Everything Must Go – pop up exhibition at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower

5 tons of charity clothes.

Rag-rug workshop run by Lizzie Harrison (remadeinleeds.org).

Installation showing the sorting of cast-off clothing that happens in the UK before the clothes begin their recycling route.

‘Shoddy’ textile art by kategoldsworthy.co.uk.

The hanging method used for photography in the exhibition. Printed entirely on recycled paper (a first for photography exhibitions) and cut into grids.

Upcycling workshop run by Lizzie Harrison (remadeinleeds.org).

The Ship-Breaking Room. How ship-breaking works in the UK, including a 2yr timelapse.

The Colour Room. There are different values to different colours of recycled clothing within the Shoddy industry.

A room about the flocking industry, which uses cast-off clothing.

Photos by Tim Mitchell www.timmitchellphotography.co.uk

Did you know that around 100,000 tonnes of ‘shoddy’ (used clothes) each year end up in mills in South Asia? Where the workers are paid less than £1.50 a day to work long hours in unhygienic conditions to turn your clothes into threads and then remake them into fabric?

This was a pop up exhibition the Bargehouse, a large derelict building just behind the OXO Tower in Jan 2012. It highlighted five years research by Waste of the World into where our donated clothes go; something that most of us are totally in the dark about.

It was curated by Dr Lucy Norris, whose research into the textile recycling industry led her to put on the show with artist Clare Patey. It was produced by arts organisation Holy Mountain.

In the first room the journey begins with a pile donated clothes. What most people do not realise is that the stock charity shops cannot sell is sold on to commercial textile wholesalers. What the shops do not know is that, unwittingly, they are funding an unethical business. Also, disturbing, the ‘charity’ bags that are posted though your letterbox are often from commercial enterprises posing as charities.

Oxfam does recognise this and is looking into ways to combat this issue.

A tax that would be levied on clothes being taken overseas is surpassed by cutting or ‘maiming’ the clothes, deeming them un-wearable. Then they are crushed down onto pallets and driven over the boarders into Bangladesh and India. The loop-hole means that the traders can make huge profits on these unwanted clothes.

Most of the workers in the factories are migrant workers. In the last room of the exhibition there was a video interview with a woman who worked in a mill in India. Her life was a rented room, living with her husband and numerous children, and her work was sifting through clothes, sorting them into colours. She really wanted to travel, especially to America. She had never met Westerners and, she believed them to be very beautiful and also rich – in order to be able to throw away their clothes. She believed them to care a lot about what they looked like.

The ironic thing, or perhaps one ironic thing, was that she herself was beautiful, and her clothes were gorgeous and colourful and she seemed, despite everything, to be smiling. What was clear was that on both sides of the coin we are ignorant. We know very little about what happens to our unwanted clothes, even charitable organisations know very little themselves, and even more hidden is the working conditions and the lives of the people who recycle them.

More information:


Follow the journey of waste clothes from the UK in these videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/WasteoftheWorld



  1. Hi Art Sleuth,

    Hope you don’t mind me contacting you in this way! I couldn’t find a contact email anywhere. I represent a group of fourteen emerging artists who are preparing to present an exhibition of recent art work at Blackall Studios in Shoreditch.

    The exhibition is titled ‘Pause’ and it runs from the 5th-8th August. The private view is on the 4th of August from 6-9pm. We would love it if you would come along and maybe give us a mention on your blog?

    More information can be found at our website – http://www.pauseshow.co.uk. I would be happy to discuss any queries you may have via email. Look forward to hearing from you!


  2. Hey there,

    Just wanted to say hello from the Free Space Gallery.

    We are an artist run space up in north London and we are based within a health care centre.

    Our over arching aim is to show case work that looks into social justice issues and have some shows coming up this summer on the theme of the impact of the fast food industry on people’s personal health as well as more widely on the health of society and the environment.

    Our next exhibition sees David Harker exploring the NHS with a show of portraits of health workers.
    Come along and see
    Faces of Health
    4th April – 4th June
    opening evening
    19th April 6-9pm

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