On a sunny June day in Brooklyn, sunlight filtered through the frosted glass in an army terminal turned warehouse, where a dozen or so design students were sifting through a floor-to-ceiling hill of pristine textiles. They ripped apart bundles of cotton and polyester swatches, removing pins and staples and sorting garments into separate recycling bins by material type. For unlabeled clothing samples, the students pulled at the fabric to test for stretch: spandex melts at high temperatures and can make a big mess when recycled.
It was tedious, time-consuming work. But, according to their teacher, Donna Maione, a necessary lesson in sustainability. Last school year, Maione started bringing her students at Parsons School of Design here to give them a first-hand look at the current state wastefulness on the maker side of the fashion industry. Her goal isn’t necessarily to shock and shame the fashion-forward among them, but to introduce new questions: What is considered waste? What can we make from what’s left behind? And, better yet, can we design to eliminate this excess stuff in the first place?