Everyone needs to dress. The clothing industry is one of the largest in the world. But how much is known about it? The NonFiction Photo Exhibition this year explores Fair Fashion, the clothing industry, and ways to better its impact on the world. The NonFiction Photo Exhibition dives deep into the world of fashion and its effects on the people and places around it.
Written by Bill Derrah
It’s increasingly apparent, between social inequities, environmental damage, and wonton wastefulness, that the current fashion industry is not all it could be. Enter Fair Fashion – a loose term for a movement of individuals, businesses, and styles which work to solve the problems of the clothing industry. How does it work?
Curator, exhibiting photographer and founder of NonFiction Photo Andrea Hooymans has learned from the research. “I’m not as optimistic about recycling as when I started to work on this exhibition… A lot of people think that if you recycle, you’ve dealt with it, you’ve done your part. But actually that’s not true, it’s very misleading.” She notes several cases where recycled clothes end up as fuel for heat in poorer countries, an immense waste of resources for little heating value. Also many clothing items are assembled in such a complex way, it is impossible to recycle them. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that this is one of the worst consumers of water in the world.” Between this and other insights, she found that the common wisdom was not quite accurate. “I realized it’s more about the design’s fault in fashion. It’s not really the consumers that cause the problem – although it is true we ‘vote’ with the money we spend, but it is like mopping with the tap open – it’s more the way clothes are designed.”
Consistent with NonFiction Photo’s moral orientation, she hopes audiences “learn something new, get inspired, rethink the way they look at fashion.” Practical advice included: the exhibition contains an action-oriented section showing audiences actionable means to help. From little things like where in the city of Groningen they can shop for fairer clothing, to lifestyle tips such as how to keep clothing better, the exhibit has staying power. “I would love for people to realize that fashion shouldn’t be a hobby. It really doesn’t match the times and the things we know about what’s happening in the world. It’s easier and cheaper to shop fair than you might think… I hope to make people a little more aware and reflective about what they’re doing.”
Designer and master builder Dries Verbeke (Driever) says the experience of creating this exhibition has been like being in a band, where everyone has their own ideas around a shared topic, enriching everyone’s experience. He hopes that through this and similar exhibitions progressive protest, in line with Extinction Rebellion, stays alive and effective. “The issues are always right under our noses because of organizations like that… I hope for true action, that political action will come. We can only hope for the best of course, but through true actions, like building an exhibition like this, we can make sure these issues are at least seen by people.”
Production and fashion designer Grystje-Suze Abma has joined the team especially for the Fair Fashion Exhibition: “I tried to frame the issues of fair fashion as positively as possible. So not to be too critical about everything that we are doing wrong, but focus instead on ‘what do I already do?’ or ‘what kinds of things can I do to better the situation?’. And also to create a more positive awareness, and add tips and more fun to it.” She hopes audiences will get “easy hands-on tips, and the awareness to implement them in everyday life.”
Interested in seeing the exhibition, including Academy talks and the World Press Photo Exhibition 2021 winners? The NonFiction Photo Exhibition is running from 12 November to 5 December, hosted at the Synagoge Groningen. Tickets can be purchased online via nonfictionphoto.nl.