Activating Disruptive Fashion Modes and Practices

Shopping as Making!

…Reflections on the Open Fashion Design Pop-up Shop in Lahti, Finland

There was a flurry of activity to get the first Open Fashion Design Pop-up Shop in Lahti, Finland set up and launched – borrowing sewing machines, sourcing unused and recycled fabrics, and publicising the event. On Saturday 25 January, Anja and Aino handed out flyers in the main shopping street in Lahti and tested a ‘half-made’/’half-way’ glove as a promotional device (Figures 1 & 2). The glove was half-cut and half-stitched with a label inviting shoppers to attend the Pop-up Shop between 30 January to 02 February to complete the glove and make another! In a workshop on Monday 27 January we explored other ‘half-made’ and promotional concepts with fashion students at LAMK. Setting up of the shop on the afternoon of Wednesday 29 January saw the local press dropping in to discuss the concept of the shop, leading to publication of an online and print article in Etelä-Suomen Sanomat. So, confident of a response from the general public, we opened doors at 10am on Thursday 30 January at Kulmakatu 5, the co-working space operated by Luovat Oy, an association of artists, craftspeople and other creatives.

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Figure 1. ‘Half-made’ gloves for promoting the Pop-Up Shop.

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Figure 2. Find a glove and come along to the Pop-up Shop to finish it and make another!

The first two days saw a steady trickle of punters interested in the concept and intrigued by what was happening. The majority of visitors saw the local newspaper articles, or heard the ‘half-made’ glove story (an affirmation that this publicity device worked!). A few dared to start making something with Nina Chen (Figure 3), our designer present on the first day, and Teresa Mair (Figure 4), the designer present on day two and three, assisted by Anja giving the benefits of her experience from her Make{able} project. Nina is a fashion designer and, presently, a Masters student at Aalto ARTS focusing on how citizens can be engaged with upcycling and repairing of their clothing. Teresa is an architectural Masters student with an interest in fashion.

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Figure 3. Nina fixes the laborinth of threads for the overlocker.

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Figure 4. Teresa (left) conversing with a ‘shopper-maker’

As anticipated, Saturday was the busiest day, captured by Aalto doctoral student Namkyu Chun on a time-lapse video.

Participants engaged with making gloves, hats, headband warmers, and backpacks.  Motivations for engaging with the Pop-up Shop varied. For example, Sirpa Rivinoja came with her daughter and set about making a pair of mittens, then promptly customised them as a gift for her daughter’s birthday! (Figures 5, 6, 7) They had come to spend some ‘quality time’ together. Barbara started a backpack in a previous Make{able} workshop but wanted to finish it…she travelled up from Helsinki to do so! The result was a unique, eye-catching backpack with its own idiosyncratic ‘road safety’ feature! (Figures 8,9). Another punter dropped in to make a ‘knot hat’ while her boyfriend Vile watched (Figure 10). Just before we closed the shop the Mayor of the City of Lahti, Jyrki Myllyvirta, came in with his wife to enquire how it was going….a nice gesture of support as this double experiment of Pop-Up Shop and Open Fashion Design was the first time it had happened in Lahti.

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Figure 5. Sirpa shows her sewing skills!

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Figure 6. The finished mittens.

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Figure 7. The happy maker and new owner of the gloves!

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Figure 8 & 9. Barbara models her new backpack with unique road safety ‘cross’.

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Figure 10. Anja gives a little assistance to a ‘shopper-maker’ creating her own ‘knotted hat’.

From a personal perspective, I enjoyed making a pair of gloves and a headband warmer (an ‘open pattern’ by Teresa Mair). The latter took just 20 minutes from start to finish (Figures 11 & 12). It was a pleasure to embellish it with cut-outs from an old lace shawl then use the forward/reverse facility on the sewing machine to ‘embroider’ the shapes on to the headband. As I am a complete novice, I enjoyed the process immensely. I observed in myself and others who were making an intensity of being absorbed in the task, a phenomenon often called ‘flow’ , when time appears not to exist and human energy is directed at a specific focus or outcome (Figure 13).

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Figure 11. The ‘open pattern’ by Teresa Mair and headband made by the author.

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Figure 12. Teresa modelling the headband.

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Figure 13. Everybody is going with the ‘flow’.

Reflecting on the three days, we can definitely say there was interest from the general public, although the newness of the overall concept provided some challenges. Shoppers do appear to be interested in making their clothing. However, the language and promotion play a key-role in engaging and creating interest in and networks with local designers and stakeholders. We felt that the people are curious, especially in how they engaged with the promotional half-way mittens, and raising awareness in the local press was possible. Local fashion designers were more difficult to engage, so we need to further explore the challenges and barriers that Open Fashion Design offers to the profession. We are also conscious that it might be better to take the Pop-up Shop to where the people are rather than try and get them to come to a special building. Although the Luovat co-working space is only 10 minutes from the city centre, we could explore popping-up in some of the indoor shopping centres (it was -11deg Centigrade one day!) where the foot traffic is much higher. We also thought that it would be good to talk with associations like the Martha Organisation about a co-event.

We will do a second Pop-up Shop in Helsinki in the near-future, where we will explore how to negotiate pricing strategies between the public and the designer. We shall also try and hone our storytelling….how do we make the story more engaging for the general public.  The concept of time is something we could focus on and how it is valued in the act of consuming has to be addressed differently. As designer Nina Chen noted: “If one spends half a day shopping, but does not find what s/he is looking for, one could also invest this time in making the perfect piece”. This notion could challenge the consumers’ mindset, as well as designers who can help them with conceptualising, designing and making their own unique garments.

We would like to thank everyone who ‘popped-in’ to engage and support us.  We are happy to promote the concepts of Open Design among students, shoppers, designers, and producers alike. We are looking forward to the next MODE UNCUT experiment!

AFL and ALH, 05.02.2014

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the following individuals who supported the first Open Fashion Design Pop-Up shop in Lahti – Louovat Ry for offering the space for the shop; Lecturer and fashion designer, Minna Cheung at the Insitute of Design & Fine Arts, Lahti Univesity of Applied Sciences; designers Nina Chen and Teresa Mair from Aalto ARTS; Pia Sandvik and Saara Varnamo for lending sewing machines; Aino Virkkunen for the promotion with flyers and Namkyu Chun, doctoral student from Aalto ARTS for the video.

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One comment on “Shopping as Making!

  1. Pingback: Reflective consumption | window874 - Dialogues for emergent design

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2014 by .
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