The Green of Mise en Scène

Throwaway culture is trash. Get green with the Mise.

So you’re incorporating sustainability to all of this as well?

Damn right we are. The Mise’s commitment to sustainability is, as you might have guessed, also inspired by theatrical practices. Thus our sustainability efforts center around a few main ideas: responsibility for product lifespan, solid design principles, green material sourcing, and reusing, remaking, and repurposing before buying new. An artist’s cohesive look at a product’s lifespan begins before the item is made, with the sourcing quality raw materials, and culminates in a dedication to excellent craftsmanship that ensures the product’s longevity. The two major benefits of this practice are: one, it allows the consumer to buy less by investing in one item that will last, and two, if the consumer decides an item is no longer necessary for their wardrobe or lifestyle, it doesn’t flood the secondhand market with more cheap, faddish items that ultimately end up in landfills. It will have value beyond its life with the primary consumer in the secondhand market at a consignment or thrift store. This is because the Mise aesthetic is based on style, not fashion - there will always be a market for attractive, expertly created products.

What about these “quality raw materials”?

For raw materials, Mise artists have an open book of possibilities. Utilizing scraps from previous projects, personal collections(I can assure you that most of us tastefully hoard a selection of found materials that is larger than strictly necessary), items salvaged from waste, and uncut antique or vintage originals allows artists to source as much as possible from pre-existing items before buying new. These materials can range from three yards of vintage lace from an antique store, to a residual piece of marble countertop from a wholesale retailer, which clever artisans fashion into summer blouses and perfect end tables. A happy byproduct of focusing on quality in the hunt for raw materials is that the best materials often come from natural sources. It’s easy to choose solid wood instead of particle or chipboard, and wool, linen, and cotton instead of acrylics or polyester.

All this from “innate sustainability” in theater?

For context on good, ol’ fashioned theater sustainability, we’ll look at a cream silk blouse with a perfectly draped collar made in a theater’s resident costume shop. It's likely that the blouse was originally made with bolt end* fabric, by a skilled and experienced stitcher. After it’s first show debut, that blouse will be pulled out of costume storage and used over and over, sent out on rentals, repaired when the stitching around the collar loosens, have its buttons switched out, and dyed and dyed over, for quite literally decades, until it is threadbare. Then, it will be used again for the street urchins in A Christmas Carol. Did this costume shop initially set out to be sustainable? Probably not. But a combination of thrifty practices, a focus on longevity in the creation process, and an appreciation for the aging look of a garment (rather like our liking for torn and faded denim) resulted in the use of a garment to the end of its life in a way that is rarely seen in contemporary homes, or encouraged by large manufacturers. The Mise is looking to open up this style of sustainability to a wider audience, because the theatre kids know how to make things that last. Does this mean non-theater artisans don’t? Of course not. We just construct in different ways, and I think it is time for the general public to benefit from that very difference.

* bolt end: the last 20 - 50 yards of a specific fabric, usually sold off by fashion manufacturing houses, whose focus on mass production makes a textile with a quantity of less than 50 yards obsolete.

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