Rebecca Earley is no ordinary fashion designer. As the Associate Director of the Textile Futures Research Group at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, her focus is on the reuse and recycling of fabrics and the reduction of "the vast amounts of water, energy and toxic chemicals used in their production". Whilst I was reading around for my environment post I came across an interview with her which contains some eye-opening nuggets.
"Take Cotton" says Rebecca, "everyone thinks its the good guy. Yet cotton cultivation accounts for around 10% of all pesticides and 20% of all insecticides used in agriculture." Not only that, but cotton farming is incredibly water intensive, with large amounts of water required for its processing and dyeing as well as its cultivation. So much so that water is often diverted away from communities. And with 85% of the energy requirement of a garment coming in laundry, cotton requires energy-intensive high temperatures to wash it and iron it. "We think of it as cheap and natural but it is neither"
As well as the usual areas of focus (organic materials, reduction in air miles and so on), Rebecca talked about a couple of intriguing concepts – "emotionally durable design" – making products that people actually want to keep, and "upcycling" – taking used materials, recycling them, and increasing their value at the same time. Rebecca herself is pretty skilled at taking old garments, recutting and reprinting them to produce high-end products (some pictured here). She is showing some of her work at the "Ever and Again" exhibition featuring experimental recycled textiles at the Triangle Gallery at the college from Oct 19th.