The knowledge, skills and ideas of the Craft of Use have a new platform on the web!
The Craft of Use explores resourceful garment use practices as one way to challenge the dependency of the fashion industry on increasing material throughput. Its proposition is that sustained attention to tending and using garments, we can create an alternative set of experiences of fashion provision and consumption.
They are the spiritual and intellectual home – the ‘mothership’ – of some of my other work in design for sustainability, most notably the Local Wisdom project.
Let us know what you think…
I recently received a copy of Dear Fashion through the post… a gorgeous little publication put together in The Netherlands which charts the adventures of some of the folk involved in a year of living without buying fashion, the Free Fashion Challenge. What follows below is my contribution to the journal – a prologue – a stage-setter for what is playfully shoehorned into the pages that follow. Dear Fashion is in essence a love letter to fashion, but one penned from different starting points and experiences. Read on…
“I love a vexing, thorny question. And perhaps there is no question in fashion today more troublesome – and overdue – than that of what fashion would be like outside an endless cycle of consumption. Let’s face it; our experience of fashion today is so dominated by buying stuff that it’s almost impossible to imagine fashion in any other format. Fashion is buying high street and high end. It is watching, shopping, purchasing. In the consumer society we organize our ideas about fashion around commerce and consumerism and end up becoming dependent on them. And yet this incessant cycle of consumption is not all that fashion is, was, or can be. We are, so to speak, shopping ourselves short. By elevating the power of what we buy to be the ultimate arbiter of fashion innovation; we are missing out on fashion’s other-than-market potential; on the multitude of fashion moments that flow from who we are, not from just from what we buy again and again. With consumerist fashion’s emphasis on looking from a distance, we are also straying even further from fashion’s original meaning – as a group activity of making and doing. And what is more, it seems that consumerism is creating an anachronistic form of fashion itself. For we know that fashion always reflects its context; and today its context includes sustainability. So when we see fashion as achievable only through ever-greater consumption; this blinkered ‘performance’ is quite simply, no longer fashion.
So much can be said about the detrimental effect of consumerist fashion on our society. Indeed these arguments need to be rehearsed and restated the world over: its contribution to the drawing down of resources and associated creation of waste; its promotion of short-term thinking and passive engagement with material goods; the psychological anxiety and stress linked to fashion’s instability, and so on. But what do we know about the effects of living without the consumer-based version of fashion? What experiences can we draw upon from other than this one-trick pony view of clothes-on-the-body? The answer begins to unfold inside the pages of this bookazine. With illustration, with words, with passion and a smile, so many possibilities are explored. Dear Fashion is an ode to what can be, to creation, expression, caring, repairing… so much more than consumerism’s ‘have it all’ culture.
I applaud all the Free Fashion Challenge volunteers who signed up to a year without shopping – you now have skills of the future, honed and perfected today. The ceaseless cycle of fashion consumption is ailing. Long live fashion.”
Over the last couple of weeks the Local Wisdom project team has been travelling to Vancouver and NYC to gather more stories of the doings and saying associated with garment use. We wanted to extend a huge THANK YOU to all of you who participated in the project and our fabulous teams in both of these great cities for their work on the ground, on the day and in the lead up. The images and stories will be online in the next few weeks
The Local Wisdom project returns to London on 5th December 2012 to take photographs and gather more stories of the ‘craft of use’ of the general public. We’ll be at the Carnaby Book Exchange in Kingly Court (between Regent Street and Carnaby Street) between midday and 7pm. Please come along and share with us how you use clothes and get your portait taken in your piece! More on the London photoshoot including exact location and categories listing the sort of things we are looking for can be found here.
In sustainability there is no such thing as a mass answer, but instead a mass of appropriately scaled, creative, dynamic, emerging and engaging answers. A new video from the Puma Sustainable Design Collective held earlier this year collates a series of evening talks (including one by me!) which shows this diversity. Called ’50 Ways of Working Sustainably’ the video aims to generate a deeper understanding of the relationships between the products and systems we design – their social, ecological and economic impacts. Hosted by Dr Jonathan Chapman (Reader in Sustainable Design at the University of Brighton), with key speakers including Dr Kate Fletcher (Reader in Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion), Fiona Bennie (Dragon Rouge) and Nick Gant (University of Brighton).
The 50 WAYS OF WORKING icons representing the creation of products, their processes and thinking. Progressive and inspiring, these talks acknowledge the enormity of the challenges surrounding sustainability with energy and positivity.
Click here to link to the video on vimeo. Use the password: md101
Local Wisdom, the ongoing fashion research project exploring the ‘craft of use’ has added more tales of stories and images of resourceful and satisfying use of garments spread across twenty two categories… with more to come over the next year.
The project is now in a new phase of work with the first of seven international design projects looking to amplify the craft of use to increase its take up beginning today.
The project’s international network is made up of:
London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, UK
California College of the Arts, San Francisco, USA
Parsons The New School, New York City, USA
Kolding Design School, Kolding, Denmark
Emily Carr University, Vancouver, Canada
Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
On Thursday 11th October at 6pm, I’m giving a presentation at Parsons the New School of Design on Alternative Fashion Systems.
I’m going to explore the effects of consumerism and economic growth on our fashion systems and investigate ways to value a broader range of fashion activity than is currently recognized, drawing upon examples of the ”craft of use” in my project Local Wisdom. I’ll touch on alternative ways to organize traffic in order to promote awareness, attentiveness and mobility, and will reflect on what this may mean for fashion, proposing alternative ideas around a new sort of fashion-ability.
Royal Society of Arts, London
4th October 2012, 13:00.
The last ten years has seen a burgeoning of the Slow Movement in all aspects of life from management, travel and education to science and work.
The RSA brings together a group of thinkers and practitioners who have each been exploring ways to bring the principles of ‘slow’ to their life and work – whether in finance, culture or fashion. As well as sharing lessons from their own fields, they will discuss how more of us can deal with the addictive nature of speed, apply the brakes and improve our quality of life, creativity and well-being.
Speakers: Carl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow; Kate Fletcher, Reader in Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion; Deepa Patel, co-director, Slow Down London; Gervais Williams, award-winning fund manager and author of Slow Finance.
On 27th April 2012, Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business at M&S and Kate Fletcher, Reader in Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion discussed wide ranging themes associated with fashion and sustainability as part of the launch of M&S’s ‘Shwopping’ recycling initiative and the two week creative ‘Shwop Lab’ co-ordinated by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion in Dray Walk, London to explore shwopping design implications.
The conversation, described by one journalist as one of the most interesting and wide-ranging she’d ever heard on fashion and sustainability, has been edited into four podcasts available for download.
Podcast 1 covers broad themes in fashion and business:
- Different ways to experience fashion – how are they influenced by business models? How does M&S’s shwopping initiative relate to this?
- Statistics about global levels of consumption – and asks how they will be clothed.
- Shwopping goes some way towards closing the loop – a pragmatic solution to clothing people in the future.
- Consumption: requires a new balance between long and short-term objectives and involves hard choices: how can society be organised in a different way?
- How can resources be maximised for the common good?
- Many big businesses now recognise that they cannot go on as before. M&S engaged in a consumption model over the last 30 years – it needs new models and new collaborations. How should we talk about sustainability to the board?
- The different challenges associated with different types of consumers.
Podcast 2 explores the themes of local manufacture:
- Bringing manufacturing back to UK
- Whether Shwopping could create a fibre resource in the UK
- Human scale important to sustainability: connections to land, to community.
- Different business models which include local: hyper efficient global; hyper local and the disruptive effect of environmental impact on ways of conducting commerce.
Podcast 3 covers brands and consumers:
- The role of the big brands in fashion and sustainability
- Brands are getting better at communicating sustainability. M&S good at functional discussion around sustainability. The challenge is the cultural and emotional discussion.
- Shwopping is the beginning of this different discussion in M&S and leading change rather than reacting to it.
- But it is still framing people as individual consumers – rather than drawing people together in a connected effort.
- More clothes are bought than discarded every year… wardrobe obesity
Podcast 4 includes discussion of recycling and related issues:
- The relationship between Shwopping and other clothing and textile recycling schemes – how can we gain access to unwanted fibre and facilitate the process of recycling?
- Has the current model of recycling clothing reached a natural plateau? Is the inertia in recycling functional or emotions? Linked to our psyche?
- Competition for resources means that materials have a greater value.
- What is the role of design in take back schemes? What are the design for recycling criteria?
- Design for recycling criteria. In order to extract maximum value build in a way of thinking that allows to plan for multiple future uses.
- Does recycling justify the existing business model? Also have to promote intensive, joyful, ongoing use.
The Local Wisdom project will be visiting Kolding in Denmark on Thursday 6th September inorder to gather tales of how people use their clothes. We will be in the library from 11am until 7pm. Hope to see you there! View the flyer in English and Danish here!