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Wintec researcher teaches the art of repair

Wintec Te Pūkenga researcher and tutor Rebekah Harman will lead a mending workshop in April, as part of Environment Centre Go Eco’s Derail Consumerism workshop series.

Rebekah Harman knows the true impact of fast fashion and since 2010 the Wintec | Te Pūkenga tutor, postgraduate supervisor and researcher has examined ways to reduce the environmental footprint of the fashion industry through many different projects. 

This April 15 she will be hosting a workshop, Mending 101, as part of Waikato Environment Centre Go Eco’s Derailing Consumerism public programme.

What’s the trigger that makes one seriously consider sustainability and embark on their eco-journey? For Harman, it was a moment in her mid-twenties.

“Fifteen years ago, sustainability was talked about in academic research, but there was very little consumer knowledge,” Harman said.

Later as a postgraduate student a Massey University, Harman began working with hand dyed textiles where she noticed that part of the process led to an excess of “litres and litres” of thick, dark dye liquid.
Although the project reached critical acclaim in her field, she was faced with the dilemma of how to dispose of the dye safely. 

“I couldn't look past the waste,” she said. 

The project was the turning point in Harman’s creative practice, and she began examining other processes and cycles in the fashion and textile industry. 

Harman’s Master's thesis looked at ways to lower energy and chemical use in the colouration process of wool yarns. 

Her recent research projects at Wintec have explored nonylphenol ethoxylates resulting from laundering garments that reach Waikato waterways, and her Loved Garments project aims to bring attention to the worldwide overconsumption of fashion. 

“Consumption of fashion is going up significantly faster than the population growth and continues to. Our landfills are filling up with the average person in New Zealand dumping around 740kgs of waste per year — this amount is going up significantly each year,” she said. 

Harman’s research has made her acutely aware of the climate emergency we are facing and said that working with Go Eco aligns with her ethos and values. This is why she has offered her time to take the mending workshop as part of their Derail Consumerism public programme. 

Harman said there were many ways we could make our clothing last longer and one of those ways was mending and caring for our garments. 

“Although mending is an ancient practice, we are now seeing a repair movement and a rejection of the throw-away culture. 

“More and more people are mending and writing new books - it helps us keep our knowledge. Mending can even make us treasure the clothing we have and make us want to hold onto it longer.”

The mending workshop is aimed to identify and experiment with different mending techniques and is suitable for both experienced and complete beginners. Learn techniques to mend an item of clothing, and how you can create your own style using patches, darning, sashiko or ladder stitch. Harman will talk about her research to begin the session and she said it will be a safe space to get started and give it a go. 

Sometimes people think that their actions, like mending a piece of clothing, are too small to make a difference, to that, Harman says, “Guilt can often make us feel powerless and resist action. We need to challenge that and create action.” 

“You never know where the small action will lead and what it could become.”  

Event details:
Rebekah Harman
SATURDAY, APRIL 15, 2023 AT 10 AM – 12 PM
$22.20 tickets at Eventbrite, student tickets are $5 

Find out more about Rebekah Harman’s research here.

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