25 October 2019 — Time to see through the clothes you wear. This was the tongue-cheek challenge of artists and advocates who gathered October 24 at Ayala Malls Circuit Makati for The Walk-Through exhibit. The event confronts negative practices within the fashion industry and calls instead for greater transparency, sustainability, and ethics in the trade.
The four-day activity was organized by Fashion Revolution Philippines, part of a global movement that rose out of the Rana Plaza collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013. Over a thousand garment workers died and another 2,500 were injured in the tragedy.
“We don’t know where our clothes come from. We don’t know who makes them. Because of this opacity, we are complicit in a system that’s allowing environmental degradation, exploitation, and other abuses that we would like to stop,” said Lian Sing, Fashion Revolution Philippines head of Creative Commissions.
According to the event partner Institute for Climate Sustainable Cities, an international climate and energy policy group, it’s high time people dwell on the way clothes they wear are sourced, produced, and consumed.
“Everything counts and everyone matters in our response to the climate crisis. Participating fashion designers, garment producers, and the organizers of this event deserve everyone’s applause. We are the change we wear,” said Celine Tabinga, ICSC special projects coordinator.
“The country’s move towards a low carbon economy goes beyond shifting to renewable energy. We need system upgrades for everything, including food, transportation, infrastructure, and in particular fashion supply chains that support not only climate resilience but also inclusive local development,” Tabinga added.
In Agua Caja, artist Anina Rubio built a large box out of locally-sourced bamboo, with scrap fabric dangling from the frames. In the box are two coral-shaped art pieces made of hand-stitched fabric, a nod to Rubio’s marine conservation advocacy. And between the two works hang a mirror, where a viewer can see where change begins.
“As human beings, we are always capable of making change. It doesn’t have to be big things, because we can always start with small things and collectively, make a big impact in protecting our planet,” Rubio said.
For Excess, Pam Quinto collected scrap fabric and draped them in the canopy above passersby as a way to show them what goes into a dumpsite.
“It’s not just the clothes that we wear that end up in the garbage. It’s also the waste that’s produced by making these clothes that is a huge part of what goes into the pollution of our environment,” she said.
In Mend project, Tanya Villanueva placed a mattress with needlework spread over it, inviting visitors to rest, or to try their hand at sewing.
“I want the focus in fashion to shift from the hands that create to the hands that mend. Sustainability is not a product. It’s not something that you buy to solve the climate crisis. The best way to go about it is for us humans is to pause our consumption and make do with what already exists,” she said.
In Salome, Tekla Tamoria took on the challenge of deconstructing ordinary t-shirts and upcycling them into a couture jacket, dress, and boots. For her, using your imagination allows you to see what is already there in a different light.
Meanwhile, Zeus Bascon, with Jas Fernandez, created Tawo-tawo during his immersion in the weaving industry of Kalibo, Aklan. Tawo-tawo is Aklanon for “scarecrow”, a figure found in his video presentation, standing in the middle of nature as it gets filled with trash.
For Bascon, humans are both the ghouls in this nightmare, and the light that comes with an awakening.
He also sought to call attention to the threats faced by the weaving industry, including low wages and lack of access to the market.
Ultimately, the The Walk-Through is a prompt for inquiry into fashion and sustainability, and a cue to collaborate for radical change.
“The climate crisis requires transformation at all levels, from the level of industry to the personal. The private sector is a critical part of this process, and we expect leadership from businesses involved in fashion. Thankfully they already have advocates and designers showing the way. We are ultimately individual threads that will together form the fabric of change,” Tabinga said.
The Walk-Through runs until October 27 at Ayala Malls Circuit Makati.