The Use of Paper in Sustainable Fashion

The Use of Paper in Sustainable Fashion

Back in the USA of the 1960s, a curious trend started sweeping the female population: the paper dress. While paper clothes – such as masquerade costumes – made of individual papers and papier-mâché had been created since the 19th century, dresses made of “Dura-Weve” (disposable cellulose fabric), became a short-lived craze when the Scott Paper Company started offering them as a marketing stunt. This craze saw major department stores and entire boutiques selling paper clothing, which often featured pop-art patterns, advertising (such as the famous Souper Dress based on Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup) and even shapes for the wearer to colour in themselves.

The motto of the paper-fashion era was: “Won’t last forever…who cares? Wear it for kicks – then give it the air.” The trend disappeared from the market by 1968, but it is far from having been forgotten. Paper dresses didn’t take over the world of fashion, but the versatile use of this readily available material continues to be recognized, and various contemporary fashion and accessory designers have incorporated it to promote sustainability through recycling and upcycling.

Here are two of the most innovative uses of paper in the sustainable fashion industry.

Paper Weaving

We use it daily – in our office, the kitchen, during shopping sprees, to package things, etc. And yet, few of us look at paper as a material that could be turned into something fashionable. Unless, of course, we were some of the lucky students who were introduced to the art of weaving with folded paper strips, back at school. Weaving little baskets and placemats following a simple under-over technique was once a popular part of the crafting curriculum at schools and proved just how excited a creation could be made from glossy magazines, newspapers and gift-wrapping paper.

Paper weaving with rolled up paper, yarns, tapes, twines and spun paper yarn is making a comeback – and so it should. This technique offers a sustainable way to create fashionable accessories, garments and home décor items that has helped empower and clean up impoverished communities and continues to raise awareness regarding our wasteful and environmentally damaging attitude and approach to design.

Three-Dimensional Forms

Granted, a lot of the looks we see on the catwalk don’t necessarily scream comfort for day-to-day life. The same might be true for the creations of high-fashion designers such as Jernhusen, Tara Keens Douglas or Alexandra Zakharova, who draw their inspiration from geometry and origami to create three-dimensional paper forms that can only be described as wearable art. And that’s exactly the point. While we’re happy to spend three dollars on a fast-fashion shirt that will wash-out after three washing cycles, we are more reluctant to spend a pretty penny on the kind of wearable art that may not be apt for every day styles, but will definitely turn heads and become the most memorable piece during special occassions.

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