Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing (S4S)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

The Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing project represents a significant attempt to seek to understand how creative activities might shape individuals' sensibility for sustainability (that is the way in which they think through, imagine and practice sustainability) in relation to clothing. Our interdisciplinary approach provides a novel methodology that promises to push forward the boundaries of work on pro-environmental behaviour change. It also makes a significant contribution to the emergent field of sustainable fashion and to research on the relationship between craft processes, creative making and material affect. The project is grounded in 'social design' and co-production methodologies, which means that we are not interested in just producing knowledge, but also in working with others in the process of generating knowledge. This approach is important because fashion industries, cultures and imaginaries are multi-faceted and complex issues with significant personal (i.e. emotional) social and environmental implications. We argue that participatory arts and craft practices are potentially an important tool for generating a sensibility of sustainability and therefore for informing policy on behaviour change. Arts and crafts therefore require a serious test bed as a behavioural intervention, not least because political scientists have, now for a number of decades, recommended that multiple knowledges be drawn together to solve policy problems.

The project consists of five interrelated work strands:

Work strand 1. Individual research participants and experts (including our local community textiles / fashion partners and national and international policy -making and -shaping actors) come together to discuss the social and environmental problems associated clothing, and to inform and shape the workshops that follow through exposing the challenges of making fashion sustainable and engaging in asset mapping to address these challenges.

Work strand 2. Throughout a series of workshops (8 series of 5 half day workshop), groups of 6-10 participants explore different elements of the clothing life-cycle in a participatory manner. They are encouraged to share knowledge and be reflexive and interactive by passing creative outputs (see Case for Support for details of these) artefacts and written and self-evaluative films on to a group of similar peers in a different part of the country.

Work strand 3. Clothing practices are assessed before and after the workshop series to identify any changes in clothing sensibilities and choices using a survey, interviews and a wardrobe audit. A smaller group of key volunteers will keep a reflective clothes-purchasing diary throughout the life of the project, recording clothing purchases as well as reflecting on any changes in their feelings, attitudes and behaviours. They will record their perceptions about the role of engagement with material processes in shaping any changes.

Work strand 4. We adopt a 'politics of affect' by exploring in-depth the way people feel about clothing and the material processes involved in making fabric and clothes explored in the workshops. We do this through inductively analysing talk during the workshops, interviews and participants' blogs and the reflective films.

Work strand 5. Our findings are assembled carefully after liaison with our extensive network of project partners, consultants and participants into a policy brief that will help policy-makers work towards promoting pro-environmental behaviour change. In liaison with our project partner Fashion Revolution, we will arrange meetings with DEFRA and the All Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group at which we will share the policy brief and some creative output from the project (e.g. reflective videos and artefacts). A small select group of 2-3 participants from each location, some key partners, the investigators and project researchers will attend.

Planned Impact

S4S has potential to create economic and societal impact benefiting a range of stakeholders, including participants, local economies, local communities, fashion / environmental NGOs, policy actors and the broader public.

1. Individual participants will benefit in multiple ways. Unlike most academic projects on behaviour change, participants will foster positive working relationships with researchers as they explore research questions in a fun and tangible way. They will develop a skill-set to make fabric, and make and mend clothing. They will be invited to creatively explore their relationship with clothing and reflect on its ethical impacts. WS3 and WS4 explore the extent to which a sensibility for sustainability for clothing is generated by participants. Where such a sensibility has been generated, we expect it to endure beyond the lifetime of the project resulting in significant behaviour change.
2. The local economies in the Falmouth and Wolverhampton areas will benefit from our work directly and indirectly. Directly, in the short-term, local fashion and textile businesses and artists will benefit from the consultancy fee budgeted to the project. These include: Hawthorne Fibres (spinning instructor); Blacker Yarns (organic wool company); Patricia Dillon, Irene Griffen, Lizzie Harrison, Clobber Creations (textile artists), Fiona-Griffiths (pattern-cutting), Finesterre (local clothing company) and Anti-Form (upcycling clothing ). The opening symposium purposively co-creates the project among participants, consultants and researchers to ensure maximum utility for local businesses, who will also benefit from raising their profile locally. The 'mini market' event in Penryn at the end of project event allows local businesses to promote themselves and to sell their wares. Less directly, our project provides a new niche market for ethical wares after developing participants' sensibility for sustainability.
3. Our co-created workshops take place in community-based organisations, including The Poly (the cultural hub of Falmouth) and The Hive (a centre for arts, and creativity, Shrewsbury). By basing our workshops and outreach events community spaces, we engage in a mutually beneficial relationship: the project benefits from local artistic hubs promoting our events to diverse users of these spaces and, generally, contribute to university's community engagement and relationship building. In turn, the community venues will gain bookings and publicity. In addition to connecting people within communities, the design of our workshops (see WS1) allows us to connect people across communities in Cornwall and the West Midlands.
4. Fashion / environmental NGOs will benefit from the processes and results of our research, in particular practical ways in which a pro-environmental behaviour change can be fostered among the public. Our research strengthens our existing partnership with Fashion Revolution, a campaigning organisation with worldwide reach, closely in developing a model for 'affective' engagement that can lead to behaviour change.
5. Policy actors will benefit from our explicit aim to contribute to the agendas of DECC and DEFRA. The project will directly address DEFRA's Sustainable Clothing Action Plan and Framework for Pro-Environmental Behaviours (work strand 5). These institutions remain keen to learn how to promote pro-environmental behaviour and are likely to want to follow-up with us any promising initiatives related to the project. We will emphasise our engagement model and research findings, which they may be willing to promote.
6. The broader public will benefit from viewing the outreach materials produced by the project, which will be widely disseminated on social media with the assistance of Fashion Revolution. They will benefit from learning about clothing choices and ways in which making and mending clothes can shape identities and emotional relationships with style.

Publications

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Description We have discovered that hands-on experiential learning has the potential to substantially change the way in which people think, feel and act in relation to their clothing, generating a more sustainability-driven ethos. One of the mechanism through which this takes place is the recognition of the fluidity and mutability of clothing: clothes are not a fixed object, but items that can be redesigned for longevity by fixing, alteration, embellishment and re-use of fabric to provide garments with an entirely new lease of life.
Exploitation Route Our findings are useful for policy-makers looking for new ways to encourage pro-environmental behaviour change.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://sites.exeter.ac.uk/s4s/
 
Description Our findings have been used by policy-makers: they are reported in the HCEAC.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Citation in the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Report (2019)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Our work is part of a groundswell of interest in improving the sustainability of the fashion industry
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environmental-audit-comm...
 
Description AHRC Stitching Together Research Network 
Organisation B-Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I was invited to become part of this network and attend and present at workshops sessions and take part in discussion. I was also asked to share methods developed in the AHRC CARE and Maker Centric projects using textiles for engagement with communities. I worked with the RA on my current project which builds on these methods to work with community groups to explore their potential to engender behavior change in terms of more sustainable clothing practices, and sustainable fashion.
Collaborator Contribution They are leading the research project (PI and Co-I)
Impact There is a proposed special issue journal in the Journal of Arts and Communities which we will be contribution to. This is in process for 2019-20.
Start Year 2019
 
Description AHRC Stitching Together Research Network 
Organisation Nottingham Trent University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I was invited to become part of this network and attend and present at workshops sessions and take part in discussion. I was also asked to share methods developed in the AHRC CARE and Maker Centric projects using textiles for engagement with communities. I worked with the RA on my current project which builds on these methods to work with community groups to explore their potential to engender behavior change in terms of more sustainable clothing practices, and sustainable fashion.
Collaborator Contribution They are leading the research project (PI and Co-I)
Impact There is a proposed special issue journal in the Journal of Arts and Communities which we will be contribution to. This is in process for 2019-20.
Start Year 2019
 
Description Exhibited two co-created artefacts at the London Design Fair for the AHRC Design Showcase 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We exhibited two items: a co-created bag (our participants dyed the wool, weaved the fabrics, decorated it with felted flowers and turned the fabric and flowers into a decorated bag) and an apron (the apron was made from a discarded mens' shirt and decorated with knitted triangles, pin cushions and other aspects made by our novices). It also featured in the AHRC Design Showcase book.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://ahrc.ukri.org/newsevents/events/calendar/ahrc-design-research-for-change-showcase/
 
Description Expanding Communities of Sustainable Practice Leeds 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop delivered by Katie Hill (project RA) as part of Expanding Communities of Sustainable Practice event, Leeds Arts University, November 2018. This event was mainly attended by designers, design academics and students. It focused on sustainable design practice rather than just fashion and textiles and was an opportunity to disseminate the project to wider audiences outside the fashion-focused arena. A visual essay by Katie Hill was submitted for publication related to the event. The workshop sparked discussion about our project methods and was well received by others working with related co-produced community solutions to problems of sustainability.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Falmouth University Sustainability Week: Interactive discussion sessions with students looking a re-using fibre and re-cycling yarn. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact We helped design a one-day event that explored various aspects of fashion: a film-showing, charity shop stall, repair cafes, a clothes swap, and our workshop that explored recycling yarn, and experiencing raw fleece from a variety of different sheep.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.fxplus.ac.uk/news/2018/10/29/sustainability-week-2018
 
Description IFFTI 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Paper at global conference - International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes, hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University 2019. Prestigious conference with global audience of fashion industry professionals, academics, designers, students. Peer-reviewed paper (5,000 w plus) included in conference proceedings. Opportunity to disseminate project methods and findings to a global audience of fashion professionals and academics. Wide interest in co-creation and social methods. The paper focuses on our use of film as a tool and device for promoting behaviour change beyond the group of immediate project participants. The paper has been accepted at this stage and this output reports peer review feedback at this stage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.iffticonference.com/
 
Description Interactive workshop with school children (Environment and Sustainability Institute Schools Day) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact We ran a workshop exploring the process of converting fibre to fabric with school children. They reported that they were thinking more deeply about where their clothes came from, about the hidden labour in clothing manufacture, They were feeling guilty about the clothes they discard, and frustrated with how difficult it is to create yarn. They claimed that they would shop in charity shops more, keep clothes for longer and avoid clothes made from nylon and polyester.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/
 
Description New Perspectives in Participation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Ran a workshop at this conference - Connected Communities - New Perspectives in Participation - at University of East Anglia, Norwich. The activity involved making and reflecting and was run during the conference involving conference participants. It linked with Maker-Centric, CARE, methods - and how we have developed them for the S4S Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing project (AHRC responsive mode). The workshop had approx 20/30 participants
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://georgemckay.org/new-perspectives-in-participatory-arts/
 
Description S4S Project Launch Symposium Event 'Sustainable Clothing Futures', Penryn 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a one-day event with multiple facets. We introduced our project aims and objectives. There were two key note speakers: Keynote talk by Dr Kate Goldsworthy about her work with the 'Centre for Circular Design' at UAL's Chelsea College of Arts. Second talk by Emma Haig founder of the Bristol Textile Quarter about her overseas project 'Awamaki' and Bristol Textile Quarter Hub. Additionally, there was a video-recorded talk from Orsolo de Castro - one of the founders of Fashion Revolution. Over lunch, participants had the opportunity to comment on ways in which we might persuade people to think-feel-and-act more sustainably in relation to clothing. In the afternoon, we held interactive 'tables' where participants could experience raw fleece and wools, naturally dyed fabrics, maker-mending, generating wool from waste fibre, embroider, explore what they were wearing and what it meant to them, and think about where their clothes were made.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description S4S Stitched Up! Project Launch, West Midlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project launch served as a recruitment event for project participants, it was also a means for participants to co-create project themes, ideas, research questions and feed into the developing 'project charter'. The event was filmed and there was a link up with the parallel event being held in Cornwall. Professional designers Amy Twigger Holroyd and Antiform led workshops and fashion and textiles students and staff led demos of different crafting and upcycling techniques. Detailed questionnaires were filled out by all participants. There was great interest in the project and around half of those attending became involved in project workshops in some way. Third sector organisations: the Hive, Black Country Living Museum, and representatives from the Council also attended, as well as special interest groups such as the Lace Guild, who also became involved in the project. Attendees included a diverse range of people in term of age and a number of mother/daughter teams who subsequently became involved in project workshops and activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_dYna6hdPI&t=39s
 
Description Sustainable Fashion conference London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper and power point presentation about the S4S project given at the Sustainable Fashion conference in London to an international audience of design practitioners, campaigners, and business professionals. This was an opportunity to promote the project to a professional and business audience, as well as academics working in the area. It was the only project looking at change through consumption and affect. Contacts were made with others working in the field and the project was well received by the audience (around 150 people). There is an opportunity to submit an article about the project to the Sustainable Fashion journal to disseminate further to those networks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description True Cost screening and discussion at Gatis community centre Wolverhampton 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Film screening of True Cost as part of a series of film screenings abut activism at Gatis community space in Wolverhampton organised by Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council and Gatis community space. Gatis are fully involved in S4S and have offered the space for community workshops - in particular a weekend for mothers and daughters to work creativity with upcycling run by sustainable designers Antiform. The film was introduced by Fiona Hackney and Pat Dillon (knitwear designer and educator who facilitated S4S workshops and has also participated in other S4S workshops). The screening was followed by a discussion and meal. Participants reported increased knowledge about the problems of the fashion industry and shared different approaches to how we can change behaviour.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Upcycling and repurposing clothing workshop with Antiform at Gatis Community Centre and Fashion Lab University of Wolverhampton 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This two-day workshop run by sustainable fashion design company Antiform (Bristol) worked with S4S participants and in particular mother and daughter teams to explore different ways to up-cycle and re-purpose clothing. It was extremely successful and all participants reported a change in attitude realising how simple it is to remake clothes. The effect on the younger girls was particularly interesting - they reported having no chance to do this kind of creative work in the current school curriculum and loved the idea that with some simple skills they could both be creative and make a difference and behave more sustainably.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop on Deep Materialism and Care Taking 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We collaborated with a project called Deep Materialism to develop a workshop exploring how we might re-connect 'broken threads' (broken fabrics, broken social relationships, broken connections with how our clothes are made). We collected data in the form of a brief qualitative questionnaire, which illustrated that our academic audience was beginning to think and feel differently about how their clothes are made and who makes them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/deepmaterialism/2018/11/19/repair-acts-seminar-18-19th-october-2018/