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Agatha Lee: Singapore’s Textile Saviour

In conversation with Agatha Lee Aggy, the textile artist. Founding member of Fashion Revolution SG and Connected Threads Asia.

Agatha would you like to share with the audience a little more about yourself?

Thank you, Cheryl. I actually am a textile artist and what I do is take textile waste and transform them into useful or even more wearable items. Lately, I’ve been using textile waste to actually create installations so that people could actually connect and convey an environmental message to the public.

What’s your goal through this?

My goal really is to get people to be connected with nature but more importantly to be connected with their clothes. I think this is very important because of a lot of us go through a lot of clothes without thinking about it. We just throw them away rather than to upcycle or repair them and just the act of this (repairing and Upcycling) it could prolong their life, it also continues the narrative of the clothes that you have in your wardrobe.

So Agatha, you mention you do upcycle, what is that?

Upcycling is literally a design process that takes things that people consider as waste and transform them into more useful things. Instead of throwing it away, you are giving it a second life. So, for example, you could have a pair of jeans and that you no longer wear them but through upcycling, you can transform it into a bag for example or even a cushion cover.

So why is it important that we upcycle our stuff and to give it a second life?

Well, we are actually throwing away a lot of clothing. It’s a fact in Singapore, we discard over 150 thousand tons a year. This is according to NEA and so if we are contributing to that it’s not good because, at the same time, we’re also buying new items. So rather than buying new and throwing it away, why not prolong the life of what we have in our wardrobe.

What got you involved in getting people to think about their clothes? Why are you into being sustainable in the fashion industry?

It Started actually after I gave birth, I was on maternity leave and I think pregnancy changes us. I was looking into my wardrobe and I realized:  “Oh I have so many clothes!” and that really got me into upcycling. Because I thought to hang on a minute, if I am going to be donating this to charity or just throw it away, I’m still going to go back to the vicious cycle of buying and throwing. and I thought about my son and I was thinking: “do I want him to also practice the same unsustainable practices that I am doing?” and I thought it was good to set an example and to show him that you don’t have to buy certain things.

You can upcycle or use the things you have. And I think it’s rubbed down to him because now if he has something that’s thorn he will be like: “hey mom how do you repair this? Or can you teach me? Or can you help me repair it?” so I think it’s good to start them young.

So your son learn the value of repairing and upcycling while you are acting on it!

Yes! He actually also learned that there is no quick fix in life in general and we all have to slow down. Because at the moment, a lot of us is if you want something new. You either go online or to the store without even thinking about: “hey you know do we already have that at home?”

Is there anything you would like to share with people to help stop this vicious cycle (of buying and throwing)?

I think for a start people can slow down. I think for me it started because I slowed down. Because I had the opportunity to slow down with my maternity leave and that really got me thinking.

And I think when you slow down, you start to realize the value of certain things in life. you start to appreciate more and the more you do that it really gets you thinking:” should I buy this or do I already have this? Do I really need it?” and then once you start thinking all these things, then the idea of conscious living can start taking that journey already.

It’s really simple. Only buy what you need and not what you want.


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