California Lutheran University hosted a free clothing swap in conjunction with an art exhibit that examined the harmful effects of fast fashion.
People could drop off lightly used clothes they no longer want and pick up apparel that others had donated. The event tied into “Garment Girl,” an exhibit by Cal Lutheran adjunct art faculty member Jennifer Vanderpool that explored the textile industry and labor activism. The art exhibit highlighted the hidden costs and consequences of clothing production, including the sweatshop conditions in developing nations, the chemicals used to dye fabric, and the volume of water used to grow cotton.
The clothing swap provided people with a way to reduce their clothing footprint by extending the life of discarded items. Participants could bring in as much or as little usable clothing as they wanted, or none at all, and take as much as they wanted.
During the exhibit’s opening run in Vietnam last year, Vanderpool and Hanoi-based artist and fashion designer Phạm Hồng organized an event called “Remake” to extend the life of clothing. They converted the art gallery into a “factory” with sewing machines in imitation of Vietnamese sweatshops. They invited Hanoi garment and apparel industry workers to work with them and visitors to create new garments from scraps and fix damaged clothing.
“Garment Girl” features photographic prints, textiles and videos of Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles sweatshops and female textile laborers in Hanoi telling their stories. Vanderpool also conducted interviews with scholars and activists in both locations. In one of the videos, Phạm asks people to think about the efforts of workers who designed and manufactured the clothes they wear, the social and environmental impact of the global supply chain, and their responsibility as consumers.