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Rediscovering Slow Fashion: The use of Traditional Crafts to Encourage Sustainable Practices

Hall, NA and Boorady, LM (2017) Rediscovering Slow Fashion: The use of Traditional Crafts to Encourage Sustainable Practices. In: NIFT 2018 Conference: Rediscovering Culture: Transforming Fashion, 31 January 2018 - 02 February 2018, National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, India. (In Press)


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This paper describes the teaching strategy and curricula for a four-week project that partner’s students with local refugees in the United States. Its aim is to establish a socio-cultural exchange between project participants that promotes the experiential transfer of traditional craft skills and expertise that promote sustainable design. According to Guntlow (1997), in the United States crafting means combining personal taste and function in a way that satisfies one’s individual aesthetic sense as well as practical needs. Indeed, it has been found that handcrafted items hold more intrinsic value, particularly if the maker and owner know each other, adding to the sustainability of the item through extended wear (DeLong, et.al., 2013). The associated design processes, techniques and principles are inherently sustainable; forming a blueprint for students to explore the principles of slow fashion. Lee and DeLong state that “handcrafting offers a meaningful opportunity to promote sustainable fashion design” (pg 78). The student/refugee teams will be encouraged to use their creativity to make traditional concepts contemporary; creating narratives that preserve and illustrate the heritage and originality of the crafts they explore, but in the context of driving the adoption of more sustainable approaches to commercial fashion, focusing on designing and crafting culturally valued, high-quality apparel or accessories with extended life-cycles. The project will explore the contexts of slow fashion and design methodologies along with the research associated with it, focusing on five key areas as outlined by Jung and Jin (2014): (1) Equity, (2) Authenticity, (3) Functionality, (4) Localism, and (5) Exclusivity. This project seeks to provide a practical example of how gaining first-hand knowledge and understanding of craft-based narrative and learning directly with those associated with it enables sensitivity and respect toward cultural origin and craft tradition. Learning outcomes meet the diversity component in the college’s required general electives. More broadly, it is hoped participants may view craft based narratives as a potential intervention in the transformation of the fashion industry toward more ethical and environmental practices and enhance their ability to develop innovative solutions toward the concept of a circular economy (The Circular Economy Concept, 2016).

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