Craft allows you to question your materials and understand them. My work revolves around cherishing discarded garments and recognizing them as materials to make with, thus increasing their lifespan. It evokes a realisation of the distant nature of humans with their garments.
A constant rise in consumption has led to a lower valuation of so-called ‘fast fashion’ . This low value is not only financial but also emotional . My work aims to re-develop this emotional connection through making practices.
The consumer’s perception of value is more than what can be read on a price tag. I believe it is important to realise the number of hands involved in making the garments we own; provoking a sense of responsibility can prevent people from discarding their garments prematurely. My work looks at learning across two platforms; learning about your garment/clothing and learning to make value out of it through craft.
Working with a skill or a craft enhances the abilities of the material and informs the maker about its strengths and weaknesses. Along with material knowledge it also facilitates tacit knowledge. It draws you into a meditative space and nudges you to think about deeper questions concerning our materials. My practice involves un-picking as a route to better understanding the nature of craft and materials.
I begin by unpicking the garment: taking out all the buttons, zippers, tags, all the time reflecting on the processes they went through to become attached to the garment and make it functional. Then I unpick all the seams, revealing the notions of form and structure behind the piece. Although it is a time-consuming process, I like to invest my time and participate in this as a therapeutic activity. This also enables me to save every bit of fabric possible for its rebirth. Once I have the flat fabric, I convert it into raw material for making a vessel by cutting it into strips.
Craft has been an important tool to communicate design thinking. For me, it is a way of studying, observing, exploring, and understanding the material world. My interaction with craft is firstly, through practice, which aims to understand the materials and bring them to a functional form. Secondly, the underlying qualities it instigates, stimulate my practice. These qualities or emotions are sometimes referenced from folklores, history, or stories around the craft. They are also a result of the interaction with the materials and techniques.
While I believe in personal learning through making, it can also flourish as a communal affair. I believe that the act of making is also an act of sharing and my purpose in sharing knowledge through practice is to bring about a behavioral shift and increase the emotional value of garments in people’s lives. It is an intense exploration of the material, where the end product is not certain but where the process is more important. Community making helps establish social, communal, reciprocal, and identity-forming aspects of amateur making. It heightens critical sensibility and deepens awareness through the interactions with the material world. It helps express identities through the stories and memories of the garments in this process of making.
The greatest strength of amateur making is that it brings communities of interest together, thoughtfully yet instinctively through a shared love of ‘making’ and in the context of everyday life. Making embodies the practice of sharing as it mediates conversations and thoughts around the act. It builds on past experiences of the materials and forms new refined insights through the process. It signifies the process through which the maker’s hands form tactile memories and new-found relationships with the materials.
My project positions itself in this unique space that Von Busch describes as, ‘designing material artefacts as well as social protocols’ . Behavioral change plays an important role in sustainability. Engaging with this process of making, stimulates the behaviour of building relationships with the material used. It also triggers creativity in a person’s mind to experiment, understand and play with more such garments and materials. It is essential that working with discarded garments or upcycling leads to a sense of contentment, happiness, and accomplishment. This feeling of accomplishment is what motivates the participants to revisit this process with other garments or discarded materials. Working with charity shop rejects, instigated a sense of rescuing within me, almost as if I were taking over someone else’s responsibility.
While it may seem to some as though I am collecting and working with discarded garments, I am actually collecting uprooted memories and responsibilities . There were garments that lived a quarter of their lives and were displaced from their homes just because they had aged or had some marks or stains on them. Embracing these irregularities makes me more sincere towards the materials and ensures efficient use of them.
The workshop facilitates an environment that encourages engagement and the formation of associations and memories. It is the goal, as well as the process through which I aim to take this project forward. Engagement with materials, people, and social scenarios of repurposing then leads to awareness and knowledge building about the world we live in. It examines value through making and unmaking, understanding the materials around us and makes us mindful of the repercussions of having a shift in our emotional value through shifting our behaviour and approach towards our clothes. It implements a change of perspective around discarded garments and allows them to be viewed as materials. Chapman rightly states, ‘Products are fleeting, only materials can last forever’ .
Words: Meghna Menon
Bio: Meghna is a material designer and researcher, currently working with textiles. She interacts with various types of textiles through craft. Belonging to India, she identifies a close connect to craft forms in all her works. She has recently completed her masters in textiles and is pursuing her drive towards conscious making and craft revival. Find her on LinkedIn and Instagram.
 Claxton, S. (2019) Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability’, Hansard: House of Commons, 19th February, HC1952, p.6. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmenvaud/1952/full-report.html (Accessed: 22 December 2020).
 Busch, O. (2009) Fashion-able. Hacktivism and engaged fashion design. Available at: https://www.academia.edu/30938568/Fashionable._Hacktivism_and_engaged_fashion_design (Accessed: 17 July 2021).
 Chapman, J. (2016). Emotionally durable design: objects, experiences, and empathy. Routledge.
Words: Meghna Menon
About: Meghna Menon is a sustainable textile practitioner, material designer and researcher, currently working with textiles. She interacts with these various types of textiles through craft. Belonging to India, she identifies a close connect to craft in all her works. ‘Unpicking Wardrobes’ focuses on reviving discarded garments by repurposing them through craft interventions, exploring and expanding our understanding of the garment as a valuable source of material.