A New Kind of Recycling


Panelists Mayya Saliba and Frans Prins

The cycles of the fashion industry sometimes seem somewhat rehearsed: We are supposed to buy clothes, wear them, and eventually throw them away and buy new ones. But does it have to be that way? Within the #FASHIONTECH BERLIN sub-conference, the two talks, "How to close the loop. A discussion about the circular fashion industry", and "Digital Fashion Transformation", addressed the matter.

The panel debate on "How to close the loop" featured three designers: Annette Kreis, Rebeca Duque Estrada, and Mayva Saliba. They presented fashion as a holistic concept, not just limited to the short period between production and sales, but incorporating a number of levels, including design, material purchases, transport and storage, marketing and sales, along the way. Their users could be similarly included, in terms of reusing, repairing or redesigning their product, and of course, the recycling and disposal of the materials wasn’t to be forgotten either.

For designers who so far have mostly moved between drawing and tailoring, the whole concept of recycling can pose completely new, and even disconcerting challenges. "It’s strange", says the Belgian-Lebanese designer Mayya Saliba, "that I have to consider the death of an item of clothing even while it is being created."

In the panel on "Digital Fashion Transformation" that followed in the labore:tory, entrepreneur Gabriel Platt presented some alternative ideas regarding the holistic, circular nature of fashion and design, and introduced his own concept of pop-up fashion that specialises in Internet hypes. Platt’s label, Phoebe Heess, has its roots in a fashion genre that only existed on the Internet at first: The Facebook page "Health Goth" is basically a collection of manipulated photographs, where images of black, synthetic clothing are remixed with technical gadgets. Platt now wants to bring these memes to (real) life, and is currently producing an actual fashion collection with them.

So far he has been successful: He designed the "Electric Self-Defense Jacket" for Phoebe Heess – a protective vest that can drive attackers away with electric shocks if its wearer is in danger. Another of Gabriel Platt’s garments took its cue from the popular meme and Addams Family quote: "I'll stop wearing black if they make something darker than black", so that was precisely what he did – make something darker than black. His "Viper black" T-shirt, realised with a crowdfunding campaign, is said to absorb 40 percent more light than conventional black material.

Photo credit: re:publica/Jan Michalko (CC BY 2.0)