You Should Be Reading: Textile (Over)consumption


A series of photos published by The Guardian and entitled ‘Overpopulation, Overconsumption: In Pictures’ garnered a lot of attention this past week. Compiled into a book by the Global Population Speak Out campaign, the staggering images are stark reminders of humanity’s effect on the planet. Although none of the images feature the fashion industry or textile production in particular, I could not help but think of the burgeoning fast-fashion brands that dominate our high streets, and our increasingly disposable attitudes towards clothing. In honour of Fashion Revolution Day on April 24th, here are three articles that discuss the life cycles of fashion and textiles, and their effects on people and the environment.

1. Palmsköld, Anneli. ‘Reusing Textiles: On Material and Cultural Wear and Tear.’ Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research 7(1): 31-43.

This article discusses contemporary practices in a Swedish context, connected to clothes and home textiles that are no longer in use, comparing them to reusing practices from the middle of the nineteenth century and onwards. The focus is on how the textiles are objects for different sorting processes in private homes as well as on a flea market, and people’s ethical concerns connected to these processes. Until the early 1970s the skills of mending, altering and patching was common knowledge, to women at least. The reusing processes were about wear and tear considerations from a material point of view. Today there are many more clothing and home textiles items in circulation, which have to be taken care of. To handle and sort textiles seems, among other things, to be about coping with different feelings connected with guilt and bad conscience. To avoid these feelings people are seeking ways of letting the textiles circulate in order to be reused by others. – Full article abstract

2. Choi, Tsan-Ming, et. al. ‘Effects of Used Garment Collection Programs in Fast-Fashion Brands.’ Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management, Springer Series in Supply Chain Management 1(1): 183-197. 

This research aims to investigate the fast-fashion brands’ recently implemented used garment collection (UGC) scheme. It examines the effects brought by the UGC programs on brand awareness and image building of fast-fashion companies. A convenience sampling based consumer survey is conducted for this study. The statistical results reveal that the UGC scheme offered by fast-fashion companies is correlated to brand awareness and brand image. The findings imply that fast-fashion retailers can employ the used apparel collection program as a marketing scheme to help establish their own green brand image. This measure also enhances the fast-fashion retailers’ brand positioning and their competitiveness in the market. – Full article abstract

3. Gilvin, Amanda. ‘Games of Seduction and Games of History: Alioum Moussa’s Fashion Victims in Niamey, Niger.’ African Studies Review 58(1): 55-89.

In his November 2011 solo art exhibition, Fashion Victims, held in Niamey, Niger, the Cameroonian artist Alioum Moussa launched a critique of global participation in the industrial fashion system by employing secondhand garments as his primary medium. The show had special resonance in a city attempting to cultivate both industrial and artisanal production of dress and fashion for global markets. Moussa demanded that viewers reckon with their own consumerist dress practices and potential fashion victimization in what he described as “global games of seduction,” and he offered tributes to the different “fashion victims” by inviting others to play in shared games of history. – Full article abstract

Image Credit: The True Cost, a documentary film about the impact of fashion on people and the planet, to be released May 29th.

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