SHEFFIELD, United Kingdom — A dress designed in collaboration between fashion and engineering students leads to a greener gown for (indoor) nuptials.
Students at Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom have created five dresses that dissolve in water as a way of highlighting the issue of clothing waste in the U.K. -- where 1.5 million metric tons of clothes end up in landfills every year.
Each of the five dresses, pictured below, represents a step in the transformation of the garment from clothing to nothing.
"The students wanted to challenge the notion that a wedding dress should only be used once and aimed to explore modern society's attitudes towards throwaway fashion," said Jane Blohm, a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam, in a statement. "The project is a union between art and technology which explores the possibilities of using alternative materials for our clothing. The wedding gown is perhaps one of the most iconic and symbolic garments in humanity's wardrobe and represents the challenges of 'throwaway fashion.'"
Some companies have made strides with recycling and upcycling materials into clothing, including Hanes' work in turning old cotton into new socks and turning plastic bottles into fleece, and Patagonia's Common Threads Garment Recycling Program, which has set a goal of making all of the company's products recyclable by the end of this year.
But the clothing retail industry has seen a boom in recent years with the rise of low-cost shops like H&M in the U.K. and U.S., which has driven clothing costs down by 25 percent, according to Blohm. The result is a huge spike in clothing sent to landfill and immense amounts of wasted resources.
"In order to reduce fashion's impact on the environment, the fashion industry must begin to challenge conventional attitudes and practices," Blohm said. "The exhibition demonstrates what could be possible when design and scientific innovation combine forces."
Top photo CC-licensed by Olivier Martins; wedding dresses photo courtesy of University of Sheffield.