ReDress: Reducing Textile Waste Through Component Reuse
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Textile products are everywhere, from covering our bodies to populating our homes and workplaces. Is it unsurprising then that millions of tons of textiles are ending up in waste? This paper critically reflects on a 2009 Refashion case study. It discusses the current process of reuse in the fashion industry, drawing attention to the further potential of design for reuse. Reusing and remaking used clothing was a long-standing practice that began as a way of extending the life of valuable resources. This sensitivity and respect for textile products changed in the 20th century with the growth of mass produced clothing and low cost off-shore manufacturing. Buyers, exploiting the low cost, capitalised on their economic strength, through larger orders in excess of their needs. This overproduction and excess stock directly fed the habits of a consumerist society demanding more for less. Current patterns of fashion consumerism have resulted in overproduction and overconsumption. This coupled with lower quality product and fast changing trends, has stimulated a ‘throwaway’ culture. Equally the inferior quality of mass produced clothing has limited its desire as a reuse option. The ubiquity of textile is its downfall, this devaluation has permeated all textile product and consequently millions of tons of textiles are consigned to landfill globally. Refashion is an intervention in the 'take, make, waste' lifecycle of a garment. It is a slow growing, upcycling movement that reuses discarded clothing to produce new items for return to the fashion stream. This paper examines the perceived barriers of the Refashion process that currently limits the scale of the manufacturing operation. Findings in the Refashion case study support the feasibility of the process as a manufacturing method. Therefore the potential for Refashion, if it were more commonly practiced, is to divert large volumes of textile waste from landfill and reduce the demand on the environment: Refashion reuses the textile, maintains the original value added and delivers a new fashion item without the environmental problems required by virgin textile. This paper specifically focuses on component reuse: as a way of extending the life of the textile prior to recycling the fibre; and elucidates the process. The author identifies the benefits of a component reuse process built into the lifecycle of a fashion product and highlights the need for fashion designers and manufacturers to design for reuse.