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The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, surpassed only by oil. This includes pesticides, toxic dyes, solid waste, and fabric offcuts, all of which add up to a colossal amount of waste. A huge portion of this output is unused excess fabric and textile scraps. In 2013, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was produced, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, of which 12.8 million tons ended up in landfills.
An exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Scraps: Fashion, Textiles and Creative Reuse, tackles this silent environmental hazard, showcasing creative solutions to preproduction by three designers based in Tokyo, Milan, and Los Angeles, respectively, each of whom has grappled with environmental waste in their textile business. During a tour of the exhibition, co-curator Susan Brown explained to me that she wanted to showcase designers who have been working with sustainable solutions for a significant portion of their career: The three she selected have been using their techniques for at least two decades.
Christina Kim, Luisa Cevese, and Reiko Sudo each interpret the concept of scraps differently within their businesses. Their work addresses waste throughout different phases of textile production: fabric waste, textile waste, and garment waste. What’s most captivating about Scraps is the way it visually translates the waste within the clothing industry. The three designers’ very different works illuminate various phases of an often opaque yet ubiquitous global industry.
Kim is the founder of the Los Angeles–based company dosa, which produces clothing, housewares, and accessories. Her work uses a series of generational materials made from the handmade scraps that are typically discarded yet which took hours of labor to produce. She refashioned these to create “second-generation” saris and tapestries in patchwork patterns, then using the leftover scraps from those as part of yet a third generation of tapestry called a “Tikidis Shawl.”
Cevese, whose company Riedizioni makes bags that are modern and industrial, has used as inspiration for her work the selvages, or fringes from the fabric loom, a beautiful and virtually endless material that is typically thrown away in the cutting process. After experimenting with different ways to use this robust yarn through looming and crocheting, Cevese developed the process that has become the foundation of her company: She embeds scraps into polyurethane, a durable, waterproof, lightweight plastic material, which she uses to make functional bags. Beautiful to behold, the scraps become abstractions of themselves.
Sudu, founder of Toyko-based textile company NUNO, is concerned with sustainability solutions within the silk-making process. Her scarves use the outer layer of the silk egg called kibiso, which is generally discarded because it’s too coarse to turn into silk. Sudu refashions it into finer yarn, which is then woven into scarves. The innermost layer of the silk cocoons produces scuffed-up ends, which are also generally discarded; Sudu turns these into handmade paper called oragami chosi.
As described in the exhibit’s information panels, all three of these designers are business owners; they create products for consumption and hope to turn a profit while doing so. In addition, their tactile solutions largely cater to a high-class market. The Riedizioni products, for example, are marketed at $30 for a wallet and $400 for a satchel. So it might be tempting to dismiss these products as yet another high-end fashion statement capitalizing on the environmentalist trend. However, by displaying them all together, Scraps highlights the fact that creative solutions do exist and gives the viewer hope that others in the industry will continue to develop more. Its aim, then, is to display creative and unlikely solutions by designers in the textile industry that push the definition of scraps beyond waste. For those outside the industry, it’s an eye-opening look at the excessive waste of clothing production and how solutions may be found, even if the price point of said solutions may keep them largely out of reach of much of the population.
Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse continues at the Cooper Hewitt (2 East 91st Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through April 16, 2017.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
In 1850, when Dr. Robert W. Gibbes commissioned J. T. Zealy to make daguerreotypes of persons held in slavery in and around Columbia, South Carolina, for Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz to use in support of his theory that African people were a separate species, daguerreotypes were at the height of fashion.
Works by Rodolfo Abularach, Mario Bencomo, Denise Carvalho, Pérez Celis, Entes, and Agustín Fernández are on view at the NYC gallery through January 7, 2022.
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
“Ecosystem X,” an art-based reimagining of life on planet Earth, is the theme of this open call. 10 artists will win $5,000 and one student will receive $5,000 as a scholarship/stipend.
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.