Ethical Threads by Rhea Gupte
This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "Less to Impress". Through visual stories, our curators research the question “How are you impacting the clothing industry?”.
Right after the oil industry, the fashion industry is the second-largest polluter in the world. Not only it is devastating the environment, but fast fashion can also be to blame for huge economic losses and human rights abuses such as poor working conditions and child labour. According to Fashion for Good, “on average, we buy 60% more clothing than we did 15 years ago — but we keep each item only half as long. Plus, it is estimated that nearly 60% of all clothing produced ends up being burned or in landfills within one year of being made”.
Rhea Gupte’s Ethical Threads - one of her “pet projects” - is an ongoing personal undertaking to encourage conversation and education about ethical and sustainable fashion, and what we can do to improve our thinking and actions in this direction.
As per Gupte herself, “a majority of the youth today grow up thinking of shopping as a hobby and acquisition of material objects as a measure of success, seldom realising the conflicts faced by the industry with regards to sustainability and mass-production. In an effort to bring focus to matters which are close to my heart and a need of the hour, I present, Ethical Threads, a soon to be weekly dose of conversation, inspiration and education about things which matter”.
In this project, Gupte features multiple designers and brands who take on a sustainable approach to fashion: not only does she photograph and produce a series with their designs, but also she sits down with the brand and interviews them. Her aim is to feature at least a hundred designers, sharing the stories of how they got here, together with the vast knowledge and inspiration they can bring to the conversation. She hopes that, together, we can be better informed and make significant changes to our lifestyles.
In an interview for LISSOME (attach link https://www.thelissome.com/), Gupte explains that this series started after she researched the fashion industry and realized how little awareness there was about the disastrous consequences of fast fashion. Thus, Ethical Threads is a photo series that portrays slow fashion in a dreamy and emotive way. She has said that she thought of floating dresses shot across natural landscapes because she felt that “anything that is in the sky seems to have a purity to it and makes it seem almost alive”. Thus, using a surreal visualization of floating clothing emphasizes the beauty and superiority of the sustainable and ethical approach in fashion. She tells Lissome that she wants people to feel an emotional connection with her work and also to educate themselves about the subject of her imagery.
In the same interview, Rhea reflects on what fashion is to her: an emotional attachment to anything with a story draws her in more than a trend ever could. She talks about how she still owns all her grandfather’s shirts and her grandmother’s purses – the relationship to these pieces grows every time she wears them, a new memory is attached to the ones they already carry.
With the notion of having an emotional connection with clothing and seeing each item as a memory, we can try and change our impact to a positive one rather than a catastrophic one. We can buy less, wear more what we already own instead of throwing it out and seeing each item as though it were a photograph: a memory-object to which we attach to certain events in our lives. By buying vintage and second hand, we can also think of each item as a relic with a long history which we can fantasize and wonder about, rather than seeing each item as disposable.
In Amsterdam, you can visit “Fashion for Good” - a global initiative with a hub in the city. Fashion for Good believes that good fashion is not only possible, but it is also within reach — what the industry lacks are the resources, tools, and incentives to put it into relentless practice. Their mission is to bring together the entire fashion ecosystem as a conveyor for change and through their Innovation Platform. Fashion for Good connects brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, non-profit organisations, innovators and investors to work together in their shared ambition to make the fashion industry a force for good. By providing the inspiration and information needed to make it possible, they are revolutionising the fashion industry so that people, companies and the planet can flourish together. Together they are reimagining the way fashion is designed, made, worn and reused.
At their office, you can also visit the world’s first interactive museum for sustainable fashion innovation. The Fashion for Good Experience is a space where you can learn how your clothes were made and discover game-changing innovations shaping the future of fashion. Throughout the building, you can find concrete ways to have a positive impact, commit to taking action and shop sustainable products (that is, when you need to shop at all).
Visit https://fashionforgood.com for more information.
Furthermore, using the app Good on You, you can discover ethical brands and see how your favourites measure up. The app helps you buy products that meet your needs, from brands that live up to your expectations in relation to their environmental and social performance and how they impact on animals.
Visit https://goodonyou.eco link for more information.
About the artist: Rhea Gupte is a visual artist, photographer, creative director, writer and consultant based in Goa, India. Her body of work includes commissioned and self-initiated projects, as well as reflective essays and poetry. According to her website, Gupte enjoys creating with subjects that are unpredictable in form and movement, making clouds, waves and ink some of her favorites to photograph and then digitally manipulate. Her recent experiments have a minimalistic and surreal visual style with soothing and almost edible colour palettes. The notion of day-dreaming is important to her work, as is being a storyteller. As a photographer, Gupte explores her interests in fashion, travel, still life, portraiture, interiors, and abstract forms. She works on varied commissions in this space from creating imagery for fashion campaigns, lookbooks and editorial stories to freestyle street photography capturing the essence and aesthetic of a place. Her work has been exhibited across the globe from India and Australia to European countries.
Let us know what you think in the comments! Our weekly themes always include three photo series by different photographers. Are you interested and do you want to stay posted?
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Written by Rita Bolieiro