Re-fabricate: evolving design through user interaction
This research project focussed on discarded clothing and textiles, as signifiers for the lowest exchange value in the fashion system, and sought methods to add value by up-cycling1 into one of a kind fashion garments. Opportunities to add value were investigated with three main ideas emerging which include up-cycling the visual appearance of the garment or textiles through restyling, user interaction, and creating a narrative for the garment. The practice focussed on developing methods to incorporate these concepts as a way of extending the life of low value textiles into items that could be re-introduced into the fashion cycle2. Walker (2008) suggests that by conveying the story of a product to the consumer, the perception of value increased, and opportunities to explore this concept were investigated during the project. Experimentation with a variety of materials and techniques resulted in developing a method to re-fabricate3 threadbare and stained garments into a new material. User participation4 was investigated as a way to ‘add value,’ as it was hoped that by enabling the user to interact with the design they would value the item more. Exploring this concept led to the development of a range of garments and garment kits that enabled the user to learn techniques and make garments using discarded textiles and clothing. The garments and kits were developed using methods and techniques that could be easily mastered and used materials that would be readily available to the user. The development of the garment kits reframed the user as a designer/maker, which is sometimes referred to as participatory design,5 and Followed Fletcher’s (2008) directive that for practical reasons, the methods need to be low tech and inexpensive. A group of research participants trialled the garment kits, made their own garment and provided feedback, which informed the final phase of the project and the development of revised kits and garments. The project suggests potential opportunities for the fashion designer may exist by focussing on the use of existing resources and heightened user connectivity in the design of garments.