Fast Fashion exhibition has ended – but the lessons live on

Sharp suits and thoughtful poses – do you know where your clothes came from? Opening night image Fast Fashion: the dark side of fashion by Nico Keenan, RMIT Gallery, 2017.

By Melanie Moynihan

The timely and popular Fast Fashion: The dark side of fashion (21 July – 9 September) exhibition presented by RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut provided a critical look behind the scenes of the fast fashion industry and consumer habits.

The exhibition garnered a huge response from the public and provided a place for an in-depth discussion about the problems and ways consumers and designers can combat issues rife in the industry.

Apart from displaying confronting images and information, the exhibition presented a wide ranging public program of events, with an inspiring line up of influential people in the fashion industry at the frontier of sustainable fashion.

These included exhibition assistant curator Luisa Hilmer, industry experts from Germany Ina Budde and Sina Trinkwalder, as well as local voices of sustainability and change in fashion Clare Press and Melinda Tually. They were joined by practitioners from RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles who shared their cutting edge research on new approaches to fashion as a business.

Making a difference: (left to right) Assistant curator Luisa Hilmer, fashion writer Clare Press and designer Ina Budde. Opening night Fast Fashion: the dark side of fashion. Photo by Nico Keenan, RMIT Gallery, 2017.

Additionally, third year RMIT fashion students collaborated with sustainable fashion designer Ina Budde to design sustainable clothing in response to the exhibition.

At the ‘Fast Fashion 2030’ event at RMIT Gallery these students discussed their personal concerns as future designers and their ideas for alternative future fashion, sharing their work-in-progress with folios, images, garments and fabric samples.  This offered an optimistic outlook on the future of fashion as these young designers now have a greater awareness of the impact they have on the world.  

Apart from educating young designers about sustainability in fast fashion, the exhibition challenged audiences to consider the many problems created by the low cost garment industry. What can consumers and designers do to combat these issues?  

Bachelor of Fashion (Design) (Hons) year 3 students Marley, Sylvia and Zoe at work in the studio.

The exhibition’s Slow Fashion Studio provided an upbeat response, exploring new fashion practices and experiences to bring about positive change.  Featuring exciting new work from the young practitioners at RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles, the Slow Fashion Studio offered alternative approaches to fashion and advice on how to be a mindful consumer. This was communicated through designs and research projects such as ‘The Mending Mart’ by Tania Splawa-Neyman, and ‘Everybody: Immersive Fashion Design’ by Kate Kennedy.

Designer and RMIT lecturer Jo Cramer, whose work features in the Slow Fashion Studio, said that the the nine RMIT designers featured in the exhibition provide a really exciting adjunct to the fast fashion exhibition.

“It’s about rethinking our attitude and connection with clothes,” designer and lecturer Jo Cramer with her work in the Slow fashion Studio, and Ina Budde.

“We are showing how fashion is being renewed and reinvigorated. It’s about meeting needs and avoiding excessive consumption and rethinking our attitude and connection with clothes,” she said.

The Slow Fashion studio also provided information to help people become more conscious and mindful consumers. This includes an informative poster on ‘ways to value your clothes’ courtesy of Dr. Jenny Underwood.

Overall, the Fast Fashion: The Dark side of Fashion exhibition helped to raise public consciousness about fast fashion and how to combat its effects through more sustainable and ethical practices. Through The Slow Fashion Studio, the exhibition gave insight into how the industry can develop and showcased an alternative to fast fashion for designers and consumers alike.

Audiences responded strongly and positively, filling the RMIT Gallery visitor book and social media with their enthusiastic endorsement and letting us know that this was indeed and exhibition for its time.

Melanie Moynihan is a third-year Bachelor of Communication (Media) student at RMIT University, currently doing an internship with the RMIT Gallery.



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