A fundamental aspect of sustainable fashion is making the old new. It’s not simply in finding a vintage goldmine piece from Dior’s 1950’s prete a porter line in a basement thrift shop, it’s purchasing an item that will make a lasting appearance in your life.
This is one of the most powerful r-evolutions that sustainable fashion shapes, we are in fact changing the cycle of dress, by focusing the workmanship and attention of the items that are produced for long-term results. My interest in this topic was inspired in part by Tom’s Earth Day campaign to re-work their shoes into a new life as a coaster, ball or even plan hanger.
This may seem zany, but Tom’s has certainly got something here. Many other companies have followed suit. I’m sure many readers received a compelling email in mid-March from the Gap. Mine read something to the effect of “While some of us are super excited about tumbling down a rabbit hole this weekend, others are just as excited about falling into The Gap.Starting tomorrow (3/5/10), bring any old pair of jeans (or any used denim item, for that matter) to The Gap, and they’ll give you a 30 percent discount on any new denim item – that includes new jeans, denim jackets, vests and more. The promotion runs Friday, March 5 through March 14, 2010.” I ask you, when do you ever remember being able to bring in a pair of WELL worn jeans to your local chain store and get a discount to return them? The piece of paper from Goodwill when you drop off your annual clothing donation used to be all a girl could dream about when making a pile of last years clothes.
This is a new way of envisioning the reduce, reuse, recycle trinity that has so long defined the consumer’s role in sustainability. In this new shopping landscape, we’re traveling beyond the mirror and impulse buying, and out to a new terrain of what can this become when I’m done wearing it? One of the first representations of this process that I witnessed in the early 1990’s was Urban Outfitter’s vintage brand, Urban Renewal. They define it on their website as vintage, recycled and remade products. What I saw as a pre-teen shopper, is that other people where thinking about tearing apart clothing that they had not-so-gently-worn, in order to make a completely new item from it. This re-inventing the cycle of fashion, from the previous pattern of wearing to tossing to a new pattern of wearing, re-thinking, creating and re-wearing is a mini revolution within the area of dress.
Taking it to the runway, in his Fall 2009 show, the late great Alexander McQueen brought re-using to a new level. By incorporating discarded and scrap materials left over from previous seasons sets, McQ made a comment not only on the economic downturn, but also on the state of our culture of waste. He did this in a new way, making the runway a literal dumping ground for his models to parade in front of. This is an entirely new way of envisioning the role of the consumer, as a participant in the cycle of making what was once seen as forgotten, new again.