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Counting the cost of fast fashion

Friday, 10 February 2012

Source: Queensland University of Technology

One billion items of clothing arrive on our shores every year from China alone - many of which are destined to become landfill.

However, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) fashion student Alice Payne, who is in the final year of a PhD investigating sustainability in mass market fashion, hopes that changing the mindset of consumers and designers may help lessen the environmental impact of looking trendy.

"In 2000-2001 fast fashion went berserk and by 2003 designers were doing monthly or weekly product drops," she said.

"Now there are some fashions that, trend wise, last just a few weeks."

While undertaking her PhD studies, Ms Payne came up with ThinkLifecycle, a concept which could be used as an internal knowledge sharing tool within design companies to post images, links, comments and articles or to flag concerns.

The Content Management System (CMS) would be structured to make companies think about the garment lifecycle from fibre, known as the cradle, to grave.

The concept, which earned her the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion's Unique Enterprise Award recently, is currently in the demonstration phase.

"I can see ThinkLifecycle being used in the industry as a jumping off point for fashion companies to think about sustainability in product design - what new materials are out there; how they can consider the use phase and end of life of their garments; whether they can offer services as well as or instead of more product," Ms Payne said.

"It differs from existing tools as it will be customised by each company, so the research they collect and the ideas they generate are unique to their particular needs and market.

"The ideas can come from collaborations from their own staff members."

Though the biggest growth area in the fashion industry is fast fashion - cheap clothing which is only designed to be worn for a short period - Ms Payne said it was largely ignored by sustainability researchers.

"The mass market isn't a sexy area like the high-end luxury market," she said.

"But the reality is we have to figure out how to sustainably handle the demands of 7 billion people needing to be dressed.

"ThinkLifecycle will help members of the fashion industry to begin a conversation related to sustainability, fashion and the garment lifecycle within the forum and knowledgebase."

*A high res-image of Alice Payne is available here.

Media contact: Alita Pashley, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1841 or alita.pashley@qut.edu.au

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