Design Intelligence; Fashion

During two days (Sept 18 and 19) the Swedish Institute and Designboost, together with Parsons New School for Design arranged workshops and lectures around the topic how fashion companies can take the sustainability development one step further. I attended the lectures in day 2 and got to listen to many interesting speakers with bold ideas.

I want to share a few of them.

“I don’t think there is a lack of design intelligence, but rather a lack of consumption intelligence. I think if consumers were educated about the characteristics and back story of their clothing, then they would make radically different decisions […]” Sarah Scaturro, Conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art

“In a world where fashion consumption relies on mass production, cheap materials and conventional trends, ideas like sustainability, creativity and quality are sacrificed.” Emy Blixt, Swedish hasbeens

Hazel Clark, Research Chair of Fashion, Parsons New School for Design: Slow fashion

There is an inherent contradiction today between the fashion as an image and sustainability. These images make us treat clothes as disposable commodities, rather than long-lasting relationships. How many of us haven’t felt that we have “too much clothes but still nothing to wear”?

We need to first of all improve our relationship to clothes, and secondly, make the fashion last longer, beyond seasons. We need to slow the speed. Fashion has become more of a spectacle and less a relationship to clothes.

Clothes that appeal to our senses, that want us to wear them again and again and keep them become an enchantment beyond the purchase moment.

Eric Stubin, Chairman Council for Textile Recycling: Keeping post-consumer textile out of landfills

5 % of the solid wastes in landfills in the US are post-consumer textiles. Only 15 % of all textiles are recycled, according to US EPA. CTR has set the goal to zero waste of post-consumer textile in 2037. The motto is re-use, re-cycle. Vintage clothing is a huge, global, growing market today. We need to make it easy for people to recycle and unthinkable to throw worn-outs in the garbage.

 Marcus Bergman, Head of sustainability, Gina Tricot: Product is key

CSR has to become everything but the product. Being the most eco-friendly and ethical producer, you can still produce bad products. The problem for fashion companies is that they often don’t know their products – they don’t know where the product has been produced or where the material origins, the only knowledge is in the last production step.

CSR comes down to four steps: material, production, distribution and sales. If you are sustainable in the three first steps, but miss sales, you don’t really change the world.  That’s why us big companies, selling large quantities, have a big responsibility as we can create real impact.

“To me, too many fashion designers work blindly and deprived their foremost mean of expression, which to me is the retainment of material qualities in the finished product.” Marcus Bergman

Otto von Busch, Assistant professor in integrated design, Parsons the New School for Design: Social fabrics and DIY

We should participate more in the design process and see it a social movement. Intelligent design includes capabilities, and does not treat garments as commodities. What is a bike if you don’t know how to bike? It’s all about the process of learning and building skills. There are different ways to embrace social movements, civic engagements, and to build capabilities through collaborative craft and social activism. A few ideas presented was “recyclopedia”, community repair, and “programming” of an oversized T-shirt to transform into other garments, allowing and encouraging participants to program their own codes.

Michael Bricker, Chief innovator People for Urban Progress: Transforming the story of a city

People for Urban Progress is an Indianapolis-based non-profit urban design do-tank which started out by the very idea that the 18 yard fabric from the landmark RCA Dome roof could be better used than disposed at a landfill. One way has been to make fashion out of it. 1 yard has been transformed into thousands of handbags, which has generated USD 700,000 to invest back in other community projects. The PUP is now adding fabric which they got from Superbowl into their garments.  The products sell by design; but attach customers to them by the story they carry.

“Increasingly, people are interested in the source of heir goods…where they come from, what they’re all made of, and who made them” Michael Bricker









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