The stories clothes can tell

Shwe – The Wearable Library makes it their mission to bring to life the invisible stories behind the garments we wear.

From the Series

“What if your dress, jacket, or cardigan could speak? What if they could tell you the stories they were privy to in the places they were made? What if you could ‘meet’ the people who made them?” These are the questions that inform the purpose of Shwe – The Wearable Library, a fashion project that makes use of the skills of Durban’s elderly and migrant populations to produce garments that symbolically convey the stories of the women who made them.

Shwe - The Wearable Library 

A collaborative initiative started by Brazilian trend analyst and fashion entrepreneur Julia Franco and South African sociologist and artist Dr Dylan McGarry, The Wearable Library project takes the concept of a global, transparent fashion movement further by asking not just ‘Who made my clothes?’, but investigating what the world looks like from the perspective of the makers.

Born from the knowledge that knitting circles and sewing collectives typically become social spaces for learning and story-telling amongst women, the project aims to make available the stories and ideas that influence the construction of their garments – stories that most of us would otherwise never get to hear.

Branding them "authors" as opposed to seamstresses, the Wearable Library project works with three different organisations that support vulnerable women in the city: The Association for the Aged (TAFTA) which serves Durban’s elderly residents, The Dennis Hurley Centre which supports migrant communities and the homeless, and Project Hope, which supports vulnerable women who have escaped abusive relationships. The authors' unique stories are detailed on The Wearable Library's website. 

Each garment is sold with an accompanying ‘Story’ label along with a breakdown of the costs involved in production. In an age where almost everything has become disposable, The Wearable Library project creates an exceptional exchange between producer and consumer, one that will hopefully expand our perceptions of the true value of goods and ultimately deepen our connections to one another.