Turning trash to treasure and terming it Trashion!


For more than quite a while now, the world has been one driven by the ideas of consumerism. While that by itself translates to consumption levels going up worldwide, whether that be of food or clothes or other consumer goods, it brings along with a also a volley of problems- problems that continue to undergo neglect in this mindless debacle that is but some kind of a modern manifestation of the continuing human sin of greed. Spurred by the never ending premise of human desires, while consumerism indeed do much to ‘gratify’ such unabated demands, it has also inevitably put the world more at stake in all its physicality.

With trends such as fast fashion and inventions like disposable goodies emerging to be a major hit that catered to consumer demands effectively and instantly, what has come to characterise the earth in all such indulgences over the years is the ailing status of it. In a conscious bid therefore to reverse such adverse effects that mindless consumerism has accrued up over a considerable period of time, the world is increasingly opting for such practices that can prevent further damage to the planet we inhabit, before we surpass all and sundry to reach the point of no return.

In the face of such efforts increasingly being made to protect ourselves from future debacles, upcycling has emerged to be the key in all spheres of the human existence. Whether that be furthering the dynamics of food upcycling or experimenting with making fabrics and furniture and fashion and a zillion other lifestyle processes and products less wasteful, it indeed is minimising the generation of waste in everything we do that have come to occupy place of prominence in the current line of human activity.

Particularly within the ambits of fashion that has seen perhaps the most reckless state of affairs pertaining to consumerism, the wasteful nature of it seems to be all the more appalling. But merely laying the blame on that blatant adherence to this insatiable craze for retail fashion therapy accounts for only one chunk of the problem. True, fast fashion is one of the prime reasons why the earth is so high on trash today. But the waste accruing from within the limits of this world that is all things sophisticated and ‘self styled’ stems also in part from the essence of it, which happens to be catering to the aesthetics. While fashion does not merely mean a show of style, encompassing also other such crucial life aspects that render it an importance of its own, there can be no second opinion that at the root of everything that drives the fashion conscious is to manifest themselves in an identity that speaks through the sheer vision of it.

Emerging therefore to counter this ‘profligate’ leaning of fashion on such terms that we will come to deal with later is a world of ‘composites’, that which finds expression through what is essentially a portmanteau of combining thoughts and terms- trashion. Quite evidently, trashion is fashion rooted in trash and while the concept isn’t anything exclusively modern, the nomenclature of it indeed is. Coined in New Zealand in 2004 and gaining usage since the following year, trashion refers to the philosophy of making traditional and avant-garde clothing or lifestyle objects from recycled materials or cast off junk. Similar to such concepts as upcycling and refashion, trashion however is distinctive in stemming also as a sub genre of found object art that which lends it more ‘artistic’ a notion than the others when it therefore comes to catering to the creative pursuit that fashion is mostly understood to be.

Trashion involves creating such wearable items of clothing and accessory from materials that would otherwise be deemed as waste. This rather ‘open’ definition of trashion makes it encompassing of a wide range of ideas to start with. The basic premise on where trashion rests is one that lends it significance by virtue of being an environmental and economical movement focused on finding ways to produce without depleting our natural resources. Whether that be finding use for the scraps that are produced during the mainstream fashion process itself or deriving utility also from such items of waste that might not be linked at all to weavings of the sartorial, trashion dwells in the idea of deriving use out of trash to produce such aesthetic pieces that explores the arena of functionality as well. However, despite their drawing upon such materials that might not hold any value in some alternative use, trashion products aren’t always low cost fashion ‘options’. First barging into the scene as a couture, costume-like trend of using unusual materials or industrial items on the runway in fashion shows, trashion began assuming greater importance and practicality as they became more wearable and available and began catering to a greater world shift towards sustainable or green fashion.

What makes this turnaround to trash all the more significant an insight as far as fashion is concerned is the fact that the garment industry is one that produces substantial waste of its own. Merely in its requirements of shaping and warping outfits, the perils of fashion are such that it leads to the accumulation of unimaginable vistas of fabric scrap that are just dumped as waste. Brand new, practically unused bits and pieces of cloth material find their way into the landfill without ever being made use of in their full potential, thereby making for a kind of trash that is less spoken about but is all the more alarming an exertion on the earth. It is also explorations such as these, hitherto unthought of but that which pose as grave a concern than any other in what they come to sum up in all their seemingly insignificant scrap existence, that finds itself at the core of the trashion consciousness, supplemented of course by other equally striking, explored or unexplored nuances of what constitutes waste and trash and that could possibly find efficiently exemplary alternate use. In being therefore much more than the aesthetic essence of fashion, or imbibing values that go well beyond its oft accompanied utterance of fashion that makes trashion all the more positive a way of life to aspire for.

Despite however the dawn of its nomenclature in the 21st century, trashion aspirations found expression in the modern era at least a decade earlier. It was sometime in the 1990s that this very noble idea of making fashion a derivative from waste was put into action by American artist Ann Wizer who began using plastic waste in her wearable art as part of her efforts to celebrate Earth Day. With her line the Virus Project, Wizer set about making costumes entirely from post consumer plastic waste marking the beginnings of the trashion sensibility and that which continues till date through numerous profit and non profit ventures, including the Jakarta based charity XSProject founded by Wizer.

ann wizer
Source: Craftivism

However, even in allowing trashion all the endowings of it, this best from waste concept that is also applied today to clothing and accessories and almost every other lifestyle necessity has been finding expression in communities and cultures since forever. In particular, for a lot many indigenous people of the world, this is a practice deeply ingrained within their existence. Africans for instance have always made bags from rice and juice packets; for the Haitians, sculptural jewelry from old oil cans is no rarity, and American settlers have made quilts and rugs from cast-off clothing and feed sacks. In fact despite identifying particular crafts with particular nativities, the trashion consciousness is also as universal as for example, the practice of quilting demonstrates. Apart from the African- American lineage of it, quilting as an art has also been extensively prevalent in the entirety of Asia, particularly in south Asian countries as India and Pakistan and Bangladesh where it is a tradition that has been continuing for centuries. It is recollection of instances like these, of modes and methods of seeking out an alternative use for waste that is at the core of the trashion movement, as it is the essence of virtually every positive lifestyle choice the world has been consciously embarking on in the recent past.

All the fuss about trashion, as it turns out, is then but only a rekindling of our conservative instincts, that we might have traded off for years in hankering after a life where splurging became the definition of living. Returning to our roots however, as we always tend to do, finds us once again in this collective garb of digging out gold from such trash we had discarded in search of other elusive treasures. No wonder, with good sense prevailing once again and our priorities reverting to bettering the health of our planet earth, albeit in interest of our own sustenance, the trashion movement has gained momentum. So much so that today it takes not just startups and charities to churn out such items of fashion that make space for incorporation of any and everything with even the minimal scope of harbouring a utility believed to be beyond its realm. Jumping onto the trashion bandwagon also are high end brands like Hermes and Prada as well as notable designers like Gabriela Hearst, who recognise the tremendous potential of and need for nurturing such sustainable lifestyle choices that will grant us a few extra years of healthy existence on a green planet. With also celebrities on board who endorse this trend of donning ‘potential rubbish’ that includes the likes of actress Emma Watson and the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle to name just a couple, the future of fashion seems indeed to be moving fast to this exciting realm of conjuring up sustainably aesthetic statements through the twists of trashion.