Wear, repair and remake: the evolution of fashion practice by design
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Through my postgraduate, fashion practice-based research project, The Living Wardrobe, I have become increasingly interested in garment design that specifically facilitates future alteration and modification. There is potential for such a simple design approach to encourage habits of reduced consumption when garments are kept in use by adapting to wearers’ changing needs. Once a common provision in garments, the capacity for alteration is largely missing from contemporary women’s wear. The economies of mass production reduce seam allowances to the minimum required for assembly, while complex industrial construction methods deter intervention. At the same time, the practical skills of repair and alteration are rarely learnt anymore. So passive has fashion consumption become and so disposable are the products that a dropped hem, ripped seam or missing button usually consigns a garment to the (charity) bin and justifies another trip to the boutiques. In an attempt to disrupt this cycle, my research looks at design strategies with the potential to re-engage the wearer in habits of wear, repair and remake. Designing garments with the adaptability required for prolonged, active use enables garments to better keep up with the times, changing style (not merely fit) over time. This approach to product longevity considers the use of the garment across multiple lifetimes, acknowledging that a garment may have several sequential owners. Through a discussion of recently developed garment prototypes, this paper will outline the challenges I have encountered in designing garments to actively engage consumers in this cycle of wear, repair and remake. These challenges range from the practical, technical and the aesthetic to considerations of participatory design strategies, consumer education, design authorship, and alternative models of fashion production and consumption. This discussion further considers the impact of this research on my fashion practice. The Living Wardrobe aims to be a fashion practice that accepts responsibility for the design agency of the garments it creates. Remaking my practice to this end has fundamentally shifted how I approach design development, fashion production and communication, suggesting a new model of fashion design practice for sustainability.