Sustainability Diaries & Re:fab | NTU Green Leaders Project

Green Leaders

Have you ever considered how your clothes are made? How a small plant or even crude oil can be transformed and moulded into a piece of clothing that you are wearing at this very moment? The truth is, there are many different ways of creating a garment, depending on its construction, i.e. whether it is knitted or woven. But one of the most known and common ways is called Cut, Make & Trim. A design will be sketched, a pattern will be made in paper form and transformed onto the fabric, the pieces will be cut out and assembled and done is your piece of clothing.

Laying the pattern pieces out on your fabric is like a jigsaw puzzle, except the pieces are not made to fit each other. And just like jigsaw puzzles come in different levels of difficulty, the same applies to fabrics: if the fabric has a one-way print, i.e. a print with a distinct top and bottom, or is striped, the pattern pieces have to be laid accordingly to match. Is the fabric woven, the pieces might have to be cut in a bias – a 45° angle – to allow additional stretch. The problem behind all of this? Waste.

As a fashion design student, my friend Anna is directly confronted by this problem. We were both shocked about the amount of textile “waste” that is generated in our university’s fashion department. But instead of complaining and criticising how nothing is ever changing we decided to take action and proposed a project idea to the “Green Leaders” scheme at our university, which is run in partnership which the student union and the Environment Team. Just a few days after our presentation we heard the great news that not only our idea was approved but that we would also receive funding from the university to aid the realisation of our project.

The Problems:

  • On average, 15% of the fabric is wasted when a garment is cut and made. It is estimated that 400 billion square meters of fabric is produced annually on a global scale, translating into a wastage of 60 billion square meters per year (Gugnami & Misha, 2012 ).
  • All of the textiles waste at our university is currently not recycled nor separated and goes straight into the bin, landing in landfill alongside the general waste.
  • An unawareness of sustainability within the fashion industry is present, not only regarding the general public but also across fashion students.

Our Solutions:

Re:fab – Upcycling Scheme

The obvious tangible problem here is all the waste that is created as a by-product of every collection. As mentioned above, all the fabric scraps are currently ending in the general bin. Although we did consider recycling, this is quite tricky with fabric as you can’t really distinguish between the different fibres just by looking at a little piece with the naked eye. Whereas with recycling, the idea would be to turn the fabric scraps back into actual fabric, we were instead considering upcycling and thus, re-purposing all the surpluses. With this idea in mind, we decided to contact Debbie Bryan, who started a local business here in Nottingham. Debbie is an NTU alumni herself and a very lovely and creative soul. Next to an enchanting little tearoom, she is not only selling handmade crafts and gifts but is also organising ‘crafternoons’, which are creative workshops working with all kinds of material. And from now on, that is where not only the fabric scraps but also unusable and experimental are going to go; Becoming a little part of something new, re-purposed and brought back to life instead of ending in the bin.

Sustainability Diaries

To create more awareness around this important topic, Anna and I have decided to create an Instagram account dedicated to sustainability and our upcycling project. The content will include related articles, updates and news about our project, interesting statistics and what else we are up to regarding sustainability. We are encouraging as much engagement as possible and would be greatful for any support and follow!

Fashion Revolution Week

It has almost been 4 years now since the tragic collapse in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh has happened, causing the death of thousands of garment workers. So on the 24th April of each year, Fashion Revolution wants to bring everyone together to raise awareness about the issues in the fashion industry, increase the transparency and create a movement towards a more sustainable future. To support this movement, the week around the 24th April is dedicated to the #whomademyclothes campaign, encouraging consumers to be more conscious and ask retailers who has made their clothes, giving retailers a chance to show more transparency. This year, the fashion revolution week is going to be from the 24th – 30th April 2017 and Anna and I are going to be an active part of organising the week at NTU. If you are in Nottingham or the Midlands area and would like to get involved in the event or support us in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

Currently, we are still in the stage of setting up the whole project and finalising some decisions. But with the incredible support of our uni’s Environment and Waste Management Team and Technicians, we are slowly but steadily moving into the right direction. Although we are not yet addressing all the fabric problems, we are happy to say that a start has been made. We, as the future employees of the fashion industry strongly believe that more people need to be aware of the problems to create change. Because fashion is not just about shopping and pretty dresses. Fashion starts and ends with the environment. Fashion starts and ends with people’s lives. Fashion should be fun and it should not leave you feeling guilty, no matter if you are a consumer, a fashion student or a designer.

Sustainability Diaries:

Anna’s Instagram:

Jenny’s Instagram:

Debbie Bryan’s Instagram:

Debbie Bryan’s Website:

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