“Just as iron rusts from disuse, even so does inaction spoil the intellect.”Leonardo da Vinci, Artist

Screenhaus ACCESS 4 Newsletter Feature Article.FEATURE STORY – Fashioning Now – changing the way we make and use clothes

We recently had the good fortune to be invited by Alison Gwilt to be part of her exhibition piece as part of the Fashioning Now Exhibition. A huge event with 10 different exhibitors and a symposium with some incredible and inspiring speakers.

We were part of a group of 4 different skill bases that contributed to the sleeve. Of course we were the printer – The highlight of the event to me was the talk by Kate Fletcher – you can read about her design piece and get more of her thinking below.

The symposium was a full house as was the exhibition which is still running at UTS.

This is the exhibition statement as written by Alison.

Our future eco-fashion wardrobe: does it have to be green?
What will our future eco-fashion wardrobe look like? Perhaps you will
be buying made-to-measure and service-able clothes from a designer in
your local neighbourhood? Or perhaps you will be wearing dresses that
last only for 28 days and eventually dissolve to become a gel that gives
new life to plants? Or perhaps you will still be wearing your favourite
fashion clothes that you have repaired or altered over many years, as
they continue to bring you joy and pleasure? These, and other
sustainable stories are being explored in the Sydney project Fashioning
Now: changing the way we make and use clothes.

Supported by the NSW Government through its Environmental Trust,
Fashioning Now is a project developed by Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen
from the fashion and textiles course at the University of Technology
Sydney. The project was launched on the 28th July 2009 with an
exhibition at the UTS gallery that runs until 29th August, which
profiles a number of international and national sustainable fashion
projects. Works on display include the slow fashion skirt from Japanese
designer Issey Miyake, which is on loan from the fashion collector Gene
Sherman, the Executive Director of the Sherman Contemporary Art
Foundation; another exhibit is the case study of the disappearing dress,
or ‘Wonderland project’ from London fashion designer and academic, Helen
Storey that poses the argument for disposable fashion.

“Clothing is a basic human need,” says co-curator Alison Gwilt “and
whether you are a fashion designer or a consumer of clothing you can
help shape the future of our fashion industry. We are suggesting that as
a society we need to seriously look at how we not only design and make
clothes but how we use them.”

“To date, the Fashioning Now project has included an industry and
educational symposium and an exhibition that is engaging the Sydney
Design Week audiences,” explains co-curator Timo Rissanen. “We need to
think beyond the use of natural materials as a sole-solution and begin
to think about other strategies that help address problems such as
textile waste.”

Kate Fletcher’s Local Wisdom project captured the ideas and actions of
the local community through a series of photographs. “Good ideas happen
everywhere and often involve creative acts with the things around us,
like our clothes.” Fletcher says. “These creative actions and ideas are
rarely acknowledged and never make it onto catwalks or business agendas,
yet we think they have the potential to help solve some of the problems
we face as a global community.” Fletcher is the author of the acclaimed
book, ‘Design journeys: Sustainable fashion & textiles’ (Earthscan
publishing) and she recently visited Sydney giving the keynote lecture
at the Fashioning Now symposium on the 28th July 2009.

In 2010 the curators are producing a book that profiles the case studies
within the exhibition and also includes academic articles from
international authors and researchers. For now though, the focus is on
drawing in the general public, teachers, design students, and designers
in industry to come and see what the potentials are for our sustainable
wardrobes. “Our next phase of the project includes the completion of
our comprehensive educational website, which documents case studies of
best practice, useful resources for design students and offers advice
for practising designers”, explained co-curator Timo Rissanen.

“The project is ongoing for at least another year. We would really be
interested to hear of other sustainable stories, so we hope that
students, designers and fashion wearers engage in the project through
our website.” Says Alison Gwilt.

The exhibition, Fashioning Now: changing the way we make and use clothes

UTS Gallery, Level 4, 702 Harris Street, Ultimo from
Mon-Fri 12-6pm and runs until 29th August.

Fashioning Now website can be found at www.fashioningnow.com

Above: Alisons Giraffe sleeve project.

Alison Gwilt, in conjunction with Zoe Sadokierski (illustrator), Steve Woods (screen-printer,) and Helen Parsons (embroiderer) have collectively created the ornate sleeve as an example of localised skills working together in a collaborative model of practice. As the couture
industry within Paris works on overcoming the continuing struggle to produce the haute couture womenswear fashion collection, so in cities like Sydney, the fashion industry continues to need the specialised skills and knowledge of these creative communities.

10 exhibitors in total the remaining nine are below with their exhibition stories.
Some beautiful thoughts and feelings expressed – well worth the read …



For many fashion designers fabric is the starting point for the creation of the collection. Appreciating the technical properties of the cloth can offer the designer an assortment of possibilities; fabrics can be selected for their appropriate weight, texture, drape and handle. However, the choice of fabrication can also assist in the management of textile waste. Designers can choose from a wide variety of materials that will function appropriately and also meet sustainable criteria.

Romance Was Born will often choose to use reclaimed fabrics for their fashion pieces, which will provide a wearer with a uniquely individual garment. The Sydney-based fashion label, founded by Anna Plunkett and Luke Sales, are revered for their use of unusual and eclectic materials, handcraft techniques and eccentric, playful styling. The Garden of Eden collection, worked in collaboration with Del Kathryn Barton, included craft techniques and patchwork fabrics, over-the-top embellishment and found objects.

Image: Romance Was Born, The Garden of Eden, with Del Kathryn Barton, the Kaliman Gallery, Sydney 2008. Photography Limuel Martine

Website: http://www.romancewasborn.com/


Fashion clothing and textile waste contributes to millions of tonnes of landfill waste each year globally; a frightening reflection of the wastefulness created by the fashion system. As fashion designers begin to adopt sustainable strategies within their working practices, and this may often be through the use of organic or renewable materials, the quest to change the disposability of fashion remains unchallenged.

The Wonderland project from designer and artist, Helen Storey, with scientist Tony Ryan, textile designer Trish Belford and photographer/film maker Nick Knight, was a collaborative experiment that sought to investigate a solution for non-recyclable plastics (the project first began as an exploration of the concept of a disappearing water bottle and a water purification device.) A specially developed polymer is used to manufacture the material, which can then be dissolved in hot water. When the solution cools the gel waste can be used for the planting of seeds as the fertile gel provides an ideal growing environment.

Image: Helen Storey, Wonderland, 2008 Credit: Photography and Wonderland film by Nick Knight/SHOWstudio

Photographer: Nick Knight
Model: Alice Dellal @ Select |
Make Up: Hannah Murray @ Julian Watson
Hair: Eamonn Huges @ Premier


Better Thinking, a consultancy company based in London, challenged the international online community in 2005 to specify the essential requirements needed for a perfect (sustainable) t-shirt. Having provided four different scenarios, the company asked the public to cast their vote on the website and the result culminated in the commercialised Luxury redefined: perfect t-shirt collaboration with UK label, John Smedley.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” we thought, “if there was a product that was as ethical as can be at every turn? That wasn’t only less bad, but was absolutely the best it could be?” Better Thinking, 2007

In creating the perfect t-shirt the challenge was to produce the most responsible garment possible, which required careful evaluation of material sourcing and garment manufacture. This led to the use of organic cotton grown in Peru with its natural colour maintained and manufactured with energy from renewable resources by Fairtrade registered farmers and factory workers .

Image: Better Thinking Ltd, Luxury Redefined: The perfect t-shirt project, 2005-2008. Image courtesy of the artists.




Extending the lifecycle of a product, such as a garment, can be achieved through the implementation of product service systems (PSS). A product service system places the focus on both product and service rather than concentrating on the product in its entirety. The customer gains both a product and a service, that can, for instance include repair, alterations, and a take-back scheme once the garment has come to the end of its useful first life. For an industry facing decreased sales in a highly competitive market place this may provide an opportunity for new business growth.

The service provided by tailors like Bijan Sheikhlary, presents the customer with a garment that is made-to-measure, designed in accordance with the individual client’s requirements and made from high-quality materials and impeccable craftsmanship; this may also include an alteration and repair service. The customer is often loyal in this relationship. As a strategy for sustainable production and consumption the product service system applied within the tailoring sector provides a positive case study that could be an inspiration for contemporary fashion businesses.

Images: Bijan Sheikhlary, Bespoke tailor, 2009. Photography by Nick Bassett


Consumers can elect to buy high quality garments that may be ‘timeless’, or ‘original’ in their design. Designers such as Issey Miyake are known to produce fashion garments that befit these categories – timeless in their appeal yet unusual and at times spectacular in their design. While these types of fashion garments are often more expensive for the consumer, their considered design allows a garment to transcend the traditional six-monthly fashion season.

Gene Sherman’s love and collection of Japanese fashion garments is well documented. Each season Sherman will purchase a small number of fashion articles that will replace the same number of existing pieces within her wardrobe. As Sherman considers the care and storing of her clothing to be critical to the longevity of the pieces, some of these items are then suitably donated to the Powerhouse Museum’s collection in Sydney. Slowing and reducing fashion consumption can be very much in the hands of the consumer. Sherman’s approach to the limited wardrobe, whilst not typical, is within the reach of the average consumer.

Image: Issey Miyake (on loan from Dr Gene Sherman), 2008. Credit: Photography

Website: http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/exhibitions/contemporary_japanese_fashion.asp


“Good ideas happen everywhere and often involve creative acts with the things around us, like our clothes. These creative actions and ideas are rarely acknowledged and never make it onto catwalks or business agendas, yet we think they have the potential to help solve some of the problems we face as a global community.” (Fletcher 2009)

Kate Fletcher’s Local Wisdom project captured the ideas and actions of the local community. Acknowledging that creative ideas may occur with very little money or materials, the Local Wisdom project celebrates this plethora of ‘ingenuity and free-thinking’ (Fletcher 2009).

While the fashion industry continues to manufacture products at a fast pace, most people seem to retain particular items of clothing that have special meaning and/or purpose. These items may be reworked, well worn or perhaps may have been passed down through generations; or perhaps they simply hold happy or treasured memories. Whatever the reason, the majority of our community is involved in a creative act that helps save on resources, shapes our identity and has the potential to inspire.


A life of action

“I call this my three stage jacket. It began about forty years ago as a very slim waistcoat that was given to me. I knitted a panel and put it into the back just to be able to fasten it together at the front, you see. And then about fifteen years ago I added sleeves and a collar and some trimmings. And then, only about five years ago, I became a bit too big to button it up so I added latchets across to the front so that I can fasten it.”

Garments can be reworked to meet changing needs. The knowledge and skills that make this possible enrich and embolden society. They remind us about ingenuity and help substitute consumption for action.

Image: Kate Fletcher, Local Wisdom project, 2009 Credits: All photographs by Fiona Bailey. With grateful thanks to all the volunteer participants in both Totnes and Bollington (UK) and to Fiona Bailey, Jemima Penny, Emma Rigby, Lucy Batchelor, Toni Spencer, Jane Bryant and Harriet Rogers. Local Wisdom was funded by University of the Arts, London.

Website: http://www.katefletcher.com/