On the face of it, Mumbai-based photographer Prarthna Singh’s latest photo series exhibits everyday fashion. But what it really aims to do is stir the viewers’ conscience about their relationship with consumerism and fast fashion.
A trend that came into vogue in the late 20th century, fast fashion refers to a business model based on replicating catwalk trend and high-fashion design and producing them at a lower cost. In the process of offering a range of seasonal and trendy designs, the clothes, made of cheaper raw material, end up producing a lot of waste since they are hard to reuse or recycle.
In the photo series, which shows 10 articles of clothing in black and white, Singh attempts to build multiple narratives of utility, waste and consumption. In an email interaction, she spoke about the series in detail.
Why did you choose to do the photo series?
Sustainability in fashion, particularly questions on how clothes are made and what their after-life looks like, is something I have been thinking of for a while. When The Refashion Hub approached me to create a series of images addressing fast-fashion, their intention was immediately apparent and I was happy to be able to contribute to this. This opportunity felt like the right time to explore the subject.
Why is the photo series in black and white? What do you aim to portray through the pictures?
Through the process of exploring how I might address the topic, I found myself drawn to the idea of responding to it from a very personal space. I do not claim to be an expert in the field of fashion sustainability but it is a topic that inadvertently touches us. I asked myself how someone like myself might respond to visual narratives on a topic as complex as this one. The choice to make black and white images of the clothes in my environment allowed me to communicate a quiet moment of reflection that could perhaps inspire a questioning about the impact of the way we consume fashion. The images can also be enjoyed for themselves — black and white vignettes of the everyday.
You picked 10 articles of clothing for the photo series; what is the significance of these clothing items?
The images I made for this series are of clothes that make up my immediate, everyday surroundings — a favourite pair of shorts out to dry; a pile of clothes waiting to be recycled; my partner’s sports kit back from the cleaners, a white blouse resting on a hanger. The images are a moment of quietude, of looking at what goes unnoticed.
Is it time we start rethinking fashion rather than practising uncontrolled consumption?
Absolutely. Mindless consumption has got us where we are today and it is imperative for us to be conscious of our choices pertaining to — though certainly not limited to — clothes. I think it’s important to think through what we deem as valuable or aspirational. Consumption has a cost. It is time to explore holistic alternatives that are a little more considerate of the earth’s resources.
Do you recycle clothes?
I do believe in wearing clothes multiple times, and enjoy clothes as a tool for expression rather than a seasonal trend. I would not claim to be the leading voice of slow, sustainable fashion, but I do appreciate thoughtfully made pieces that can be enjoyed for a long time.
On a personal level, what steps do you take/plan to take to curtail clothing waste?
It’s all small steps. I try to support friends with independent labels and enjoy getting the odd outfit made from my neighbourhood tailor. It’s quite heartwarming to see the growing popularity of thrift stores and clothes swaps on Instagram. Second-hand shopping is being increasingly normalised and people are having fun with it. Fashion is a joyful medium and the road to making the mainstream industry sustainable can reflect this.
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