transparent visualizations and toxic fashions



Creative Commons Licence



Contributed date

March 18, 2019 - 3:00pm

Critical Commentary

As an anthropologist interested in sustainable fashion, my research is broadly focused on the study of objects and materiality through the intersection of design, economics, and law. For this project, I focus on the ways in which the toxicity of the contemporary fashion industry is called out, or queried, through practices of visualization. As an industry that relies on transnational production processes, visualization is a key strategy used by advocates to document the social and environmental impacts of (fast) fashion. However, it is also an increasingly important tool by which self-declared “conscious” companies distinguish their work. To this end, I am drawn to the paradoxical role of visualization as a key means by which the challenges (and progress) in establishing a more sustainable fashion industry are made transparent. In this essay I include images from advertisements and branding campaigns of fashion companies that comment on the sustainability of their work in juxtaposition with the imagery found in journalism. In addition, I include original photographs of garments that challenge how we think about the permeation of toxicity in fashion. Through these images my goal is to query why visualization is privileged as the medium by which sustainability is made transparent.


Walsh, Dylan. 2011. “Could 'Smart' Textiles Prove Toxic?” Image from International Fashion MachinesGreen: Energy, the Environment and the Bottom Line, Blog, New York Times, Match 18, 2019.