Deconstructing the TRashion Show
an essay by Edwina Keary
The saying, ‘one person’s trash is another person’s treasure’ is especially apt in the runup to the Fashion Forward Society’s annual Trashion Show. Designers and models come together to create and exhibit clothes made from an array of recyclables that have been rescued from the tip. In order to put Bristol’s Trashion Show into context, it's important to go back to the origins of Trashion.
The term was first coined in New Zealand in 2004 to refer to clothing and accessories made from materials that would not conventionally be used for this purpose. Typically, ‘trashion’ is not intended for everyday wear. Rather, it is a form of found object art, which is a genre that takes everyday objects and repurposes them in a creative, artistic way. This is a noble endeavour in terms of environmentalism as it encourages people to find new ways to use objects in order to reduce waste.
Bahar Emgin, Professor at the IZTECH Factulty of Architecture, states that every object has a life which ends when it is thrown away. ‘Trashion’ is one of the ways we can extend the lives of these objects. In choosing to continue the life of ‘trash’ or ‘useless’ objects, we are encouraged to consider how items can be multifunctional and prevented from becoming waste. ‘Trashion’ claims to fulfil both an ethical and environmental responsibility to be more mindful of our consumption habits and reduce waste. In repurposing these items, designers, wearers, and other partakers in the construction of Trashion become “purified”, according to Emgin, as we purify the environment around us. Emgin also outlines one of the benefits of Trashion as it’s ability to reshape how we look at everyday discarded objects. People are eager to see these objects, that were otherwise useless, become “invigorated with new life”. Trashion’s environmentalist roots are explored by Gay Hawkins in Plastic Bags: Living with Rubbish. He states that disposal is central to mass production, and that all too often there is an acceptance of exchangeability that comes from replacing the old with the new. Trashion challenges this desire to reject the old in favour of the new, encouraging us to look at objects and see how we can get more use out of them.
The Trashion Show is not just a display of environmentalism, but of creativity. It is a challenge presented to designers as they look at everyday objects to figure out how these items can not only be transformed into wearable clothing, but also push boundaries of materiality and couture. There’s more to it than wrapping yourself in a binbag and calling it a day. It encourages a collaboration between designers to figure out which objects should be selected and how they can be used effectively to create an artful product. The show is not about competition, its purpose is not to see who can create the most high-end trash concoction. Rather, it encourages a sense of community as it brings together like-minded individuals who want to challenge themselves creatively while reducing unnecessary waste. What designers get out of the trashion show isn’t the satisfaction that they’ve created the best outfit compared to their peers, but rather the satisfaction that they’ve created a sense of renewed life in otherwise discarded objects. The product is a process of sustainable metamorphosis, one which requires creativity, community, and innovation.