#trashfashionforum : when fashion tries to fight gentrification and commoditization

We attended yesterday at Protein a very interesting debate about what one calls “trash fashion”. Organized with Dazed & Confused (their last issue is called…Trash & Burn!) speakers included Hussein Chalayan, Caroline Evans (living legend from Central Saint Martins), Nasir Mazhar (who designed the hats for 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony), Luke Brooks, Claire Storey and Kieren Jones. And it was pretty intense

So why is there a new interest in Trash Fashion? Surprisingly enough, not so many of the speakers had an answer. The top insight comes from Hussein Chalayan, who thinks that because there’s a gentrification of everything, and that we’re trying to glamourize everything, well you need something new. As time popularizes everything, and even faster now through high-street big players and online platforms, designers need to shape something unconventional. According to Chalayan, it’s a bit ridiculous to talk about Punk these days whereas it’s from the 70s. We need to invent something, which faces new limits. And Trash Fashion, to a certain extent, can be a good playground to start with.
Today Trash is used in a far different way.

Hussein Chalayan  starts with a series of snapshots that tries to define his vision of Trash Fashion

The Tangent Flows (1993) that he did for his graduation aims to explain that trashing garment was a way to give more features to daily elements.


With Cartesia (AW 1994), made of unreadable paper, the idea is to associate unexpected inspirations: packaging, papers, documents, to sublime unexpected materials.

chalayan cartesia
Chalayan also mentions Afterwords in 2000: the collection starts with a mysterious combination of chairs with bodies. The designers starts with a scenery and bring it back to clothes. With Medea in 2002: layers come from cutaways, it’s like an archeological dig. With this process, Chalayan says that the creation of this sort of long-term hope link things.
Manifest Destiny in 2003 looks at disgust that can then be visually appealing, about to become live when  a model wears it. Animal prints are then brought back to life
Finally, with Rise (2013) the body is spiritedly linked to urban environment especially walls. Disintegration of information is put in clothes through Printed textures.


The connection between all these ideas is that these clothes have lived something, are part of something bigger, bring a greater sense of life

Caroline Evans broadens the definition of trash fashion reminding that there are tons of examples where people were recycling or using materials in original ways (ex: during great depression in the US etc). Another field concerns the link between fashion and science. Maison Martin Margiela for instance created strange Red Bacteria Yellow Bacteria Green Bacteria pieces with a microbiologist. Specific bacterias were spread on clothes which changed the texture of clothes. Clothes were then exhibited outside the museum. It then generated a sort of furyness impression after rain and sun. Evans considers that when Chanel used jersey in 1919, which used to be a fabric only used for lingerie, is also connected to trash fashion. As she was using “poor” fabrics, it was then considered as trash at that time.

Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garcons) launched a very reductionist collection in 1982.

“When u work around a factory sometimes everything is too perfect”

The main purpose is to give an unfinished impression through deconstruction.

Luke Brooks who graduated from CSM MA recently, mentions his thought-provoking work, using materials that were present in his immediate environment…even under our feet! As he wrote for Dazed:

It emerged that there are many unusual headstones located in New England, USA, which had been carved by the early settlers (late 17th and 18th century stones). The Farber Gravestone Collection, which documents over 9,000 unique headstone images in the area, was a fascinating resource.

Using that and FindaGrave.com as a treasure map, I set off for America in December. Gravestone rubbing is a contentious activity. Some people believe that it subtly damages the stones even when performed with every precaution. Others consider it an affront to the dead. I resolved to be very cautious with my crayon and to thank the residents with a gentle pat on the headstone and a word of gratitude.

Despite having amassed perhaps 40 rubbings of varying sizes, only certain ones seemed to work on the body, proportionally, texturally and photographically. The construction of the collection was about how to best project this idea of the memory of these departed bodies in relation to the living wearer.

Trash is finally a sort of inheritance we’re going to transmit. Cheap fashion also creates a lot of trash. A parallelism can be made with Punk: we wanted to be dirty because everything’s so cheap. Same idea today. But even worse as there’s a vicious loop:  how to bring new ways of approaching fashion whereas the industry is based on newness, the latest things, the latest marketing idea. And that the fashion industry is about making money.

So how to create something bigger?

Fashion knows deadlines. And one idea could be to postpone this deadline, including self-conscious elements of the quality of a material. Like a tracker for the very long term record.
People can be considered as investors or consumers. They consume Primark, but they can invest in other brands. Sustainability is an investment: trash fashion would be the signal to go back to economics principles?

There’s a need to educate people to like fashion, educate schools, otherwise only will rich have access to qualitative fashion. Before Prinark and ASOS, access to fast fashion was impossible. Let’s consider it as a big opportunity to raise sensitivity!

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