How re-loving our clothes can help the climate crisis

Fashion student measuring fabric

The University of Portsmouth is joining a global fashion revolution to help improve both the environmental and human costs that go into making the clothes we wear.

  • 13 April 2022
  • 3 min read

The University of Portsmouth is joining a global fashion revolution to help improve both the environmental and human costs that go into making the clothes we wear.

Fashion Revolution Week (1824 April) is an annual event, now in its ninth year, that commemorates the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, which killed 1,134 people in Dhaka District, Bangladesh.

For this year’s event, fashion students and staff from the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries have organised a week-long exhibition and programme of events to highlight the need for a more sustainable approach to fashion.

The exhibition, Re-Loved: A Contemporary Fashion Upcycling Exhibition, will be held in the Eldon Building foyer from Tuesday 19 April until Monday 25 April 2022.

The exhibition has been organised by a group of BA Fashion and Textiles Design students with assistance from lecturers Dr Lara Torres and Noorin Khamisani and will feature garments designed by the students and made using materials that are conventionally considered to be ‘waste’.

Our events for Fashion Revolution week will shine a light on the role the clothing industry has in the world’s plastic problem and explore what can be done to make a change.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the University’s Revolution Plastics initiative

Noorin Khamisani said: “Fashion Revolution Week calls for a complete rethinking of our current wasteful fashion systems and this is something that we address within our curriculum.

“During this week we get to contextualise these discussions with our students on a global scale as we take part in this worldwide fashion activism. The practical hands-on mending and swapping of garments makes the theories around sustainability more accessible.”

Plastic is a big problem for the fashion industry. According to the UN Environment Programme the fashion industry has a huge impact on the environment. It is responsible for 20 per cent of global wastewater, 10 per cent of carbon emissions and huge amounts of waste. Every second, one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or incinerated. Our clothing is also polluting the ocean with plastic — which has led to an estimated 1.4 million trillion plastic fibres in the ocean. 

About 60 per cent of material made into clothing is plastic, which includes polyester, acrylic and nylon textiles. These materials are all made using fossil fuels, and the use of these fibres in fashion has dramatically increased in recent years, doubling between 2000 and 2020. These cheap fabrics have fuelled the explosion of fast, throwaway fashion. 

Fashion Revolution Week calls for a complete rethinking of our current wasteful fashion systems and this is something that we address within our curriculum.

Noorin Khamisani , Lecturer in Fashion and Textiles Design

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the University’s Revolution Plastics initiative, said: “The University is leading its own revolution  on plastic pollution, which is a major issue for the global fashion industry. We’re assembling teams of scientists, business-leaders, campaigners and citizens who share our ambition to transform the way we make, use and dispose of plastics. 

“Our events for Fashion Revolution week will shine a light on the role the clothing industry has in the world’s plastic problem and explore what can be done to make a change.”

Other events are planned throughout the week, both on campus and in the local community, including:

Stitch It, Don't Ditch It: Power Sew

Tuesday 19 April, 10.30am to 1.00pm and 5.30pm to 8.00pm, Community Room at St Jude's Church, Palmerston Road.

Bring your repairs, adjustments and re-designs to clothes and other textiles, or learn how to sew on a machine with a ‘Make & Take’ project. Learn how to make items including tote bags, various styles of draw-string bags, glam-scrunchies or lace-edged hankies.

Please contact southsea.sustex@gmail.com (07814 864 973) to book a place, making sure to include details on what you'd like to make, your skill level and which session you’d like to attend. This event is free, but pay-as-you-can donations are welcome.

Stitch It Don't Ditch it: Slow Sew

Wednesday 20 April, 10.30am to 1.00pm, Southsea Library, Palmerston Road

Bring your hand-sewing repairs, adjustments and re-designs of clothes. Learn to hand-sew, darn, do visible mending and modern embroidery. ‘Make and Take’ projects are available on request.

Please contact southsea.sustex@gmail.com (07814 864 973) to book a place, making sure to  include details on what you'd like to make and your skill level. This event is free, but pay-as-you-can donations are welcome.

Clothes Swap

Thursday 21 April, 12.30pm to 2.00pm (clothes drop-off: 9.30am to 10.30am), in the University’s Eldon Building foyer.

Bring in your quality unloved or outgrown items of clothing and swap them for something else. You can swap each item you bring for another. Nothing to swap? You can buy an item for just £1, with all proceeds going to Fashion Revolution.

Fashion First Aid

Thursday 21 April, 1.30pm to 2.30pm in the University’s Eldon Building foyer

Bring your hand-sewing repairs, adjustments and re-designs. Staff and students can come and learn these techniques for free and receive guidance from fashion students. A selection of materials will be provided. There will also be an option to learn how to customise existing clothes to give them a new lease of life.

New Fashion Systems Panel Discussion: “What are the regenerative, restorative and revolutionary new fashion systems?”

Thursday 21 April, 6.00pm to 7.30pm (online)

Join the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries in reimagining a just and equitable fashion system for people and the planet. With guest speakers: Beata Wilczak, Head of Digital Sustainability & Social Justice at The Dematerialized and fashion educator Dr Sass Brown, author of Eco Fashion and Refashioned and Course Leader for Sustainable Fashion at Kingston University Bel Jacobs, former fashion editor, climate campaigner and animal rights campaigner.