If you’ve ever wondered what 17 tons of used clothing looks like, Maja Weiss has got you covered. The Vetements designer recently held court at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair, where she presented an installation inspired by the industrial decay of her native Yugoslavia after the fall of the Eastern Bloc. “Second Fashion Cycle,” as the project was named, is also an observation—and perhaps indictment—of the small consideration we give to our garments after they’re baled up and dispatched to foreign climes. “It’s kind of about diving into it in an opposite way,” Weiss told Vogue. “Everybody is looking at how clothes are made, from zero to the catwalk, and for me, this was about going in the opposite direction: looking at what happens to clothes when they’re discharged.”
Weiss and her collaborators sourced over half a million items from Trasborg, a textile-reclamation factory, located in the neighboring suburb of Taastrup, that receives about 50 tons of clothing every month.
“The company has a few different categories of garments, so when the clothes come, it dispatches them to different categories, so this is the highest category,” Weiss explained. “We had to avoid the stench; the lowest category would even have, like, dead animals inside. Clothes get recycled according to the level of quality. The lowest quality goes into fibers for cleaning cloths, then car seats or mattresses, and then the clothes that are in the installation, for example, go to Eastern Europe or flea markets in Africa. It’s funny how they continue the journey and you don’t really think about it.”
Weiss said she doesn’t believe in “forcing a concept” on people, where it’s promoting sustainability as a concept or encouraging consumers to shop less. Mostly, she wanted her installation to provoke some kind of internal dialogue among the trade-show racks and booths.
For Weiss, beauty might only be fiber deep.
“I find these layered clothes…for me it’s a beautiful object, and I don’t think people take it as an offense or command to not buy,” she said. “I was happy about this collaboration with CIFF, because some people would maybe think it would be a negative thing to put this kind of a message at a fair where people come to buy clothes, but it’s not about a message of ‘Don’t buy,’ it’s just to trigger the thought about how we buy.”