Activating Disruptive Fashion Modes and Practices

I make therefore I am

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Sustainable fashion researchers, designers and writers have dealt at length with making and using clothes in more sustainable ways[i], and have documented how making is a joyful, convivial activity[ii]. There have been, and continue to be, experiments in open collaborative designing via FabLabs, makerspaces and individual projects[iii]. Yet, the age of the pro-sumer[iv], Pro-Am[v], user-maker or fashion designer-maker appears not yet to have arrived. We have, perhaps, neglected to ask why most people still buy their clothes rather than making them.   So at the end of the seminar, Disruptive Fashion Modes , on 16 December 2016, held as part of the Make Yourself event, eight participants gathered to brainstorm how they felt about shopping for clothes and whether they felt differently about making clothes. They jotted down their thoughts on post-its which were then subject to an affinity analysis, where they were categorized into positive, neutral or negative feelings for shopping and making, with sub-categories created as appropriate (Table 1. and Table 2.).

Shopping generated positive feelings related to the social nature of the task, its ability to raise our curiosity during the hunt for the right clothing and the positive values accruing through attachment to the clothing through notions of self- and collective identity. Negative feelings centred on the frustrations of the shopping environment in terms of its predictableness, over- or under-whelming choice, and poor quality information. Individually, for some, purchasing could even lead to feelings of guilt or shame. An interesting observation was that shopping, as an activity, provides certain frictions and yet, simultaneously, it is frictionless. This tension may arise, paradoxically, because it is such a ubiquitous, everyday experience, yet unexpected things can still happen.

Feelings during making flowed between being stressed during the actual making in a collective, DIY or DIT, environment, to positive feelings of being part of an ‘alternative fashion’ world. Negative feelings tended to revolve around fears about one’s skills and abilities to make through being ashamed of not-knowing how to do things or worrying about making mistakes. Countering these feelings is a very comprehensive list of positive feelings centred on improved individual skills, a strong sense of accomplishment or achievement while learning and creating in a positive social environment.

While it is acknowledged that our participants could have a bias towards making, given their attendance at the seminar, it is interesting to ask what values underpin the positive feelings associated with shopping or with making. The key values underpinning shopping are that it is a sociable activity, that people enjoy the ‘search’ and, individually, that it helps contribute to creating one’s identity. In contrast, the key values underpinning making seem to be the experience of being in a creative environment with others, feeling one’s time had been well spent, and of having improved one’s competences.

Localism and craftivism can be seen as activities where the elements of social solidarity, micro-political actions and the building of social and cultural capital are set alongside the ecological benefits of such forms of production. These are counter-actions to global capitalist models of production and consumption. They share many commonalities with the maker movement whose activities still seem to be centred around communities of enthusiasts, geeks and hobbyists. However, a recent study about the cultural role(s) of makerspaces indicates that they are now trying to join up with diverse institutions to explore how making can make communities, systems, educational programmes, markets and so on[vi]. Halligan and Charney (2016) suggest that the emergent maker culture can progress to making culture. Perhaps, once again, the rhetoric outstrips the reality. We really need to find out how to scale-up the activities of making things for ourselves and for others, or, how to convert shoppers into makers.  However, as this little exercise shows, there appears to be a gap in our knowledge about this challenge. Further studies are needed on how we re-frame making, and therefore production, and how we link it to different modes of consumption.

Table 1. What are your feelings about shopping?

POSITIVE NEUTRAL NEGATIVE
General observations Feelings during the experience Personal expressions of identity Neither negative or positive feelings Response to shopping environment Feelings during the experience Lack of information
Sociable

Rewarded by looking

Positive value (attachment) over time (when owned)

Curiosity

Curious (especially in secondhand and vintage shops)

Discovery

Treasure hunt

Excited

Self-expression

Self-enhancing

Belonging

Tribal

Frction/ frictionless

(time, taste, skills)

Frustration /frustrating/ frustrated, lack of patience to look through racks of clothes

Leave without buying

Disappointing

Over-mediated

Over-rated

Underwhelmed

Predictable, middle-of-the road

Boring

Tiring

Slowness

Overwhelmed/-ing

Overload

Unfit (the clothes are designed for the magazine people)

Guilty

Ashamed

Design for more information on the products

Table 2. What are your feelings about making?

POSITIVE NEUTRAL NEGATIVE
General observations Feelings during the experience Nature of the experience Neither negative or positive feelings Feelings during the experience
Social – “people are nice”

Natural, we have hands, body, brains, lungs, heart

Tangible

Useful

Unique

GAINING COMPETENCES OR KNOWLEDGE

To know how things are made

To know how to take things apart

Pleasure of solving problems

Learning

Being able

Pleasure of new gestures (not only tapping on keyboards)

Empowered to use sewing machines

ACHIEVEMENTS

Gaining confidence

Being proud

Gaining pride

Satisfied

Rewarding

Fun

Creative

Meditative

Immersed

Flow

Rhythmic

Tranquil (especially offline making)

Stressed but productive

DIY/DIT making

Like ‘Alternative food’ we have ‘Alternative fashion’

Unable

Ashamed

Scared

Frustrated /frustrating

Unsolvable problems

Mistakes are not easily detectable (no Control delete!)

[i] Fletcher,K. 2008 Sustainable Fashion & Textiles. Design Journeys. London:Earthscan; Gwilt, A. and Rissanen, T. (Eds.)2011. Shaping Sustainable Fashion. Changing the way we make and use clothes. London: Earthscan.

[ii] See, for example, Gauntlett, David. 2011. Making is Connecting – The social meaning of creativity. Cambridge: Polity Press., Hirscher, Anja-Lisa. 2015. The Joyful Experiences of Making Together, pp241- 249, in Fuad-Luke, A., Hirscher, A-L and Moebus, K. Agents of Alternatives. Re-designing Our Realities. Berlin: AoA.

[iii] See Openwear, A Year of Living Open Source, and other case studies in Fuad-Luke, A., Hirscher, A-L and Moebus, K. Agents of Alternatives. Re-designing Our Realities. Berlin: AoA.

[iv] Toffler, A. 1970. Future Shock. New York: Random House.

[v] Leadbetter, C and Miller, P. 2004. The Pro-Am Revolution. London: Demos.

[vi] Halligan, D and Charney,D. 2016. The cultural role(s) of makerspaces. Research-in-progres. London: From Now On.

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This entry was posted on April 21, 2017 by .

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