‘It just doesn’t rot:’ Artist focuses on blend of fashion style, sustainability

For Baltimore-based artist and professor Laure Drogoul, it’s a shame, but not surprising that discarded clothing has played a large part in the amassing of 16 million tons of textile waste — fabric is so ubiquitous, most people never give it a second thought.

“From the minute we’re born, we’re swaddled in it, in blankets. We sleep in sheets,” said Drogoul. “You and I are wearing clothing right now, obviously. ”


The problem: Although styles change quickly, a piece of once-trendy clothing sticks around for generations.

“We’ve developed these amazing fabrics that allow us to swim in the deep sea and go into space,” said Drogoul. “They are synthetics and they’re petroleum based and they simply do not rot in landfills.”

Drogoul isn’t against looking nice.

“I really do believe that fashion is fantastic, it’s fun, it’s beautiful, and it represents our identities and our culture,” Drogoul said. “It’s marvelous, and I would not want to say that we want to take the fun out of that at all — what I think we want to do is become aware that probably over 70% of our textiles globally are now synthetics.”

Business models have changed over the years, with “fast fashion” emphasizing new fashions delivered to consumers immediately, according to the Center for EcoTechnology.

“We have created a disposable sort of vibe, so to speak, and people are throwing things out,” said Drogoul. “A piece of a polyester garment will last for over 200 years.”



“In the States, we have a big tradition of quilting,” said Drogoul, when asked what people can do, individually, when they’re done wearing a piece of clothing. “Donate it to local thrift stores, local vintage clothing stores, hand it down, mend it.”

Drogoul said the fashion industry is starting to gain traction in sustainability, along the lines of what the food industry has done. “The food industry has been very good with this. We now think of getting organic foods and cutting down on chemicals.”

“For the fashion industry, change is hard. It will occur, but it’s taking a long time,” she said.





“If you’re buying synthetic, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just something that has a very long life,” said Drogoul. “Make sure it goes to somebody who actually needs it, or somebody that’s excited to reuse the fabric.”

Starting this weekend, Drogoul will be displaying and discussing sustainable fashion, in a new  Arlington Art Truck exhibition, entitled “From our waist to waste: Is fashion sustainable?”

The Arlington Art Truck will be the Arlington Farmers Market, at Courthouse Metro, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, April 2. The traveling exhibition is scheduled to visit several county locations through May 22.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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