Green exhibit prods conscience of fashion industry
Green, a new exhibition at the University of Alberta Human Ecology Building, explores the colour through different facets as pigments and dyes, in clothing production, consumption, and disposal. The exhibition is curated by Professor Anne Bissonnette, posing here with a green and gold tartan evening gown, including a train, which gobbles up yards and yards of fabricBruce Edwards
Green, a new exhibition at the University of Alberta Human Ecology Building, explores the colour through different facets as pigments and dyes, in clothing production, consumption, and disposal.
“I think we’re at the point where there’s a consciousness that the consumer wants things that are green,” says Bissonnette, and producers “are often doing their best to offer something that is greener. I wouldn’t say green, but greener, and it’s a long way, I think. We’re just at the beginning of this, and this entire movement tends to completely bypass fashion.”
Fashion, more than any other industry, relies somewhat on over consumption: Every time the weather changes, people are encouraged to refresh their wardrobes and leave old duds behind, whether they’re still wearable or not.
“How many pairs of shoes do you own? How many pairs of shoes do you wear out?” the exhibit asks the viewer.
“We especially women, but men also progressively have more and more of these shoes that are beautiful objects, but not utilitarian garments,” says Bissonnette.
She motions toward a pair of olive toned leather pumps from the 1960s, before moving further down the exhibit to a green and gold tartan evening gown with a glorious train, made by U of A alumnus Michael Kaye. “I love it and it’s quite a dress, but it is a heavy consumption of fabric,” says Bissonnette.
Even during the American Civil War, when fabric was scarce, women wore skirts made with up to 16 yards of fabric, she notes.
Next to Kaye’s dress is an 1890s tea gown, worn at English tea parties. It illustrates our persisting need to change into different outfits several times a day to go to work, to the gym, to dinner, to sleep.
Bissonnette and 62 students from her historic dress class pulled about 20 items from the U of A’s 18,000 piece clothing and textile collection for the exhibit.
Her class is comprised mostly of fashion design students, and Bissonnette hopes the exhibit will encourage them to think critically about the designs they may put on runways in the future.
As part of the exhibit, Bissonnette’s students also brainstormed ways to live greener, such as using cotton handkerchiefs, buying only well constructed clothing made to last, and demanding a more comprehensive labelling system that notes where clothing is made, its fibre content, and its carbon footprint.
“That would be so huge,” says Bissonnette. “If people start choosing lower carbon footprint and ethical production, then corporations will have to change their behaviour to fulfil consumer demand.”
Fashion, after all, isn’t evil. Without it, says Bissonnette, economies could very well collapse. But consciousness brings about choice.
“The one good thing about being a consumer society,” says Bissonnette, “is that we have a voice as a consumer. Our purchases impact what’s being offered to us.”
Green runs until Jan. 31 in the Human Ecology building on the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton. Admission is free.
Moscow exhibition explores ‘The War That Ended Peace’ War That Ended Peace, an exhibition marking the First World War centenary, is on now.
Saving Private SmithBARNARD CASTLE, England Carved into the simple obelisk commemorating the fallen are the names.