Speculating sideways: participatory enactment of parallel sustainable fashion worlds

Twigger Holroyd, A. ORCID: 0000-0003-3403-3516 and Aspinall, M., 2022. Speculating sideways: participatory enactment of parallel sustainable fashion worlds. In: Anticipation 2022: 4th International Conference on Anticipation, Arizona State University, 04 November 2022.

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The mainstream globalised fashion system, with its culture of linear production, overconsumption and rampant waste, is deeply implicated in the devastation of earth's life-supporting systems. Industry-led sustainability initiatives have been incremental and inadequate; fundamental change is required to develop an approach to fashion that works within the means of the planet. Yet the potential for transformation is limited by a collective inability to contemplate alternatives to the status quo. An international participatory research project, Fashion Fictions, responds to this challenge.

Fashion Fictions brings people together to generate, experience and reflect on engaging fictional visions of alternative fashion cultures and systems. The project’s participatory process for collective speculation, which is informed by work in speculative design, design anthropology, experiential futures and collective imagination, has a three-stage structure. At Stage 1, contributors submit concise written outlines of worlds in which invented historical junctures have led to familiar-yet-strange sustainable cultures and systems. At Stage 2, participants create visual and material prototypes to represent these worlds, while in Stage 3's 'everyday dress' projects, practices and events from the fictional fashion systems are performatively enacted.

This paper will focus on two aspects of the Fashion Fictions project that connect with the conference themes. The first is the project’s strategy for speculation, which focuses on present-day alternative worlds, rather than real-world futures. This approach is influenced by alternate histories in literature and counterfactual histories in historiography, and has been explored in the design field by Dunne and Raby, among others. Its use in this project can be traced to three influences: Diana Wynne Jones’s parallel-world fantasy fiction; fashion’s complicated relationship with time, which takes in both trend forecasting and the recycling of past styles; and, most importantly, a desire to disrupt the Promethean assumptions of technological progress that dominate popular understandings of the future. Like more conventional futures work, the exploration of fictional parallel worlds aims to generate insights about the real world and expose possibilities for action in the present.

The second area of focus is the project’s Stage 3, and specifically an activity in which twelve participants enacted the fictional World 91. In this world, people ‘present themselves’, once a week, to the mushrooms that they hail as spiritual guides. The participants undertook this task for six weeks, sharing updates and reflections via comments, images and other media posted to a WhatsApp group. Through their interactions the participants were able to step in and out of the world, switching between a fictional version of themselves and their real-world persona. The paper will reflect on this approach to participatory speculation, with particular attention paid to the merging of real and fictional worlds; the use of real-world and parallel-world voices; and the use of a collective online space for sharing individual offline performances.

Item Type: Conference contribution
Creators: Twigger Holroyd, A. and Aspinall, M.
Date: November 2022
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham School of Art & Design
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 09 Jun 2023 09:14
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2023 09:04
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/49156

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