The response we've had to our 4KT Elephants environment envoy pop-up project has been amazing!
We had over 350 people through on the 10 days we opened our pop-up space, from May 31st - June 16th. From opening to closing (and often after our official closing time!) we had roughly 20 people in the space, including all ages, all backgrounds; all enjoying the chance to get creative and work together in a warm, bright space we created from a long dis-used retail space.
It was fabulous seeing parents bringing in their children and helping them with their very first sewing project. (Elephants are quite challenging for beginners, but the attraction of making their own elephant was so strong that they persevered and achieved their goal!)
Many people came back each weekend to make more elephants as gifts for friends and family or to donate to Tedz4Kidz. We also had people requesting our special individually numbered labels, to take home to add to elephants they were making from their own scrap fabrics.
Groups from Otago Girls and Dunedin City Council also joined us, as a team building volunteer activity.
Over 300 elephants we made in store (with another 200 labels taken or sent away for elephants to be made), using approximately 90kgs of textile 'waste'.
We also had a huge number of people stop and look at our amazing window display, created by Fiona Clements (Senorita Awesumo), showcasing what 85kgs of textiles (the equivalent weight of textiles thrown out each year per household) looks like - giving some idea of how enormous the issue of textile waste in Dunedin is.
Posters we had commissioned by Jess Newton of Dust and Dandelions, also helped to inform everyone who visited how this waste is created and what impact it has - not 'somewhere far away', but right here where we live.
Posters also shared our top 5 tips for reducing textile waste:
Many visitors took photos of our posters as reminders of simple things they can keep doing on a regular basis to help us cut our landfill waste and carbon emissions.
Although not found in NZ, elephants are known for helping the biodiversity and ecosystems of the areas they live. They are also renowned for their long lives, long memories and strong social bonds. We have developed an idea that we hope will bring these special benefits to Dunedin.
This is work we are thrilled to have the support of the Dunedin City Council with Dunedin Dream Brokerage, as part of Te Ao Tūroa - Dunedin’s Environment Strategy.
4KT Elephants Project is a unique creative project to engage the Dunedin community in practical solutions to re-purpose textile waste, reduce landfill, build resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dunedin waste management review reports that Dunedin’s textile waste to landfill has doubled in the last year, with over 4 thousand tons of textiles added to our green island landfill.
As well as putting pressure on landfill capacity and speeding the need for additional land to be converted from natural landscape or productive purposes to industrial waste storage. Textile waste also contributes significantly to Dunedin’s carbon footprint, as slowly degrading synthetic and natural fibres contribute 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions from our current landfill, which will continue long after the landfill has been decommissioned (200-700 years according to estimates based on the breakdown time for synthetic fibres!).
This textile waste presents an ‘elephant in the room’. The 4KT Elephant Projects will create a positive, empowering way to engage the community in discussion and demonstrate how textile waste can not only be reduced, but used to enrich our lives.
We have designed a unique soft toy elephant, which can be made by anyone in our community from (clean) worn clothing, curtains, bedding and other textiles, along with commercial waste stuffing materials.
(We will ultimately make four thousand elephants - one for every ton of waste, each with it's own numbered tag.)
For the Environmental Envoy, we will create a fun, accessible workshop space in a vacant shop in the central city to engage the public in collecting materials and developing skills to make the elephants; including sewing, problem solving, and teamwork.
The resulting elephants can be adopted by participants; donated to local children's projects such as Tedz4Kidz, Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women's Refuge; or sold to raise money to support the ongoing costs of the project as we continue towards our goal to make four thousand soft toy elephants: one for each ton of textile waste.
In additional the practical work space and making of the elephants, there will be educational resources and information about the context of textile waste and its impact on our community and environment here in Dunedin, and more importantly, how each person in our community can show their love of our environment by taking an active part in reducing textile waste through our everyday choices.
Keep your eyes open for where and when you can get involved!
A skirt made from shirts... a dress made from table cloths... a cardigan made from two jerseys... and luxurious nightgown from a sentimental souvenir... a coat made for walking Canada's cold streets in in the 1980's, now re-tailored for city life in Dunedin for winter 2019.
These are some of the projects we worked on at the top of Dunedin Public Library last month during ID Fashion Week.
Desi and I were joined by four attendees with a wide range of background sewing experience, all keen for ideas on how to re-imagine items which had been stashed away (in several cases for years).
Treasured items made from silk, cashmere, organic linen and denim (from days before Lycra and polyester were added). Items that were hand-made by them decades ago, or by family members, or 'the tiny gentleman who worked in a cupboard-sized workshop just off the street in Bangkok' ...
These are common themes we experience with Upcycling: items where the provenance is personal, the fabric of a quality that seems undervalued in the current form, or simply the desire to make something more practical for our contemporary taste and lifestyle.
It is hugely rewarding to take inspiration for what something already is, and consider what form it could be to become more than what it was - more practical, more appreciated, more beautiful, and much more personal.
In our Mend & Make Awesome workshops, we see this on a small scale. People repairing or altering items to improve them. Upcycling however, is a much bigger (and often trickier) enterprise, involving many hours work, and often facing challenges when the previous shape resists your efforts and you have to think again. It's easy to become disheartened and stuck, and end up with grand plans put indefinitely on hold.
This is where having some outside advice is so valuable. Having another person to bounce ideas with, suggest alternatives techniques, or to make the tea!
This workshop was a delight on all levels, and we hope to organise more in the near future!
What makes you an ‘upcycler’? Why do you go about it? And how does clothing upcycling impact on the fashion industry?
These are the questions being asked in by Masters of Sociology candidate Kirsten Koch, in new research facilitated through the University of Otago, Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work.
Kirsten has has already achieved a Master of Fine Arts in Textiles; Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Development, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Anthropology. She is also a practicing textile artist, upcycler, and (when she can fit it into her schedule) guest tutor at Stitch Kitchen.
Her latest research project aims to investigate current textile practitioners utilizing clothing upcycling as a component of their practice. It will shed light on issues such as:
In recent years, upcycling has become well known term, used by amateur home sewists to high end designers, textile artists, bloggers, authors and reporters, as reworking clothing has become popular across a wide cross section of ages, lifestyles and cultural backgrounds.
Kirsten has defined ‘upcycling clothing’ as: a practice which utilizes second-hand textiles to create new and original garments. She has defined ‘practice’ as: the making, marketing, displaying, interaction and exchange of upcycled clothing and textiles.
From her own experience, Kirsten believes practitioners may upcycle for a variety of interrelated reasons such as enriching their and others lives, DIY, sustainability, affordability, beauty, politics, aesthetics, experimentation, and self-differentiation.
As part of the study, Kirsten will be organising a public forum, where participants in the study will share with the wider community, their inspiration and creations. The role of upcycling within the wider context of the fashion industry will also be highlighted in this forum to be held on Wednesday 24th April, coinciding with international Fashion Revolution Day. This forum is open the public, and will be a fascinating insight into this increasingly popular practice. For more information about the seminar, please email Kirsten: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are each looking forward to taking part in this fantastic research, and seeing how it will highlight the value of repurposing clothing, not only personally, but in understanding and enriching our ever changing culture of fashion.
Would you like to be part of this study?
News, updates and things we find inspiring, from Dunedin's Stitch Kitchen