The pandemic isn’t done with us yet, and the war in Ukraine is further complicating the production and shipping issues that have plagued businesses of all sizes for the last two years. In fashion, the sustainability movement—or at least discussion about the sustainability movement—has slowed in the face of these crises.
Kit Willow, the Australian designer behind Kitx, is doing her damnedest to fight that slide. “Commodity prices are going up, there are delays in freight, virgin resources are getting harder and harder to accumulate, and yet in Australia we’re discarding 6,000 kilograms of fashion waste every 10 minutes,” she pointed out on a Zoom call. In response, she established the Future From Waste Lab in Melbourne, a factory in miniature where some of that discarded fashion can be rehabbed and put to new use. The patchwork denim pieces in her new lineup are made from 100% pre-owned jeans. And she has plans to apply the sorting, washing, deconstructing, and reconstructing process she used to make them to upcycled silk scraps for a collection she will present in Paris this July—call it trash couture.
Individual designers can only do so much, and 6,000 kilograms of fashion waste every 10 minutes is a mountain to climb. Willow recognizes that systemic change is needed. A global carbon tax, say, that would make polyester and nylon more expensive to use; after all, the cost to the planet is so great. Polyester and nylon are derived from petroleum, to start, and when created they release nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that’s about 200 times worse than carbon dioxide. Then there are the micro fibers they release into waterways, and, just as bad, the methane they release when they ferment in landfills.
Willow sticks to natural and naturally derived fibers, and creates her patterns from squares, circles, and half circles, which make for less excess material on the cutting room floor. The results are expressive and bohemian in spirit. You’d never guess that the stripes that decorate these pieces—don’t miss the cape dresses—were inspired by data charts about global warming. Australia has had its share of climate emergencies lately, from the wildfires of early 2020 to the recent floods. So don’t expect Willow to drop this subject any time soon.