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A Positive (Foot) Print, Abigail Hodges

On this sustainable mission Hodges has found that there is a barrier. Finding alternative green options takes time, money and contacts.

Alicja Hagopian, Fall 2022

Since cover artist Abigail Hodges’ ‘Boiling Point’ earlier this year she has truly broken fresh ground in her creative space, which has inspired her to experiment with several new projects. Her latest endeavour is an intentional, sustainable, and limited clothing collection which embodies the psyche through ‘wearable emotions’. As someone who sees feeling through colour, Hodges has created over 100 prints representing different hues of sadness, envy, frustration and hope which she is adapting into sleek made-to-order garments, allowing people to wear their heart on their sleeve. “I want to take internal emotions, express them, and then display them to the world”.

No stranger to climate anxiety, Hodges has been sure to take sustainability into account at every step of the way and declares: “I am not willing to add any more waste to the world, otherwise my art is defunct”. Yet this has been far more complicated than one might imagine. To begin with, screen printing itself— though a unique creative experience — requires dozens of scrapped prototypes just to create one design, and an enormous amount of ink and water. Seeing this waste Hodges decided to transition into digital design for her prints to eliminate the excess materials. But when it came down to the physical process, Hodges realised that almost every part of printing and production could be rethought, from the dyes to the thread to the machines to the sale. In response to this she embarked on an ongoing journey to challenge the accepted norms of fashion and discover for herself how the process could be improved.

On this sustainable mission Abigail Hodges has found that there is a real barrier to accessibility. The process of finding alternative green options takes time, money and contacts which many business owners do not have. Hodges was surprised at the lack of publicly-available information and resources about sustainable materials or manufacturing and is hoping to teach others the knowledge she has gained in the future. Hodges believes that “the resources are there, but people need to realise that we can change our behaviours, we can make shifts to overcome climate change”. For now, she is learning from pioneers in communities such as Fashion Enter LTD in London, a non-profit social enterprise which also offers free workshops designed to make tailoring and textile skills more accessible.

Hodges is also working with dynamic and high quality digital printing service Lemon Head Prints. According to its director Abishek Sharma, the company’s mission is to “democratise fashion for small and upcoming brands through access to knowledge, skills and networks to promote sustainability”. Lemon Head Prints acknowledge that sustainability can be measured in many ways, and take real care in weighing different variables against each other such as materials, dyes, lifecycles and batch-size. For any artist starting in sustainable fashion, Hodges advises: “I wanted to use machinery and technological processes in a way that was positive… we shouldn’t be scared of exploring digitisation and including it in our processes”. For example, Lemon Head Prints use poly fibre fabrics made from plastic bottles and print using the Kornit Presto machine which is the most resource-efficient option available. They also use Robusto Ink which has earned an Eco Passport — a burgeoning certification system which independently analyses the harmfulness of individual ingredients and chemicals in the textile industry.

The clothing collection itself has been designed as made-to-order by Hodges herself. This allows each item to be made with care and integrity, without mass producing garments which are cheaply made and more likely to end up in landfill. This also gives each piece a unique identity which can reflect the individual tastes and emotions of the wearer, which is exactly the personalisation that Hodges hoped to achieve with this collection. The pieces can be further customised for length and style in creative combinations, meaning that no two orders will look the same. Surely the customisable, waste-minimising, and individualist possibilities of made-to-order clothing make it a worthy contender for the future of fashion (which doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny).

Abigail Hodges has shown that while fashion still has a long way to go, sustainable options are out there: you just need to know where to look. We hope that this issue of AAV can inform you about some of those options and inspire you to look for more— or even create them yourself. However, artists like Hodges are able to make such progress because of their sense of community. On the topic of sustainability in particular, she muses that “localism and community are much more empowering than individualism… it is not about me as an artist but about the movement as a whole”. Ideas blossom and grow through dialogue and debate, and projects often require the support of likeminded people who share a passion for the cause. We encourage you to look into the organisations and collectives mentioned here who are taking action against climate change, and build a community around that can make a real difference.