In Cloth We Care

From laundering through to repair, the ‘care’ phase of a garment’s life contributes to the environmental impact of fashion.

For a frequently washed garment, the energy and resource use when washing and drying can dominate all other life-cycle stages, using as much as four times the energy needed to make it.1 Simple adjustments like lowering washing temperature, fully loading machines, or air-drying can reduce the ecological impact whilst still cleaning clothing, yet clear information can be difficult to find.

Similarly, extending the life of garments through repair, reuse and recycling, displaces the effects of fibre processing and production needed to create a new garment.2 Yet, these skills of repair are often neglected within a throwaway fashion culture.

Conducted alongside the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, this project began by researching attitudes towards care, and gathering insight into garment care practices in the community around Chrisp Street Market in London. The research team included Rosalie Overgaauw, Johnson Wong and myself, and was part of Being Human Festival in 2015.

We combined desk research, field observations and surveys to understand the local and overall context, before designing a “draw your own washing symbol” research activity to facilitate conversation around garment care, and learn about individual behaviours and attitudes.

1. Fashion & Sustainability: Design for Change, Kate Fletcher, 2012 (p.60)
2. Valuing Our Clothing: The Cost of UK Fashion, WRAP, 2017 (p.4)