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Fashion Ecosystems

The fashion ecosystems are diverse, just as nature is. Conventional agriculture, which produces most of our clothing’s fibres, takes what it needs from the Earth at any cost. Propelled by industrial logic, it prioritises efficiency over diversity. Farming in this system is purely about inputs and outputs - as it has neglected the need to care for the living soil ecology and the diversity of life on the land, water and air.
Four people standing beside a wall laughing.
© The New School
The fashion ecosystems are diverse, just as nature is.
Conventional agriculture, which produces most of our clothing’s fibres, takes as much as possible from the Earth at all costs. Propelled by industrial logic, it prioritises efficiency over diversity. Farming in this system is purely about inputs and outputs – as it has neglected the need to care for the living soil ecology and the diversity of life on the land, water and air.
This mode of farming has inevitably led to a degeneration of our biosphere, resulting in biodiversity loss, water runoff, pollution and carbon emissions from soil erosion. It does not listen deeply to the landscape, waterways, air and inhabitants of the land or try to establish reciprocity, working with the ecological processes.
A diagram showing the linear fashion system Linear Fashion System (Click to expand)

Fabrics From Afar

The fibres and fabrics that make our clothes come from diverse ecosystems across the planet. Wool comes from sheep on farms in South America, New Zealand, Australia or the Austrian forests for the creation of Tencel™ and Lyocell. Every bio-region has its own climate, flora, fauna and natural elements that requires its own sets of region-specific regenerative land stewardship practices.

The Homogenisation of Fashion

In every corner of the globe, humans wear clothes. Clothes express our identity, cultures and values. They connect us to our place in the biosphere. Yet over the past 20-30 years, we are increasingly wearing similar styles on a daily basis across the globe. Cultures outside of the Western lens are not visible in the mainstream normative fashion culture.
Homogenised, identikit clothes are being worn across the globe. We may not realise these items are upholding a very Western view of beauty, body ideals, morality, values and culture. Have you ever thought about why we all wear jeans? Or how a business suit became a universal standard? It’s all about power, status and the consequences of colonisation that are still playing out in every mall and that seep into our wardrobe.
Hands formed together with red paint in the shape of a heart

The Diversity of the Fashion Ecosystem

In many cases, non-Western people began wearing Western clothes, as it was the only way to gain access to work and education and legitimacy in society. This is deeply tied to perceptions of modernity, with Western culture being seen as ‘cool’ and ‘modern’. This idea still plays out in global fashion choices, as the dominant culture in the fashion ecosystem is very Western. We need to remind ourselves that fashion exists everywhere, on every street and in every home, not just the fashion capitals of London, Milan, Paris, and New York.
Our challenge is to celebrate, build trust with and respect everyone in the fashion ecosystem; to create an environment for diversity and plurality to the fashion ecosystems that all our cultures, voices and lands are represented in material (what’s it’s made of and where), process (how it is made, by whom) and form (what it looks like, the different ways of ‘fashioning’ the body) so we are all an authentic part of this ecosystem.

Discuss

How can fashion allow for a recognition of the plurality of different ways of fashioning the body?
© The New School
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Sustainable Fashion Ecologies: Sustainable Practices Across the Fashion Ecosystem ( Old run)

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