Writing alternative fashion worlds: frustrations, fictions and imaginaries

Twigger Holroyd, A. ORCID: 0000-0003-3403-3516, 2021. Writing alternative fashion worlds: frustrations, fictions and imaginaries. In: Responsible Fashion Series, Antwerp, Belgium, 14-22 October 2021.

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The globalised fashion and textile industry is deeply implicated in the devastation of Earth's life-supporting systems. Incremental improvements delivered by recent industrial initiatives have been overshadowed by a dramatic increase in the volume of garments produced and consumed. In contrast, a post-growth approach to fashion would work within the Earth's capacity to support life and requires an uncompromising reduction in resources used in the global North. To achieve this, we need to look beyond specific strategies for design, manufacturing and disposal – which remain the focus of much public, professional and academic attention – to reimagine the entire fashion system.

A recently established project, Fashion Fictions, responds to this need by bringing people together to generate, experience and reflect on engaging fictional visions of alternative fashion cultures and systems, creating space to explore radically different ways of fashioning our identities. The project’s participatory process for collective speculation has a three-stage structure. Stage 1 generates written outlines of worlds in which invented historical junctures have led to familiar-yet-strange sustainable cultures and systems. In Stage 2's prototyping workshops, diverse groups of participants add complexity to these fictions, while in Stage 3's 'everyday dress' projects, participants performatively enact the prototyped cultures and systems.

This paper presents and analyses the 120 short fictional outlines of alternative fashion cultures and systems that were contributed to the Fashion Fictions project between January 2020 and August 2021. Contributors include people with professional and academic fashion knowledge alongside laypeople with interests in fashion and sustainability; just over half of the worlds are written by UK-based contributors, with the remainder written by contributors around the world. The project’s parameters specify that fictions should (a) imagine contemporary realities in parallel worlds, rather than futures in our own world; (b) explore positive and enticing worlds, in terms of individual satisfaction, social justice and sustainability; (c) focus attention on use and associated practices, rather than design and production of garments; (d) be physically possible; and yet (e) think beyond what feels plausible, from the author’s perspective.

Guidance, available at writing workshops and via an online tutorial, encourages authors to target a particular frustration of the real-world fashion system, reversing it to create a positive idea, before considering the context for the fiction (e.g. mainstream or niche, local or global) and a backstory to explain how this world developed differently to our own. Worlds submitted include scenarios in which wartime clothes rationing continues to the present day; learning to sew is a teenage rite of passage; and Cuba has become a postcapitalist fashion centre.

The analysis presented in this paper provides insights into the range and scope of contributors' imagined alternatives, identifying common themes arising within them and the imaginaries that the fictions evoke. Overall, the paper considers the kinds of sustainable fashion systems the contributors to this project are wishing for, and how far these wishes diverge from the dominant fashion and sustainability discourse.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Twigger Holroyd, A.
Date: October 2021
Divisions: Schools > School of Art and Design
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 19 Oct 2021 11:09
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2021 11:10
Related URLs:
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/44468

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