V&A fashion resident explores issues around clothing and sustainability

This caught my eye in view of recent reports on the environmental impact of ‘fast fashion’ - apparently the production of poor-quality garments that rapidly wear out and are thrown away causes as much damage as air travel. That may not be news to those in the industry working on the creation of more environmentally-friendly garments, but I found it particularly striking. What changes might we make to reduce waste? Perhaps we might focus more on repairing garments…

Bridget Harvey, the current Fashioned from Nature resident at the V & A, finds repair-making “to be full of exciting actions, communities and politics, changing objects, mindsets and habits”. It’s something that she’s been exploring through her own practice over the last few years. During her residency, she’ll be looking at the garments, shoes and bags in the V&A collections to understand how they were made, altered and repaired in the past. She’ll be exploring these ideas in contemporary textiles, taking them apart in order to understand them fully.

Bridget Harvey,  Blue Jumper  (2012, ongoing)

Bridget Harvey, Blue Jumper (2012, ongoing)

As an activist, her practice has a strong political and environmental leaning to it. She argues that clothing repair is '“a route to personal empowerment – offering choice against pressure to buy new and a political stance against over-consumption and supply chain slavery”. During her residency, she’ll be leading drop-in workshops to explore both the social and the material elements of her practice. Taking a broad and playful approach, she considers wearing her works, protesting, facilitating workshops, researching, writing, and giving talks as vital as the making itself.

There’ll soon be an opportunity for students other than those studying fashion or costume to study historic eighteenth and nineteenth century garments for themselves as we’re planning to take part of a collection into the Archives. Some of them were gifted to the School of Art by Pre-Raphaelite artist Kate Bunce. How might you respond to such items?