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Stitching a Sensibility 4 Sustainable Clothing: quiet activism, affect and community agency

Hackney, Fiona and saunders, clare and Willet, Joanie and Hill, Katie and Griffin, Irene (2020) Stitching a Sensibility 4 Sustainable Clothing: quiet activism, affect and community agency. Journal of Arts and Communities. ISSN 1757-1936 (In Press)

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Abstract

Abstract Fast fashion has become notorious for its environmental, social and psychological implications. This article reports on some of the work undertaken as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded S4S: Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing project, which sought to combine social science and participatory arts-based research methods to explore how processes of ‘making together’ in community textiles groups might generate a new ethic, or sensibility, among consumers to equip them to make more sustainable clothing choices. The study develops a novel methodology that responds to the complex demands of participatory working. It required careful management of the combinations of methods, which included various different making workshops; wardrobe audits; interviews; films and journal keeping. The project also raises the question of using multi-modal formats, which generate rich data, but also add to the complexity, highlighting a 2 need for multi-disciplinary teams. The article focuses on participant responses from two series of 5-day workshops that explored: 1) Hand-making fabrics by spinning, dyeing and weaving thread; and 2) Deconstructing and reconstructing knitted garments. The embodied encounters offered in the workshops encouraged participants to reflect on the fluidity of garments, by which we mean coming to view clothing not as fixed objects but rather as open and full of potentiality for change. For example, a jumper might be unravelled and the wool used for a different piece of clothing, or a dress unpicked and the fabric used for some entirely different garment. The resultant affective responses ranged from a deeper engagement with the materialities of the clothing industry to an awareness of the amount of time incorporated in the process of making clothes as participants started to re-imagine clothing through the embodied act of re-making. Keywords: sustainable fashion, co-production, affect, activism, craft, community, social design

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