Did you know that a truckload of clothing is burned or landfilled every second?

Over the last few years, the rise of fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara has been rapidly overtaken by ultra-fast fashion brands like Shein, with anywhere between 2,000 and 10,000 designs added to their website Every. Single. Day.

Despite more and more brands using words like eco-friendly, recyclable, and sustainable – most of it is just greenwashing.

That’s why I teamed up with the Kunstverein in Ludwigsburg, Germany – to change up the conversation.

To bring this project to life, an entire truckload of clothes was collected.

Karlshöher Gebrauchtwarenladen, a social enterprise in Ludwigsburg, Germany, that gives jobs to the underprivileged, receives this many clothes in just three days.

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BTS Photos by Manuel Gussman

We used refurbished wood and nylon fishnets to support our clothing.

Leonie, an apprentice carpenter from Rikker volunteered with us for almost ten days – building, designing and adapting to the project.

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BTS Photos by Manuel Gussman

Before slowly covering every tower with a different shade and color.

The next few days were spent looking through all the beautiful items of clothing we had collected – sorting and organizing first by colors, then by shade before hanging them into our structure without damaging them – so they could eventually be returned when we sunset the art installation.

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BTS Photos by Manuel Gussman

Putting together this installation was like a thrifting adventure, never knowing what we would discover next.

Even organic clothing has a huge footprint. A single organic cotton t-shirt uses 2500L of water. Re-using is the most sustainable thing we can do, and it can be fun too!

Sony A7r-IV with a 16-35mm f2.8 | ISO 200, 1/125th, f/4 with the Broncolor Satos

To help us sort through the massive volume of clothing – we needed the help of local students.

Dozens of teenagers from various schools came to help us sort, organize and place the clothing on the installation while also taking the chance to learn about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.

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BTS Photos by Manuel Gussman

These students were no different than the 170 Million children employed in the textile industry, Fashion is not just an environmental crisis; it’s a humanitarian one too.

Interestingly, the gallery space with the lights off, bars at the windows, and an eerie smoky atmosphere gave us the perfect atmosphere, imitating a sweatshop.

Sony A7r-IV with a 16-35mm f2.8 | ISO 200, 1/125th, f/4 with the Broncolor Satos

Used doesn’t mean boring. All our tools and props were borrowed, including this  $20,000 lighting kit from Broncolor!

I have found, over the years, that renting or borrowing is often easier than owning. It’s cheaper, more eco-friendly, and it invites other community partners to participate and work together with us to bring projects to life!

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BTS Photos by Manuel Gussman

Too many companies are trying to fix the greenwashing machine by making less harmful products – but we already have enough clothing on shelves today to last us for the next 100 years!

Sustainability is not just about buying less. It’s also about navigating enoughness within ourselves and society at large.

Sony A7r-IV with a 16-35mm f2.8 | ISO 200, 1/10th, f/5 with the Broncolor Satos

To drive the message home, we hid little easter eggs all around the installation, including statistics and a big red button.

If the button below is pressed, the entire washing machine – mounted on a fitness wobble board starts vibrating angrily in response!

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BTS Photos by Manuel Gussman

Buying used, swapping, or trading can be frustrating, or it can be fun. We just need to find the right community and tools.

With online platforms like Poshmark and Thredup popping up to make thrifting easier than ever and local clothing swaps being hosted left and right, give it a shot! You might be surprised!

Sony A7r-IV with a 16-35mm f2.8 | ISO 250, 1/125th, f/5 with the Broncolor Satos

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  • Construction: Leonie Gunsch – Rikker, Holzbau GmbH
  • Cinematography: Manuel Gussmann
  • Production: Birgit Holzwarth, Harald Jahnke, Luisa Knuth; Kunstverein Ludwigsburg
  • Clothing: Karlshöhe, Gebrauchtwarenladen
  • Printing: ASSOZIATION Bergmann GmbH
  • Lettering: Tina Fernandez
  • Graphic Design: Jessica Widmeier
  • Photo Assistants: Andreas Schlierf, Manuel Olze, Marc Hörrmann
  • Lighting: Broncolor
  • School Classes:
    • Mrs.Udroiu & Mrs.Akrimi / Aktivierungshilfe der Caritas
    • Mrs.Geckeler / Grade 6&7 / Schillergymnasium Ludwigsburg
    • Mrs.Klemp & Mrs.Luib / Grade 7 /Hanfbachschule Möglingen
    • Mrs.Nonnenmacher / Grade 4 / Osterholzschule Ludwigsburg
  • Volunteers:
    • Annrike Udroiu, Nathalie, Antonia, Marlene & Theo Haak, Claudia Goepferich, Mirjam Kern, Jochen Siegele, Lotte Jahnke, Sissi Ban, Uli Jahnke, Simon Jahnke, Annegret Gussmann, Lena Dernai, Felix Stillhammer, Ananiya Khumalo, Urs Recher, Bernhard, Toni, Liam, Hanna, Charlotte
  • Models:
    • Boat: Birgit Holzwarth, Luisa Knuth, Sashiko
    • Sewing & Fishing: Josephine Priebe, Angelos Tsakiris, Kolja Holzwarth
    • Mechanics Andreas Schlierf, Manuel Olze, Marc Hörrmann
  • Funded by: Stadt Ludwigsburg Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart Wüstenrot Stiftung