Fashion, News

The Fabric of Us @ Science and Industry Museum review – A sustainable extravaganza

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Featured image and gallery: Caitlin Baber and Isabelle Moore

The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester hosted local, women-led theatre company So La Flair for The Fabric of Us, as part of their ‘After-Hours: Forward-Thinking Fashion’ series. The evening of after-hours entertainment championing self-expression and sustainability aimed to encourage a greener fashion future. Together with Affleck’s sustainable clothing exchange, Beg Steal & Borrow, the theatre group curated a creative explosion of live performances, demonstrations, pop-up clothes stalls, gripping short film sections and a sustainable fashion catwalk.

The evening began with a buzzing vintage, sustainable clothing stall pop-up, ran by local creatives. The stalls showcased everything from crochet accessories and funky upcycled garments to handmade jewellery – all of which were available for visitors to browse and shop.  An immersive, historic fashion machinery experience included a live demonstration and talk on cotton manufacturing in Manchester during the 19th century. 

The hour-long, theatrical catwalk was the finale of the evening and showcased the garments of independent designers. The packed out crowd waited in anticipation for the show to begin; audience members stood in rows surrounding the filled seats – everyone eager to get a view of the runway platform.

When the lights went down, above an empty stage, a video montage featuring imagery of the human and environmental cost associated with clothing production, opened the show, setting the tone for the evening. This was not just about making something beautiful, but also an act of resistance – a call to action. The video named and shamed brands such as Zara, a hug culprit for their unsustainable production practices.

The audience was taken on a storytelling journey through dance, music, and poetry, celebrating the cast’s amazingly diverse range of talents. It painted a striking picture of the damaging impacts of the fashion industry today. One of the largest rounds of applause of the night came after the solo performance of a poetry monologue by Kate Ireland, which told the performer’s story embracing their own individual style and rejecting the suffocating nature of the trend cycle and fast fashion consumption. 

Thought provoking yet tongue and cheek lines had the audience hooked: “The algorithm knows you better, baggy jeans, new sweater, depression days, whatever the weather…a top that is too small for your tits, but says on it ‘work hard’, ‘girlboss’, ‘bitch’”. One Science and Industry Museum employee, clearly moved by the dramatic reading, said that the poem felt very personal and that the performer had delivered it with such passion.

Later during the show, three of the models from Manchester based performance collective, Night People, performed an interpretive dance segment, adding high energy to the room. Singer and model Christopher Morgan then took centre stage, enchanting the audience who listened in complete silence, mesmerised.

The catwalk was styled by Erin Taylor Thomas from Beg Steal & Borrow and her team, who dressed the diverse cast of models in sustainably made, upcycled garments. Each model appeared to be having the time of their lives – fun, smiles, and laughter radiating off each of them as they strutted down the platform.  

Model Shehz wore an embroidered top piece by Bolton based designer, Charlotte Wood from @woodsembroidery, who upcycles secondhand garments through embroidery. Commenting on the show, she said: “It was honestly fantastic. The production and the sound was so good and they made it all so engaging!” She added: “I’m absolutely obsessed with this look and the designer has been so lovely.”

Shehz shared that her experience working with So La Flair: “It has honestly been such a beautiful experience and so much fun! My favourite part of the show was definitely walking and also working with the team”.

She added that being part of the show had affected her own relationship with sustainability: “I have always been interested in sustainability, but this show has opened up a new door for me in the sense of understanding how your identity can impact your fashion.”

So La Flair’s artistic director and producer of The Fabric of Us, Lucy Laverty, and stylist Erin Taylor Thomas, explained that one of their aims with this show was to empower others to find their own individual style and feel less obligation to dress according the the fashion fashion, trend cycle, machine. Lucy described Erin’s styling of the show as a “joyful rebellion” against this fast fashion powerhouse.

The show’s finale saw all the performers and models return to the stage, joined by the team of organisers and curators. Upbeat electro pop music blasted out the speakers full volume as the cast encouraged the audience to join them as they danced down the runway to take their final bow. It celebrated everything the company So La Flair holds dear: individuality, creativity, sexuality and self expression. 

The Fabric of Us was an imaginative, bold, creative expression with a relevant and timely message of what we can do as consumers to change the direction of the climate change disaster through our appreciation of what we wear. It challenged the idea that clothing is simply fabric; fashion is identity and the product of someone’s creative talent – it should be cared for. The actionable advice of the show? Shop small, shop independent and buy what makes you feel great. The show’s tag line says it all: “Looking good doesn’t need to cost our planet, people, or pockets.”

About the author / 

Caitlin Baber

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