Tashiana St. Aude is a biracial Haitian American textiles and fashion designer, who’s main interest is to create statement pieces and everyday wear while keeping textiles waste from landfill in third world countries. She recycles clothes to design new clothing through textiles processes.
“Hey, those are my pants,” I said to my cousin I met for the first time, on my family’s trip to Haiti. My mom hushed me, and I was reminded later that day that we have family members less fortunate than we are. From then on, I realized why we were storing my discarded clothing in the giant white trash bags. It soon became my mission to send my unwanted clothes to Haiti. I gathered outfits that no longer fit, torn, or I just simply didn’t like them anymore, while I was confident I could always get something new in its place. I was encouraged by community groups, news stories, and commercials that would show pictures of starving naked children who were desperate for my clothing.
This held true until my last trip to Haiti, when one afternoon, I was driving by a mile-long pile of clothing on the street. I heard stories of how corrupt our garment industry was prior to my trip. I had learned about how garment factories oversees are exploiting their workers for cheap labor under unsafe working conditions. I had watched a documentary on how westerners are buying and donating at such a fast rate, that the donations have been piling up into a landfill in Haiti, then turned toxic. The facts did not seem real up until that afternoon. Reality had hit. I made my trash, someone else’s problem. It was at that moment that I realized I wasn’t helping at all. I started to make a direct connection between the west’s colonization of Haiti, which was something that seemed to be so embedded into history. The idea that the we proudly subject a group of people to our trash, that we historically mistreated, proved to be a form of racism. A dark cloud appeared above the commercial from my childhood. How could fashion be so irresponsible?
Since, I have been trying to recreate the system. My cycle begins, by rescuing discarded clothing from thrift stores, donation bins, hammy downs, and textiles waste of my own. I shred them into yarn, and unite them together by color. Then I give them new life by weaving them into new garments. At the end of their life, they orbit back so a new cloth could be born. I am allowing my garments to enter a cycle of reincarnation, and redefining the what gets treated like, “trash.”