwide textile processing standard for organic fibers (ecological and social standards) by certification of the whole textile supply chain. There is not an explicit viewer participation opportunity for this organization, however, the site does offer an extensive amount of information about what qualifies as sustainable textiles/organic textiles.
  5. TRAID https://www.traid.org.uk  
    1. TRAID is a charity working to stop clothes from being discarded by creating 191 clothes charity banks across the UK and bringing those reusable garments to into more communities for zero waste. A way for a viewer to get involved in this organization is to volunteer at the charity shops or to shop their banks and support their organization.
  6. Solidaridad https://www.solidaridadnetwork.org/supply-chains/cotton
    1. Solidaridad is a worldwide network organization with partners  from all over to help create a system to distribute more sustainable textiles from producer to consumer. The company offers jobs and partnerships in order to help the supply chain of sustainable materials grow wider.

YI/YI Project Statement

Trendy pieces of fashion have become more accessible to today’s middle class than ever before. Fast fashion brands profit from exploiting labor and creating pieces with toxic chemicals. Clothing has become disposable and the effects of this mindset has been detrimental to the environment.

The term “fast fashion” originated around the 1800s, but the cycle of fashion did not advance until the Industrial Revolution when the making of clothes was in done in a bulk range of sizes rather than made to order. The businesses producing these garments had a team of workroom employees, however, parts of the production was also distributed to those who worked at home for very low wages. This would become the structure of present-day clothing manufacturing.

At the beginning of the 20th century, fabrication of fashion was still mainly in home or at small workshops. Although there was an increasing amount of clothing factories and various innovations being made, garments were still relatively being made at a smaller scale. As World War II took place, the standardization in the creation of clothing made people more accustomed to this concept. Then, around the 1960s, people began to gravitate towards trendy clothing that was cheaply made and fashion brands took advantage. As more and more people wanted this type of clothing, brands had to outsource their labor in order to keep the prices affordable. This meant the U.S. and Europe had to sent their work to be done in developing countries by people who were being paid extremely low wages. Around the 1980s, the fashion industry began to change drastically. Clothing became more of a disposable commodity and people’s spending habits increased. Due to the poor quality of the garments, if a piece were to be ripped or stained, it would most likely end up being thrown away. Whereas before, one would try to mend to damage or wash it to be worn again. But with a low price tag comes a low appreciation for the garment itself, so they might as well buy a new one to replace it.

Some of the first fast fashion brands that came into the Western industry were H&M and Zara. H&M was established in 1947, first opening as Hennes in Sweden, but then later became H&M as it expanded into London and the U.S. Another fast fashion corporation is Zara, which was established in Spain in 1974. Zara’s impact on the fast fashion industry excelled the rate of production at a dizzying rate. Noted by the New York Times, “It would only take 15 days for a garment to go from the designer’s brain to being sold on the rack”. The acceleration of the manufacturing process paralleled the amount of time the consumer would wear the product. The more cheap clothing one owns, the more expendable the clothes become, creating a catastrophic amount of clothing in landfills. Thus starting the vicious cycle of dispensable clothing.

Zara was the pioneer of the fast fashion model. Starting with the vertical integration of control with all of their production, design, and distribution all in house, it helped organize the costs and optimize the production. And of course, in order to adhere to the brisk motion of the empire they created, they outsourced their labor to developing countries to cut the costs. The exploitation of the workers ranges from child labor to forcing workers to use dangerous chemicals. Not only this, but the plastics and other chemicals put into these polyester fabrics shed when put into the wash and end up in our water cycle. To add to the pollution of water, the toxic chemicals and dyes used to treat clothing have been linked to miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer. The fashion industry contributes to 10% of the global carbon footprint, adding to the effects of climate change.

I first took interest in this topic when I was entering high school. I went to a suburban public school in Cleveland, Ohio and everyone was trying to fit in with what they were wearing. Much of what girls wore was from Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and American Eagle; it was all homogenized. I had grown up on hand-me-downs and thrifted items because that was all we could afford. I would go to my friends’ houses and they would have obscene amounts of clothing, I could not believe it. Some pieces I had never even seen them wear. When I asked them why they had such a vast amount, they said, “Well some pieces I buy specifically for certain events and I don’t like to repeat my outfits. Plus, I shop for bargains.” I remember thinking how weird this mindset was, to only buy certain clothes for specific events. I had been taught growing up that I only needed the basics and then a few other pieces. However, this was common among friends of mine and among many people across the world. As I began to wonder more about what made these clothes so cheap and what made others more expensive, I read more and watched videos on the subject. Learning about this exploitative industry broke my heart. How could we as a culture prioritize our own superficial desires instead of one’s life?

To combat this damaging industry, I personally believe that we as consumers should support more sustainable fashion brands such as Patagonia, Reformation, Everlane, and many more. If buying from those brands is too expensive, then go thrift shopping and find pieces that have a story. I also think that we should stop thinking of our clothing as this disposable item, but instead work on revamping it or mending it. From a design perspective, I believe that filling the fashion industry with more sustainable brands is needed. There should not be a handful of brands responsible for representing and making ethical clothing. Well-made garments that are versatile and sustainable will shift the fashion industry.

For this project, I wanted to solve two problems in one and make an object that helped fix the fast fashion industry. In my final project, I collected plastic bags from all of my friends, people in classes, and neighbors. Throughout my research, I found many discrepancies within toxic textiles and wanted to attempt to create a more sustainable option. And so, I took the plastic bags that I collected and cut them into loops to hand crochet them into a textile that can be used for experiencing homelessness to use as a sleeping mat. Within this design, I also made it an option to transform into a poncho to protect those from the cold and weather.