A Detroit zine aims to ‘forge a more just relationship between the air and what we wear’

Through art, the fourth issue of Clearline looks at what we wear and how it’s tied to carbon emissions and climate change.

Published in partnership with BridgeDetroit

Detroit’s environmental and sustainable fashion zine is creating a space for readers and sustainable makers to rethink consumption and the harmful effects of the fashion industry. 

Clearline got its start in 2019. Its fourth issue examines, through art, how clothing and the textile industry are tied to carbon emissions. 

Artists, poets, and environmental activists gathered Thursday to celebrate the release of the issue that its creators say is inspired by recent events nationally and here in Detroit.

“Air — the latest in our series of elemental themes — shifts our focus to one of fashion’s most urgent problems: the slow violence enacted by corporate air pollution,” the zine’s most recent callout for submissions from artists read. “Together, we want to create a next installment that is expressive, critical, and actionable, that helps to forge a more just relationship between the air and what we wear.” 

The fashion industry is a significant contributor to harmful greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, accounting for more emissions than international flight and shipping, combined. 

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fashion contributes up to 10% of carbon dioxide emissions, globally, and a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced each year. To make clothing, gallons and gallons of water are mixed with chemicals for dyes. In the end, the toxic water mix is often dumped, untreated, into waterways, accounting for 20% of industrial water pollution. Once in the consumers’ hands, clothes have a short lifespan before they are thrown away, breaking down into toxic microplastics and releasing harmful emissions.

“Perhaps it was a carry-over from last issue’s images of wildfires in the sky, or perhaps it was the news surrounding the shut down and planned demolition of the Detroit incinerator and the many studies and articles that continue to detail the horrific legacy left in its wake. Most likely, it was both of these and more,” a letter to the readers notes at the beginning of the latest zine. 

The release was celebrated by about 70 people – including several of the zine’s featured artists – at the Room Project, a workshop and event space for women and nonbinary writers. Room Project host Kelsey Ronan said she had never seen the space so packed. It was filled with interactive art displays and offered custom cocktails, food, poetry, and zine copies.

Kayla Powers, a Detroit place-based fiber artist, shows attendees of Clearline’s fourth issue release party on Thursday, July 28, 2022, how to weave on a loom. Photo by Jena Brooker.

Detroit-based artist Kayla Powers guided attendees in weaving on a loom. For 10 years, Power has been using plant materials to create dyes and hand-weave pieces. In 2020, she had an installation featuring 12 tapestries on the Dequindre Cut dyed with plants she found along the route.

The Clearline team consists of Editor in Chief Sarah Sparkman, Carolyn Ridella, creative director and designer, and Isabelle Tavares, the zine’s associate editor. 

The zine came about in 2019 when Ridella and Sparkman, who had been working together at Sparkman’s dad’s landscaping company, decided they wanted to elevate an online blog of Sparkman’s to something more formal and creative. The first issue, released in Spring 2019, focused on sustainable fashion in Detroit. At that time, the zine was just eight pages. Today, it’s a 65-page, full-size magazine with profiles on sustainable makers, guides for creating natural and sustainable clothing, photographs, poetry, and more. 

“We’ve really grown issue by issue,” Ridella said.  

With issue number three, Clearline opened the zine up to submissions for the first time. They put out a call in December that ran through April 1. 

“We had an overflow of submissions, which was pretty crazy – from all over the world,” she said. 

The zine includes artists from Spain, France, Amerstadam, cities across the United States, and of course, makers and artists from Detroit. 

The book features an interview with Tracy Reese, a born and raised Detroiter who has created clothing for former first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah, among other celebrities. After becoming alert to the horrors of fast fashion, Reese created Hope for Flowers, a sustainable and equitable fashion company based in Detroit. 

“Our vision is to kind of be a creative space for people to think about this climate change issue in an accessible way, through art and their prose and poetry and journalism,” said Sparkman. “The medium of print is really great to think about these issues,” she said. “It’s a way for people to sit with the issue – whatever environmental issue that we’re exploring.” 

With each issue, Clearline donates a portion of its proceeds to a nonprofit in line with the issue’s theme. Proceeds from the latest issue will go to Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, a nonprofit advocating for clean air, safe water, and healthy neighborhoods. 

As it grows, Clearline this year added Tavares as its third team member.

“I think it’s really special that we have autonomy in shaping the narrative around climate change, because I think it’s such a potent thing in our lives every day,” she said. “There’s so many different ways to think about it.”

Incorporating environmental justice into the zine is important to the team and something they said they are looking to do even more in the future. Tavares shared a specific excerpt from the zine as an example: “80% of all clothing is made by a woman. And most of them are women of color. We have to take that very personally,” she said. 

Tavares also held up the submission of a quilt created using data from lichen – a species that indicates the presence of pollution in the air. Lichen has been used in multiple research studies to demonstrate a connection between air pollution and lower-income communities of color. Using dye from lichen, artist Karen Lane created a quilted version of a map that shows changes in atmospheric sulfur concentration over 50 years in Shenandoah National Park using lichen data. 

“Air pollution is obscure, it’s really difficult to conceptualize,” Tavares said. “I put a lot of credits with artists who thought through this theme.” 

The zine can be purchased at: 27th letter books, Book Suey, POST, Quimby’s Bookstore NYC, and online.


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