Austrian Museum of Applied Arts Presents New Exhibition "Critical Consumption"

More+More+ ♦ Published: August 7, 2023; 19:50 ♦ (Vindobona)

The fashion industry is characterized by constantly changing trends, rapid production under often precarious conditions, and the flood of new collections. At the same time, this leads to a massive waste of resources and a threat to ecosystems through textile waste. In light of these issues, the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) exhibits "CRITICAL CONSUMPTION" (Aug. 30, 2023-Sept. 8, 2024) focuses on the fashion industry and its influence on consumer behavior, manufacturing processes, and sustainability efforts.

The Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna invites you to take a look at the fashion industry and its influence on consumer behavior and sustainability. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons,Gugerell, Public domain

For more than a year, the MAK Gallery will be a venue for historical objects, contemporary design, and artistic positions that encourage reflection on current questions of our time. Questions such as "What is the value of our clothing?" and "Who can afford to be critical of consumption at all?" will be raised. Fashion is seen as a prime example of consumption in our capitalist-driven society in the Global North.

The exhibition "CRITICAL CONSUMPTION" motivates people in many ways to rethink their consumption behavior. The exhibition also offers special interactive stations for school classes that stimulate questions and reflections on their purchasing behavior. Works by international artists such as Celia Pym, Dead White Men's Clothes, Stefanie Moshammer, Sylvie Fleury, Tenant of Culture, The Nest Collective, and Wang Bing illuminate the complex interconnections of consumption and production as well as the global impact. Historical collection pieces illustrate how fashion consumption has evolved over three centuries.

The exhibition addresses the changes in the valuation of clothing over the centuries, and how these changes have influenced the use, reuse, and recycling of clothing. The exhibition addresses the desire for novelty as well as critical consumption positions that have developed in response to our throwaway society.

"CRITICAL CONSUMPTION" traces the history of massive fashion consumption in the Global North since the 18th century. The exhibition shows how the consumption of luxury goods has changed from a negative image to a positive social attitude. Luxury goods were once often associated with waste, but over time consumption came to be seen as a positive contribution to the economy and personal identity.

The rapid acceleration of the fashion system since the 18th century has also been attributed to technological advances, global expansion, changing production conditions, and mass media. This development has led to today's "fast fashion," which is only possible in this form thanks to digital processes. Trend requirements can now be met within a very short time.

Because of political discussions about global regulations (e.g. supply chain law) and our networked society, which often exploits people and the environment, "CRITICAL CONSUMPTION" shows individual possibilities to consume responsibly. The exhibition emphasizes historical contexts and invites us to consider responsible consumption not as a passing trend, but as a "consumer revolution."

The exhibition "CRITICAL CONSUMPTION" is part of MAK's 10x17 Sustainable Development Goal commitment, which promotes conscious consumption. The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive supporting program, including an opening on August 29 at 7 p.m. and a Panel Talk with experts from the fashion industry on August 29 at 6 p.m.

Panel Talk:Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023, 6 p.m. Topic: "How can we consume fashion responsibly?" With Alec Leach (author of "The World is on Fire but We're still buying shoes"), Madeleine Alizadeh (founder of dariadéh, content creator), and Sabinna Rachimova (founder, lecturer, consultant at SABINNA, Fashion Revolution Austria), moderated by exhibition curator Lara Steinhäußer.

For more information on the supporting program and guided tours of the exhibition, please visit the MAK website at