The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion (UCRF) was formed in 2018 by Kate Fletcher, Lynda Grose, Timo Rissanen and Mathilda Tham (in alphabetical order).
The formation of the Union was brought about by the realization that
over the last thirty years sustainability in fashion has been an industry-led
movement and as such, has been constantly framed within business, without
asking questions about the nature of business itself.
We recognized that this has severely narrowed approaches to fashion and sustainability, has widened the divide between commerce and the capacities of nature to support commercial activity and has resulted in more, not less, degradation of clothing makers and the earth.
We questioned if business was truly capable of making the changes necessary to transform the industry and saw a need to steer a smarter better debate about fashion and sustainability.
We also recognized that researchers’ tradition of: seeking out truth; critical discourse; full disclosure; ontological thought, was desperately needed, and that researchers were better equipped to hold trust for the common good and the sector more broadly (of which the industry is one part).
We aim to
provide language, action and modes of working that are precise in their
critical identification of issues and open ended in their responses,
rather than muted by corporate risk analysis and closed to all but that which
is actionable within the current sector.
UCRF is running a ‘Member of the Month’ feature on this blog, where a member, selected at random from the membership database, is sent five questions to give us all an overview of our members. Our fifth participant is Victoria Frausin.
>How would you sum up your research / practice?
I am a textile activist, community artist and coordinator of Sewing Café Lancaster and Sewing Circle Drop-in for refugees and asylum seekers. I originally trained as an industrial designer, am from Caqueta, Colombia and am currently based in Lancaster UK.
My work is focused on understanding textile cultures and climate justice within Lancashire communities and beyond, and developing strategies to enable conversations, but also spaces for sharing and caring for people, clothes and the environment.
>How do you address fashion and sustainability in your work?
I work to cross the borders of fashion by creating partnerships with different local groups working with agriculture, education and recycling. During this process I have helped to develop the following projects:
Reusable Products: for disposables (veggie bags), recycled/upcycled materials (umbrella bags) and tunic-shirts
Sew&Sow: A set of free libraries for mending and planting items located in different neighbourhoods around Lancaster. In partnership with Food Futures
Refugees and asylum seekers drop-in: Featuring weekly sewing sessions and monthly clothes drop in. Video of the work done while the sessions were closed due a national lockdown here. In partnership with Global Link DEC
Cotton, Slavery and Lancaster: walking tours around Lancaster area with Professor Alan Rice connecting cotton and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, understanding of cotton’s place in the history of the North West and its relation to global history.
Fashion Revolution Week: Every year in the last week of April we celebrate with discussions, films round tables, swishing and more.
The Lancaster Textile Care Collective (under development) A brand through which people can recognise each process behind the production of commodities and their value, also linked with the newly formed North West England Fibershed.
Mending sessions based on skill share.
>What are the conflicts you have encountered around fashion and sustainability in your work?
The idea that technology itself is going to solve the problem rather than social change and funding being directed toward the former.
The different fake ethical strategies that profit oriented industries and some practitioners use to justify their existence. Greenwashing, awakewashing and carewasing are misleading and prevent the real conversations to be happening.
>What do you consider the key sources and cases when it comes to fashion and sustainability?
At the glossary working group, this month we were explorers of the word “sustainability”. We also dug into our cultures to pick out the equivalent of the English word “sustainability” in our various languages. These included: Hindi (सम्पोशनियाता Samposhaniyata), Turkish, Romanian, Hebrew, German (Nachhaltigkeit) and Swedish (hållbarhet). We are brainstorming how the word would develop and evolve in future.
We thank UCRF members for their participation and imaginative suggestions for a name for this project. We will soon be opening the keywords to the UCRF members for diverse mother-tongue translations and local perspectives. This way we can learn from each other. Do watch out for our announcement on how you can participate in this living creation.
“I severed my ties with the trends imposed by the economic establishment, disengaged myself from “objective abstractions” and decided to “step into the mud”.
In 2019, Manfred Max-Neef passed away. The UCRF board wishes to acknowledge Manfred Max Neef as one of the most influential guides to our work in fashion and sustainability….
Max-Neef (1932-2019) was a Chilean economist who worked against the grain of established hierarchical ideas about fundamental human needs. While the hierarchical approach presented needs as stages of human experience to be progressed through, with some needs only met as wealth increases (an approach that was used to justify economic growth logic); Max-Neef instead devised a taxonomy of fundamental human needs, that presented all needs as equal and present regardless of income or type of society. His taxonomy unfolded sophisticated expressions of needs and how to meet them with material and non-material (psychological) satisfiers. As such Max-Neef shaped subsequent scholarship and practical understanding about the purpose of clothing, dress and fashion business; placing concern for all people, regardless of wealth or type of society, as the living purpose for human activity.
We see this as the beginning of an initiative to acknowledge the many voices who have inspired and guided our work over many years.
The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion’s founding document is its manifesto. This, our rallying call to like-minded individuals, invites people to support the Union by putting their name to the manifesto and saying why these actions matter. Their responses speak volumes. Here is an inspiring selection from recently joined members:
“We join together and amplify this movement from a position of genuine concern, free from industry bias and dominant paradigms.”
“We have only a limited time to make radical changes to the fashion industry, and therefore we need a coordinated effort to do so.”
“I advocate for a radical change in this unjust completely unethical system that has dominated and pushed humanity towards a state of complete unworthiness. This fierce proponent of obsolescence has the potential to be a critical change maker towards a positive and regenerative system where all life thrives. I have advocated such change since the start of my fashion career at the age of 14 and 31 years later I forge forward to see it happen.”
UCRF is running a ‘Member of the Month’ feature on this blog, where a member, selected at random from the membership database, is sent five questions to give us all an overview of our members. Our fourth participant is Namkyu Chun.
How would you sum up your research / practice?
My name is Namkyu Chun (Doctor of Arts, MFA in Transdisciplinary Design). Throughout my cross-disciplinary experiences (i.e. fashion design/merchandising, journalism, non-profit fundraising, and design consulting) in multicultural contexts from East Asia to North/South Americas and the Nordic region, I have been interested in critically engaging with discourses on design practices and questioning the social role of the (fashion) design profession. Upon noticing the absences of both fashion designer’s voices in design research and the aspect of designing in fashion research, I have investigated distinctive features of fashion design that embrace meaning production of fashion and material production of clothes (see my doctoral dissertation). By rediscovering the ignored tradition of dressmaking due to social prejudices, my research aimed at recovering the social role of the fashion design profession that has been overshadowed by the image-making tendency from the industry. Further expanding my interest, currently, I am working as a postdoctoral researcher for the EU funded research project Creative Practices for Transformational Futures (CreaTures) while being involved in interdisciplinary education at Aalto University.
How do you address fashion and sustainability in your work?
Creative arts and design practices, including fashion practice, have already demonstrated transformational potential in the area of social cohesion and environmental citizenship in many ways. However, they are often fragmented, poorly resourced and badly understood. With the CreaTures project, I am interested in discovering the power of existing yet often hidden creative practices to (re)orient the world towards social and ecological sustainability through addressing ways of being and lifestyles.