At first glance, the latest set of photos from Mumbai-based photographer Prarthna Singh showcases everyday fashion. But what it really aims to do is stir viewers’ awareness of their relationship to consumerism and fast fashion.
A trend that came into vogue at the end of the 20th century, fast fashion refers to a business model based on reproducing the trend of high fashion catwalks and design and producing them at a lower cost. Offering a range of seasonal and trendy designs, the clothes, made from cheaper raw materials, end up producing a lot of waste because they are difficult to reuse or recycle.
In the photo series, which shows 10 pieces of black and white clothing, Singh attempts to construct multiple narratives of utility, waste and consumption. In an email interaction, she spoke about the series in detail.
Why did you choose to do the photo series?
Sustainability in fashion, especially questions about how clothes are made and what their afterlife looks like, has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while. When The Refashion Hub approached me to create a series of images dealing with fast fashion, their intention was immediately apparent and I was happy to be able to contribute. This opportunity seemed like the right time to explore the subject.
Why is the series of photos in black and white? What do you intend to represent through the images?
As I explored how I might approach the subject, I found myself drawn to the idea of answering it from a very personal space. I do not claim to be an expert in the field of fashion sustainability but it is a subject that touches us inadvertently. I wondered how someone like me could react to visual narratives on a subject as complex as this. The choice to make black and white images of the clothes in my environment allowed me to communicate a moment of quiet reflection that could perhaps inspire a questioning of the impact of the way we consume fashion. Pictures can also be enjoyed on their own – black and white vignettes of everyday life.
You have chosen 10 items of clothing for the photo series; what is the significance of these clothes?
The images I made for this series are of the clothes that make up my immediate daily environment – a favorite pair of shorts to dry; a pile of clothes waiting to be recycled; my partner’s sports kit back from the cleaners, a white blouse on a hanger. The images are a moment of tranquility, to watch what goes unnoticed.
Is it time to rethink fashion rather than indulging in uncontrolled consumption?
Absolutely. Mindless consumption has brought us to where we are today and it is imperative that we are aware of our choices regarding – though certainly not limited to – clothing. I think it’s important to think about what we consider valuable or ambitious. Consumption has a cost. It’s time to explore holistic alternatives that take more account of the earth’s resources.
Do you recycle clothes?
I believe in wearing clothes multiple times and appreciate clothes as a tool of expression rather than a seasonal trend. I wouldn’t claim to be the main voice of slow and sustainable fashion, but I appreciate carefully designed pieces that can be enjoyed for a long time.
On a personal level, what steps are you taking / planning to take to reduce wasted clothing?
These are all small steps. I try to support friends with independent labels and I like to have my neighborhood tailor’s weird outfit made. It is quite heartwarming to see the growing popularity of thrift stores and clothing exchanges on Instagram. Second-hand shopping is becoming more and more normal and people are having fun with it. Fashion is a joyful medium and the road to making the consumer sector sustainable can attest to that.
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