RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


191 Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’ (2): slow sustainable fashion in practice
Affiliation Economic Geography Research Group
Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Ian Cook (University of Exeter, UK)
Alex Hughes (Newcastle University, UK)
Louise Crewe (The University of Nottingham, UK)
Chair(s) Alex Hughes (Newcastle University, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Session abstract The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex on April 24th 2013, which crushed to death over 1,000 people making clothes for Western brands, was a final straw, a call to arms, for significant change in the fashion industry. Since then, tens of thousands of people have taken to social media, to the streets, to their schools and halls of government to uncover the lives hidden in the clothes we wear. Businesses, consumers, governments, academics, NGOS and others working towards a safer, cleaner and more just future for the fashion industry have been galvanised. Originated by ethical fashion pioneers, and drawing in designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, NGOs, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers, consumers and activists, the Fashion Revolution movement that catalysed this change has nexus thinking at its heart. After two years marking 24th April as Fashion Revolution Day, its #whomademyclothes? question for brands and retailers has had an extraordinary social media impact (64 million people used this hashtag on Twitter and Instagram in April 2015, and Fashion Revolution’s online content was seen 16.5 billion times). The Fashion Revolution movement has become truly global, with co-ordinators in over 80 countries. This popular support has given it considerable power in campaigning for change with governments, brands and retailers. Our aim for this session is to bring fashion academics within and beyond geography into critical dialogue with the Fashion Revolution movement, to share insights from their research and to inform the Fashion Revolution’s work over the next five years. In Fashion Revolution’s white paper (Ditty 2015, 25), five areas for further research and thought have been outlined, to which the papers will speak: 1.Consumer research & demand; 2. Policy and legislation; 3. Theorising fashion value; 4. Engaging farmers, producers, workers and makers; 5. Amplifying and supporting NGO work
Linked Sessions Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’ (1): connecting producers and consumers
Scholar activism and the Fashion Revolution: ‘who made my clothes?’ (3): engaging publics
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Making Meaningful Material Futures:  crafting new values for textile design 
Louise Valentine (University of Dundee, UK)
Jen Ballie (Glasgow School of Art, UK)
The values underpinning the global textile industry are transforming and adjustment is being made for many reasons (including globalisation, sustainability and technology) in order to progress. The impacts of this progress vary depending on where in the world you are situated and what part of the commercial system you are involved in (be it research and development, design, manufacture, retail, conumption or waste management for example).  Whilst interrogating the modus operandi of the fashion industry, there could also be an interrogation of sustainability and ethics within textile design education, and what it could mean if universally adopted by design practitioners, and by the fashion/textile industry in general. A thoughtful and rigorous discussion of this context of transformation can offer rich insight into contemporary notions of authenticity in craft (processes, products and systems). This paper reviews the current landscape of the new craft of textile design for sustainability and ethical production. It exposes different forms of activism and shares examples of best practices from Scotland's Art Schools and its associated research projects. We argue that the integrity of an idea underpins authentic activism and we explore the value of activism as a future textile design practice, specifically focusing on the future of textile design education.
Giving Fast Fashion the Boot: Valuing Slow Fashion in the Northamptonshire Footwear Industrial Cluster
Kieran Phelan (University of Nottingham, UK)
In times of austerity, fashion budgets have shrunk; we buy less and consider more the value of our purchases (Wood , 2008). Are they durable? Will they last? Are they going to date? Concurrently, consumers are increasingly recognizing their complicity supporting an unsustainable fast fashion system (Siegle, 2011). Consumers are increasingly spurning the cheap clothing that fail to both emulate socio-environmental value and deliver quality and are turning to products that can. Slow fashion provides just one alternative framework. By slowing design and making processes, one can facilitate a deeper connection with craft-maker, place, product, provenance and consumer (Fletcher & Grose, 2012, Fletcher, 2014). It is abstractly positioned as a socio-environmentally more sustainable and equitable fashion model. Whilst slow fashion recognises socio-environmental sustainability, its framework under-appreciates economic viability and the tensions that arise consequential to the practiced realities of such a form of systemic change; of maintaining both craft labour and place-image branding, as well as connecting discerning consumers to places of production. This empirical study of Northamptonshire's footwear industrial cluster seeks to explore these tensions to elicit how slow fashion principles manifest themselves in an internationally competitive way, accrue luxury value and work to secure the longevity of the industrial cluster.
Ecosystem of sustainable fashion in Brazil: actors and creative processes
Cariane Weydmann Camargo (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)
Evelise Anicet Rüthschilling (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil)
The current clothing industry, based on a production that has serious consequences for society and the environment, has been questioned and rethought, expanding the modes of engagement and practices towards a more sustainable fashion. During this transition process, established in a new social morphology, organized in networks, we can see a multiplicity of actors that relate formally or informally. From this perspective, this project aims to identify the main actors who make the sustainable fashion ecosystem in Brazil and then we want to describe how the articulation, connection and collaboration of these actors in the creation and spread of sustainable development occurs. The research uses methods of exploratory qualitative nature, in which it proposes the collection and systematization of data from think tanks, research institutes, campaigns, platforms, organizations, and national and international fairs of the fashion industry. The expected results are: mapping the contemporary ecosystem of sustainable fashion in Brazil, as well as the identification of the different existing relations and the possibilities of collaboration among the actors that have not been connected yet, intending to contribute to the dissemination of the sustainability culture in the area of fashion.
Leather: thinking with care about a confronting and troublesome fashion material
Chris Gibson (University of Wollongong, Australia)
This paper discusses leather – its historical geography, animality, biography, politics, and cultural economy – as well encounters with those who make fashion items from leather by hand. Leather requires an absolute rendering of animals as inanimate, reducing diverse beings to a selection of dead material inputs for commodity production. But in discrete craft-based forms of making, animal skins continue to have affective power after death, rendering items as luxurious because of feel, smell, colour, texture. Leather and its organic properties also compel manual making practices that take decades of work to perfect, enabling leatherworkers in footwear manufacturing workplaces to enact a degree of agency and resist exploitation. In this paper I retrace a research journey that began exploring cowboy bootmaking, a century old craft centred on El Paso, Texas, and that ended up somewhere entirely different—following leather from antique sewing machines to the secretive backrooms of factories, and along dark historical trading routes to tanneries and abattoirs. Along the way complexities emerged round the desire to 'think with care' (de la Bellacasa 2012: 197): what are the moral geographies of using and wearing the skins of others, and how are these complicated by broader questions of political economy and sustainability? How might we theorise the resonant agency of animals, via leather, after death? When does the material cease to be an animal, or a skin, and become 'leather', a production material, something else entirely? What kinds of ecological and material knowledges do we carry with us (or repress) in everyday life; expressed in relationships we have with the things we wear? An initially unassuming research project on fashion crafting and materials thus became more deeply entangled with the paradoxes of political economy and human-nonhuman encounters.
Discussant comments
Orsola de Castro (Fashion Revolution)
Discussant comments