Ethical Consumption…: A textile artwork by Kirsty Wyllie

Kirsty Wyllie, 19 February 2022

Streaming on the Cinema of Ideas from today until 5 March, Stitched Up! Protest and the Garment Industry is a film season which opens our eyes to what our dependence on fast fashion means for garment workers around the world, how they are resisting and what you can do to help.

The programme includes acclaimed drama Made in Bangladesh (2019) [pictured above], classic Hollywood musical The Pajama Game (1957), a panel discussion on how to support garment workers, a mend-along darning workshop and a newsreel that highlights Britain’s history of textile production and union action. In response to the programme (devised by emerging curator Jo Reid), embroidery artist Kirsty Wyllie created this stunning piece of textile art to express the difficulty an individual can find when trying to be an ethical consumer in a garment industry fuelled by fast fashion.

Ethical Consumption…

Thinking about The Pajama Game (1957) and Made in Bangladesh (2019), I created these pieces as a reaction to the complicity and powerlessness I feel in relation to the unequal and exploitative fashion production industry. As a member of the working class who makes a living in fashion retail, I spend carefully and always use garments for their entire lifecycle, by wearing and washing economically, and then recycling the textiles or donating reusable items to charity. Nonetheless, I am in a privileged position here in the West in that I’m paid adequately for my labour and have the time and resources outside of work to engage in needlework as an art.

These hoops which make up the piece Ethical Consumption… speak to the idea that the individual can have a positive impact on unequal and exploitative systems with their independent actions. The threads connecting these messages, of global over-consumption versus the hopefulness of individuals, represent the tenuousness of one idea to the other and the precariousness of the ethical and environmental situation. It also acknowledges the difficulty of acting as an individual; that this isn’t enough until the systems themselves change. By buying and using clothing mindfully, reducing consumption, repairing and recycling, and supporting trade unions, we can practice ‘Garment Worker Solidarity’. The difficulty of their occupations and the ongoing work needed to make the industry fairer is represented by the needles and loose threads.

Materials used: natural cotton calico, embroidery floss, wooden embroidery hoops, embroidery needles.

About the artist

Kirsty Wyllie (she/her) is an embroidery artist based in Ayr, Scotland, who uses textile art as means of expression and engagement with others. She enjoys using colour and mixing mediums, and is currently experimenting in more 3-dimensional and sculptural work, as seen in this project. You can find her as an active member of the textile art community on Instagram @luckystitchclub, where she also posts about books, travel, food and her cat, Jimmy.

Stitched Up! streams on the Cinema of Ideas from 19 February to 5 March. At 7pm on Monday 21 February, we will be joined by a panel of experts to discuss how to support garments workers around the world. At 10:30am on Saturday 26 February, Fast Fashion Therapy will be running a mend-along darning workshop where you can learn how to prolong the life of your clothes. Tickets are £5 and give you access to all elements of the event.