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India Recycled

What happens to our old clothes? Who buys them and where do they end up?

Many of our unwanted clothes are given to charities. Some of them are then sold to developing countries, where tailors may re-stitch them and dealers run successful market stalls.

Some countries such as India ban imports of secondhand clothing to protect their own industries. However, India does buy used coats and jumpers as a source of wool fibre that is otherwise too costly. These are broken down and remade into blankets, shawls and suiting for the local Indian market.

Many middle-class Indian families also have increasing amounts of used clothing to get rid of. Across north India, women from theWaghri community barter old clothing in exchange for steel and plastic kitchen utensils. These clothes are then traded at wholesale markets in urban centers.

Many are re-sold at weekly markets across the country, whilst silk saris and decorated textiles are recycled into fashion for the Western market.

This exhibition highlights these two contrasting flows of cast-off clothing between Britain and India, revealing inter-connected global streams of re-use and re-valuing.

Exhibition credits

Photography by Tim Mitchell

Tim Mitchell works as a freelance photographer undertaking commissions within travel, fashion, documentary and the arts alongside his own personal work.

Research by Lucy Norris
Lucy Norris is an anthropologist at University College London. She is currently working on the global economy of waste cloth as part of the Waste of the World project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.