Sorting Party, an art installation at the top of the ramp in the Arts Building

Women’s and gender studies class project sparks conversations about fast fashion

A small art installation located at the top of the Arts Building ramp is generating a lot of interest, discussion and questions from viewers and passersby.

The women’s and gender studies class project, Sorting Party, was done in collaboration with Canadian artist Mindy Yan Miller, who has worked extensively with used clothing in her art practice.

Thirty-five students from the WGST 324.3 class—which is entitled Rebels With A Cause: Feminism and the Visual Arts—sorted through 50 bags of used clothing from Village Green, a local thrift shop. For two hours they sorted and piled the clothes, categorizing the various pieces based on country of origin. The clothing piles are now stacked next to the names of the countries in which they were produced, and the piles will remain on display until March 6.

What emerges from the socially-engaged art project is a commentary about the so-called fast-fashion industry, which has been criticized for its environmental, social and economic consequences.

Quora article, republished by Forbes in July 2017 and titled Fast Fashion is a Disaster for Women and the Environment, noted that fast fashion disempowers women—who make most of the clothes—by trapping them in poverty. The article also noted that “the largely unregulated churn and burn of fast fashion is putting too much pressure on our planet,” with nearly 13 million tons of clothing being sent to U.S. landfills each year.


Course instructor Joan Borsa said many people are responding to the art installation and she has learned a lot by adding the Sorting Party project to the class.

The interdisciplinary project enables students to “consider clothing as a type of material text and archive, whose layered history conveys information about the garment industry, women’s labour, our relationship to clothing and the inequities that continue to be embedded in our own bargains,” said Borsa, a College of Arts and Science faculty member in women’s and gender studies and art and art history.

Borsa said the project explores the dynamics involved in the over-production of inexpensive clothing and the growing amount of discarded clothing that is flooding thrift stores such as Value Village and Village Green.

“This small art installation functions as a hands-on research project, a reflexive exercise symbolically connecting students in Saskatoon to the globalization of the fashion and garment industries, to issues of sustainability and to the many underpaid textile labourers whose lives and struggles continue to be obscured in cycles of excess consumption, profit and waste,” she said.

Fourth-year psychology student Shirley Cuschieri, one of the students in Borsa’s class, said while everyone has a relationship with clothing, few people stop to think about the implications of the clothes they buy, the prices they pay, where the items are made and how much the workers are paid to make them.

When Yan Miller, the artist behind Sorting Party, introduced her work to the students, she made a comment about the smell and the residue on the used clothing and that there were stories and lives behind the clothes, said Cuschieri.

“It made me pause now and then to think about the roles these clothes played at one time in their life cycle,” Cuschieri said.

Read more on the College of Arts and Science website.

Share this story