Garment Fragments: From Recycle Bin to Quilt


By Donna Maione

The First Year Faculty Exhibition display, located at 2 West 13th street, 5th floor, shows one of my recent works in textiles and will be on display until October 29th. My approach to my work in textiles explores the notion of unwanted or undervalued materials. After years of designing mass-produced clothing from around the world, I came to The New School to study Sustainability Strategies at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management & Urban Policy. After graduating in 2015, I have shifted my design focus and creative efforts into finding ways to increase the value of the textile trash that is destined for the landfill. In the United States we currently bury 85% of our unwanted textiles. Learning about this was my turning point towards sustainable design and I began to look more closely at this problem, both academically and creatively.One of the many issues is that garments are not easily recycled particularly when the seams, often made to endure the stress of everyday wear, cannot be disassembled easily. I began experimenting with a pair of old torn pants by tearing apart the waistband stitch-by-stitch but later resorted to cutting off the seams out of frustration and lack of time. So our solution currently is to bury the problem, I decided to keep experimenting.My explorations into the deconstruction of garments help inform new possibilities of designing for disassembly and the possibilities of an extended useful life. With more questions than answers I continue to explore. How might my practice transform the future concepts in circular design? How might we design garments for disassembly, longevity, adaptability to fashion trends and climate change? What might be a garment’s use after it is no longer wearable?This piece is the first in a series of work in reclaimed textiles. The impromptu pattern honors the shapes of the original garment pieces. Curves from the armhole, neckline and pant crotch all dictated the initial score of the pattern and the quilt edge. The accent or ‘filler’ pieces came from the pant’s pocket bags or waistband along with some found scraps, which I discovered along the way. As they showed up, the piece evolved.Working in this medium allows me to make use of the textile waste stream and prolong the life of the material by adding additional time and value. By making a quilt my hope is that it will be useful for years to come. 

Donna Maione is part-time faculty teaching Sustainable Systems in the Parsons First Year program. She also holds an M.S. in Organizational Change Management from the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy.