Tim Mitchell – Clothing Recycled

The new Ghora Mandir (Horse Temple) in a New Delhi suburb, where over forty thousand Waghri people live. Originally from Gujarat, many of them recycle Indian clothing.


The higher quality clothing will be sold further afield. This Waghri couple deal in silk saris in their home. Such traders amass hundreds of silk saris cast out from wedding trousseau into the secondhand markets for re-sale.


In the UK, we buy more than two million tonnes of textiles a year, throw half of it in landfill, and currently recycle only a quarter. Although we are becoming more aware of the economic, social and environmental impact of textile production, most of us have no idea of how the global textile recycling trade works or its impact. Demand for reusable second-hand clothing in developing economies is high, but less well-known are the recycling industries that destroy our castoff clothing in order to reclaim the fibres. The town of Panipat, in North India, is the current centre of this global ‘shoddy’ recycling industry. The work is dirty, labour intensive and the process has changed little since its invention in Yorkshire in 1813. Developing countries also constitute the main markets for the low-quality recycled products manufactured through this process.

Contrasting the flow of western clothing to India and it’s subsequent transformation is the recycling of unwanted clothing within India and it’s possible reincarnation, even ending up in the west. Clothing is never just thrown out as rubbish in India. It is too replete with social meaning to be wasted until it is literally falling apart. Used clothing is a valuable resource. Huge informal economies process unwanted Indian clothing in a burgeoning market for used domestic textiles.

These photographs and their captions explore both of these journeys in an effort to join the dots in what is otherwise an invisible global trade.

The second-hand clothing and recycling trades have to be understood as a global system, one where the dirtiest work is often done in marginal, unregulated places.

Clothing Recycled is a collaborative project between Anthropologist Lucy Norris and Photographer Tim Mitchell.





The local area is swathed with drying washing, festooning houses, draping over road barriers and strung across patches of wasteland.




The less pure coloured, poorer quality shoddy blankets leave Panipat destined for the aid industries and the army.




Buyers specialize in certain garments, trawling the lines of women sitting selling saris, shalwar kamiz, shirts and trousers.




The sorted clothing is then compressed into bales weighing up to 2 tons, ready for transportation around the globe.







Cast-off woolen clothing is sorted again in large warehouses in Panipat, now into basic colour groups, where it’s new value lies.




Women drinking chai on a December morning. Families often work together, traveling to their regular suburban patches to barter for clothes and selling them together at the market.


More images on www.timmitchell.co.uk or www.wornclothing.co.uk. After graduating from Chelsea College of Art & Design, Tim Mitchell worked as an artist technician for clients such as Artangel and as a set-builder for film and television. More recently he has worked as a photographer and artist educator fulfilling photographic commissions and teaching in schools and museums within the UK. His photographic work has been the subject of a solo show at the Horniman Museum, London and in a number of group shows in London and around the UK.