That will be the biggest question of 2017 if Natascha van der Velden has anything to do with it. She is the first person to have gained a PhD in the Netherlands on sustainable fashion. Her thesis Making Fashion Sustainable reads like a thriller in which you are one of the perpetrators.

Everyone knows that the clothing industry is the second biggest world polluter, with the oil industry topping the list. That’s quite something. It is common knowledge that the clothing supply chain likes unethical trade. A typical response from people who deliberately buy clothing that is overly cheap: ‘It would be silly to spend more!’ But deep in their hearts they know it isn’t true: after a couple of washes and wears, seams start to split. And they never include a needle and thread for repairs. Waste is something we don’t mention. A bad buy isn’t something we boast about.

Where does sustainable fashion start? With the makers or the wearers? If you ask this PhD graduate, it starts with you! How? It’s very simple. You’ll find a checklist on page 8 of her thesis that you can use when buying your next item of clothing:

  • the choice of materials, the production chain and the manufacturing method;
  • ethical wages for all workers in the chain;
  • consumer behaviour (purchase, use, re-use, cleaning and disposal), waste processing and recycling;
  • communication about sustainable and unsustainable clothing.

These were the topics Natascha researched in the past few years and provided with a scientific basis in her clearly argued case. You can see her vision for the future in the exhibition Rhapsody of Ideas for Sustainable Fashion, which is also based on scientific research. Her own designs and articles of clothing which have been made sustainable hang on the rotary washing line. She converted a cocktail dress into a playful wedding dress for a bride-to-be. Making something out of something else: that is sustainable. Without batting an eyelid, the PhD graduate talks about clothes made from algae and moss. Looking at the sign ‘Bodyfur’, she laughs. People clothed in fur. I can just see it: the dog and its master in the same outfit!

Sustainable fashion starts with you: that’s set to be a hot topic in 2017!

Jet Manrho

Rhapsody of Ideas for Sustainable Fashion

Exhibition in the library at TU Delft
Open until 3 February 2017

image of sustainable clothes
Exhibition Making Fashion Sustainable

Makers of wedding outfit

Natascha van der Velden: from cocktail dress to wedding dress with veil
Armeni Tovmasjan: redesign of second-hand jacket and shawl
Hendriekje van Houweninge: bridal bouquet made of paper

Making Fashion Sustainable can be downloaded.