Found Image: “Your Clothing is Toxic”: Mass Media and the Interpellation of the Fashion Consumer



Creative Commons Licence




Created date

November 21, 2018

Critical Commentary

Substantive Caption: I chose this cover art from Adam Matthews’ (2015) Newsweek reporting on the environmental degradation caused by garment dyeing in India because of the role it played in igniting a conversation about the environmental footprint of our clothing. Designed by Oliver Munday, the neon color palette of this image visualizes the chemical and toxic implications of garment dyeing processes. Moreover, the juxtaposition of pink and green speaks to the particular vulnerabilities of women and the environment in the fashion industry. The ‘melting’ of a green t-shirt suspended from a hanger signifies the chemical composition of the majority of contemporary (and presumably the reader’s) clothing. The black and yellow emblem on the front of the shirt is a recognized symbol of hazard (though it represents ionized radiation in particular).

Drawing on the work of Althusser, I am interested in the way in which images address and interpellate viewers as a particular kind of subject within a system of power. Here, how does a combination of image and text (in addition to visual enhancements such as a neon color palette) work to interpellate the viewer to recognize their complicity in the environmental (and social, cultural, gendered, etc.) implications of toxic fashion?

Design Statement: This image works allegorically as a signpost to think about toxicity in fashion. Toxicity is not just "over there" or somewhere else, it is woven into (literally) in our most intimate spaces. Toxicity (in clothing) is the boundary object between out bodies and the environment. 


Matthews, Adam. 2015. “Toxic Fashion: The Environmental Crisis in Your Closet.” Cover art by Oliver Munday. Newsweek Magazine, November 10, 2018.