Two MA (Hons) Architecture students are running a project that challenges the amount of waste in the fashion industry, in particular through fast fashion. Sarah Kemali and Rana Tabatabaie, both heading into their fourth year of study, through the Nomadic WearHouse project are examining the waste flow of the industry, and where interventions could be made to divert and find other uses for the materials.

One of the results is the use of jeans filled with spent coffee grounds that can be used to form structures like furniture or even changing rooms in shops.

“The structure itself is a visual representation of the large quantity of waste from the fashion industry, forcing people to confront the issue and reflect on their relationship with textiles and clothing,” said Rana, “It is formed by filling the clothes and connecting them in different ways; this method preserves the items of clothing opening countless possibilities for their use and potential reinvention and use later in life.”

Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, Sarah and Rana were invited to speak at the launch of a project for students in Textiles, led by Shirley McLachlan, that sought to repurpose uniforms worn by hosts at Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

"“The project also helped us understand how much there is to be gained from working with different disciplines and experimenting with what architecture can and should be.”"

Sarah Kemali, Architecture - MA (Hons)

“The project is very much an interdisciplinary approach, it is not what we knew to be a typical architectural proposal,” said Rana, “There were times where we found this slightly difficult, but ultimately it exposed us to the alternative routes that sustainable architecture could explore. We would like to really think of sustainable architecture as more than just designing green buildings but rather systems that influence the ecological and social infrastructures they sit within.”

As with most activities, the pandemic has affected the direction of the project, “It was intended to be nomadic, moving from site to site and growing as we intercepted more waste clothing,” said Sarah, “Unfortunately Coronavirus meant that this was stopped before we could really start with venues closing and social distancing rules cancelling our plans and events.”

Sarah Kemali and Rana Tabatabaie deliver a talk on their project
Sarah Kemali and Rana Tabatabaie deliver a talk on their project
Work by Sarah Kemali and Rana Tabatabaie
Work by Sarah Kemali and Rana Tabatabaie

But it has still led to new areas of learning for the students, “A strong take away from the project for us was the potential and scope of small scale interventions and how much we learnt by pushing the project beyond its academic setting into reality,” said Sarah, “The project also helped us understand how much there is to be gained from working with different disciplines and experimenting with what architecture can and should be.”