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Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing (S4S): Affective Activism

Hackney, Fiona and Saunders, Clare and Willett, Joanie and Hill, Katie (2019) Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing (S4S): Affective Activism. In: Design Research for Change (DR4C) Symposium, 11 December 2019 - 12 December 2019, London.

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Abstract

The need to improve the sustainability of fashion has been widely noted by academics (Black 2012, Fletcher 2008, 2016), activist campaigns (Greenpeace, Fashion Revolution) and policy makers (DEFRA, EAC). While there have been creative attempts to provoke sustainable fashion, few studies have explored ways in which making fibre, using ‘waste’ fabric and modifying clothes might change individuals’ behaviour (thoughts, feelings and actions ) in relation to how they dress. This chapter will present, analyse and reflect on work-in-progress research from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded project ‘Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing (S4S)’, which combines arts with social science methods to investigate how creative activities might shape a ‘sensibility’ for sustainable clothing and promote pro-environmental behaviour change. Drawing on social design thinking, the project works with communities to co-produce knowledge through ‘hands on’ making. It involves community groups in dialogic, reflexive workshops that mimic phases of the lifecycle of clothing (making fibre and fabric, purchasing, mending, modifying and making clothes, and dealing with waste fabric) and has produced a rich array of data including co-generated creative outputs, in-depth interviews, short reflective videos, wardrobe audits, clothing diaries and surveys. In collaboration with partner Fashion Revolution, the project proposes these methods as a mode of quietly affective activism that is embedded in, stems from, and is fuelled by everyday lived experience (Hackney, 2013a). Fashion industries, cultures and imaginaries are multi-faceted and complex with significant social and environmental consequences. Drawing on theories of affect (Ahmed, 2004), S4S findings suggest that participatory design and crafts practices offer an affective response to the pressing problem of fashion’s devastating environmental effects.

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