There is no such thing as a cheap t-shirt.

About the artwork

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The white t-shirt is a fashion icon, and perhaps the most produced garment in the world. But although fashion-wise it is considered to be the “easy choice”, the life cycle of a white t-shirt is actually a complex question, both in human and ecological terms. Starting with the material and human recourses needed for the growing of cotton, and continuing all the way through the production, transportation and washing the garment, the effects of this global industry are considerable – and often hidden from sight.

In the industrial process of making a garment approximately 15% of the used fabric becomes off-cut waste. While some of this waste is recycled, a large amount is still thrown straight to landfill: on the global scale this adds up to a massive pile of fabric.

Today many of the world’s garments are produced in sweatshops, where the working conditions and the safety of the buildings often leave room for improvement: in a seven-month period from September 2012 to April 2013, 1535 workers died in three garment factory disasters in Pakistan and Bangladesh. And at the same time that the average salary for a factory worker is less than 40 dollars a month, the average American buys more than 60 garments every year.

As the debate about the global economy accelerates and understanding about its effects increases, one should take a closer look, not only towards Wall Street, but behind our cotton-covered shoulders: what percentage of the world’s wealth does each one of us occupy?

15% is a performative installation addressing the global fashion system: an industry interconnected with both human and ecological systems. The installation creates a production line in a gallery. A performer, working on the production line, makes white t-shirts. The whole process, from cutting the fabric to ironing the final product, is put on display. Each shirt is numbered, the off-cut waste is packed boutique-style and the shirts prepared for retail – as a by-product of the waste.

7 comments on “About the artwork

  1. Åsa K. Persson
    August 22, 2012

    Like your idea!!! but where can I look at the t-shirts?

  2. Timo Rissanen
    August 22, 2012

    Thank you for the visit Åsa. The t-shirts are for sale in the store at Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki until November 12 when the exhibition closes. We will post more photographs on the blog in coming months too.

  3. Mickey Lukens
    November 14, 2013

    Good morning,

    My name is Mickey Lukens and I am a senior at Lang. I walked into the exhibition after I saw Jamelle working on the T-shirts and she told me about the project.

    I asked what is to become of the shirts and she said if I had an interest in acquiring one for myself to contact you.

    Thank you,

    – Mickey

  4. Harry
    November 14, 2013

    . I just experienced your exhibit in the window @ Parsons.
    You have presented a good case and the awareness is critical yet,can be enhanced several ways.
    I would like to continue the conversation
    I can be reached via email.
    Thank you.
    Warm regards and congratulations.

  5. Timo Rissanen
    November 15, 2013

    Mickey, thank you for visiting. We are still deciding how to dispense the t-shirts, other than that money will not be exchanging hands. Once we have made a decision, we will post it here.
    Thank you Harry, I’ve just emailed you.

  6. Jacob
    November 18, 2013

    Please let me know when you make a decision because I recently encountered the Parsons exhibit and was taken in by it. I literally stood there for an hour. I would love to have one of the t-shirts.

  7. Timo Rissanen
    November 18, 2013

    Thanks for visiting both the exhibition and here Jacob! I’ve emailed you.

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