Since September 23rd, 2016, Scraps: Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse—Cooper Hewitt Design Museum’s new Fall show—gathers a well-deserved attention in New York. Launched as the center piece of the New York Textile Month’s first edition, this exhibition addresses the issue of waste in the fashion and textile industry. It presents the sustainable approach of three textile designers: Christina Kim from dosa inc, Luisa Cevese from Riedizioni, and Reiko Sudo from NUNO, respectively from the United States, Italy and Japan. In different ways, these three designers aim to reduce the environmental impact of their production by combining craftsmanship, technology, and upcycling. Christina Kim designs delicate handcrafted clothes made of fine Indian brocaded cottons called jamdani and uses every scrap of it in second and third generations of garments. Luisa Cevese chose to make accessories in translucent polyurethane that incorporates textile waste (selvedges and yarns) collected in high-end textile manufacturers and workshops. And finally Reiko Sudo has developed an ingenious method to collect industrial silk waste (called kibiso in Japan) and turn it into ready-to-weave fibers for home textiles. Instead of being discarded, these different waste materials have become sources of inspiration and opportunities to experiment new creative methods.
Curators Matilda McQuaid and Susan Brown have opted for a minimalist and aerial scenography that visually connects these three stories together and opens a dialogue between them. In the Carnegie Mansion’s wooden period rooms, Scraps skillfully links tradition to innovation. The display uncovers the making process of each piece, allowing visitors to understand each step from the raw material to the final object.
Thanks to a Smithsonian Institute fellowship, I spent nearly a year assisting the Textile Department at Cooper Hewitt on the production of this exhibition. I developed an online accompanying platform called Scraps Stories with the support of the curators and in collaboration with the Publishing and Communication teams. For the whole duration of the show, you will find there a series of articles about sustainable fashion and textiles, including a green glossary, insightful facts and figures, and a world tour of mending and repair traditions.