News / Economy

Researchers give Brunswick’s clothing industry a second life

Project looks at alternatives to consumption of new fashion

Hayley Thompson with some of the fashion designs created by RMIT students.

Mark Phillips

THE days are long gone since Brunswick was an epicentre of Melbourne’s textile, clothing and footwear industries, but researchers from RMIT University are exploring whether the suburb could have a second life as a fashion hub in the 21st century. 

This time, rather than factories producing new clothes and shoes, Brunswick is emerging as a key location for fashion “rewilding”, says RMIT research assistant Hayley Thompson. 

Wear & Care is one of two projects currently underway at the RMIT PlaceLab near Jewell Station which opened last year to foster collaborative research between RMIT academics and the Brunswick community on projects that can find shared solutions and guide and inform the area’s future. 

Ms Thompson said the Wear & Care project was a perfect fit with the research centre’s objectives.

“The fact that we have the school of fashion and textiles just across the road here, the campus, that was a big factor in deciding on the next cycle of projects.  

“Also, the fact that the history of Brunswick as a hub of fashion manufacturing in the past, and that resonates today in the Sydney Road traders in terms of the second hand clothing retailers in particular.  

“So it all sort of made sense that there was interest and awareness, potentially around more sustainable ways of engaging with fashion and clothing.” 

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Wear & Care aims to bring together locals, retailers and researchers to learn about and encourage practices that mend, repair and share clothing, with the aim of building a local response towards a new and sustainable fashion system.  

The project considers Brunswick’s future as a creative fashion district by exploring methods of fashion “rewilding” accessible to the community. 

“Rewilding” describes actions that support new cultures in how we better use, make and recreate clothing and how we experience fashion outside of the commercial industry. This includes buying second hand clothes, repairing and mending existing clothes rather than buying new ones, and recreating new wearable items from existing clothes. 

“We’re thinking about it in terms of Brunswick’s future as perhaps a hub or a leader in Melbourne around this different type of engagement with fashion and building upon those practices that are more sustainable and that do already exist within Brunswick and perhaps strengthening that and supporting it further,” Ms Thompson said. 

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As part of the project, in May and June, the Brunswick PlaceLab held a series of weekly two-hour workshops where people could learn basic clothes making and repair skills like sewing and darning.  

It is currently playing host to an exhibition of one-off fashion pieces made by RMIT students from recycled fabrics and second-hand clothes.  

Fifteen first year students from RMIT’s School of Fashion and Design in Brunswick have garments on display on life-size mannequins. 

“They learnt different types of techniques of handling an existing garment and redesigning it in a way that the focus was to bring together opposing characteristics or opposing concepts in these garments that they’ve chosen in a new way, in a fresh way, to produce what would be a new garment from something existing,” Ms Thompson said. 

The exhibition is open to the public from 9am to 5pm every weekday until July 24 at the PlaceLab at Shop 1, 17 Union Street (on the corner of Union Street and the Upfield shared path). 

More of the student designs currently on display.

Brunswick residents are also encouraged to take part in a community survey gauging how they wear and care for their clothing.

A second project currently underway at the Brunswick PlaceLab called Voice, Vibe & Vision seeks to collect, consolidate and cultivate a shared understanding of what gives Brunswick its unique character amid transformative infrastructure change, including high density residential development and the level crossing removal project. 

It will produce an interactive compendium to help increase understanding of what makes Brunswick unique. 

Read more:

Researchers hit the ground to discover what makes Brunswick tick

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