THE textile industry is a major contributor to climate change. It contributes to water and air pollution, from chemicals and energy used to the staggering amount of waste generated. This calls for ethical environmental practices and a return to natural resources.
Recently, 24 graduating textile design students of Universiti Teknologi Mara’s (UiTM) Faculty of Art and Design (FSSR) took up the challenge to produce sustainable textile artworks and products.
Their creativity was demonstrated at the Textile Eco Exploration and Experimental Design (TEEED 2020) show recently.
The highlight of the graduate showcase was the use of natural dyes — rich shades of blue originating from the use of the indigofera plant, while yellow hues came from turmeric.
UiTM FSSR senior lecturer Juita Jaafar Manap, who spearheaded the show, said TEEED 2020 was a great platform to showcase the students’ abilities in solving problems posed by the industry that they might venture into later.
“Apart from putting a lot of research in their work, the students were involved in experimentation and exploration of different materials and dyes.”
Partnering with fellow lecturer Danuri Sakijan, Juita said they were committed to going green.
“We want students to know that they can succeed as young textile artists and designers, and be environmentally responsible at the same time.
“We are aware that textile production contributes to global warming. Hence, this showcase allows students to reuse, upcycle and give waste materials a new life.
“Eco-friendly techniques and processes were applied. We’re not 100 per cent there yet, but this is the first step towards a greener textile industry.”
Using yarn and fabric waste, student Liana Muhamed Ismadi created a collection of sculptural fiber art that replicated coral reefs.
“Aiming to boost awareness of coral extinction and marine pollution, I use the crochet technique to create several wall and floor displays.”
The vibrant three-metre wall hanging took her three months to complete.
“I didn’t have a colour scheme in mind because the materials I used are mostly yarn waste from the industry. After knitting each part, I arranged them according to the tones. The variety of bright colours show that corals are alive and healthy.”
In contrast, her second artpiece had a more muted colour palette with a net fixture.
“I used nude, grey and white yarns to represent dead and bleached corals. The net represents used fishing nets thrown away in the sea, which can destroy coral species.
“The project has a clear ecological message, which I hope the audience can experience through the coral structures.”
Another student and TEEED 2020 assistant programme director Athirah Faizalazmi came up with a unique batik childrenswear.
“Children don’t usually wear batik even during special occasions. So I decided to produce age-appropriate designs, such as bee motifs and geometrical patterns that are perfect for casual wear. The fabric is a blend of cotton spandex and rayon, a cool and breathable material suitable for kids.”
To make it eco-friendly, she used a resistant printing technique with cool wax.
“With this technique, the wax will dissolve in water. This is more sustainable than the traditional technique, where the leftover wax is just disposed of into the drain, which causes water pollution.”
She said the theme of sustainability made the expo special.
“Everything in the gallery originated from natural resources. We worked hard to go towards zero pollution. Being a part of TEEED 2020 has opened my eyes about the importance of saving the environment.
“Not only that, the exhibition showcased our talent. We can get job opportunities from visitors and industry players.”
After being introduced to macrame art by a lecturer, student Hanisah Salwah Muhd Hatta Arraz was fuelled by an artistic passion to conduct her project. Macrame incorporates decorative knots instead of weaving or knitting.
“Everything is handwoven and made from natural and waste materials like discarded yarn, fabric remnants and old cotton T-shirts. For decorations, I used coconut shells and bamboo.”
Using vegetables and plant-based colouring to stain her fabric, she said: “Roselle, black beans and turmeric were used to make dyes. I learnt to make different knots from YouTube and it took me a month to complete the wall hanging.”
She also produced a handbag series.
“I wanted to show that macrame art can be used in fashion, not just interior design. The knots in the handbags are stained with red cabbage and sweet potatoes.”
Another student, Muhammad Faiz Mohd Fadzil, came up with a bedroom collection made from chemical-free materials.
“The pigment is made from local coffee powder and mordant with alum. I hope the textile industry realises that we can print beautiful designs without chemical pigments that can harm the environment.
“The idea is to apply an original newsprint design on bedding sets, curtains and stool covers. Each set tells a story.”
Student Siti Munirah Zakaria upcycled the jute fabric, usually used to make sacks and ropes, into a fashion statement.
At first, she found it challenging to print colours on the fabric due to its rough texture.
“After trials and errors, I finally perfected the printing technique and came up with experimental clothing designs using the monstera leaf as the motif.
“To ensure the garments are comfortable, I scraped the fabric to remove extraneous fibers and lined it with cotton.
“I think jute is a great example of a common waste material that can be transformed into a highly functioning product.”
Part of the annual AD Design Exposition organised by the faculty, TEEED 2020 was held at Galeri Prima, Balai Berita Bangsar, in Kuala Lumpur last month.