Event

Synthetic Forever: The Afterlife of Clothing and Textiles

A talk by Kirsty Robertson

This talk considers the moment where a once-loved item of clothing is discarded. Part meditation on the shedding of identity that goes along with turning clothing into waste, and part research into what actually happens to clothing once it is discarded, this presentation investigates the afterlife of clothing as it unfolds into futures unknown. Concentrating primarily on synthetic clothing (or clothing made at least partially from plastics), I uncover the exceedingly long life of “petrotextiles” before they break down to their molecular compounds.

What does it mean to create textiles and clothing that cannot be “unraveled” and that exact great demands upon the environments from which their component parts have been extracted? Are such textiles a potential resource for or a weight on future generations? Using the 1951 film The Man in the White Suit , which imagines the outfall from the invention of an indestructible synthetic fabric, as a kind of guiding voice from the past, I address the full life cycle of clothing, concentrating on what happens when exhausted fashions are out of sight and out of mind.

This talk is presented by the Textiles and Materiality Cluster.