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About the Union / Blogroll

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.

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Update from the glossary working group

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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.

Manfred Max-Neef

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Path Breakers & Path Finders
Manfred Max-Neef. Image: CEPAUR

“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.

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I signed this manifesto because …

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About the Union / Manifesto

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.”

“There is no other way and time is so short.”

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UCRF – Member of the Month – Namkyu Chun

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Member of the Month

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.

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UCRF – Member of the Month – Vinit Jain

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Member of the Month

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 third participant is Vinit Jain.

  • How would you sum up your research/practice?

I am a designer, and research has been an intrinsic part of my life. My journey as a researcher in sustainability started over a decade ago with my quest to understand and know this term and field, which led me to learn the concepts of sustainable design and Sustainable Development. This long journey continued to reinforce my understanding that fragmented views lead to contradictions and the fixed ones hinder exploration. Besides, we ought to follow the natural system as we are a part of it. My latest significant research in the field of sustainability and fashion focused on the value maximization opportunities from resources and the development of a circular business model that supports realignment of the current waste generating Apparel Consumption System (ACS) with the natural system.

  • How do you address fashion and sustainability in your work?

Fashion—a psychological need that has been exploited and used to accelerate consumption for economic growth which in turn has made sustainable fashion an oxymoronic phrase. I try to exercise my ability to see the things as they are, without any intrinsic or learnt biases and then connect the fragments to propose improved solutions to make sustainable fashion a reality. We all know that the fragmented solutions and quick fixes often lead to broader issues, and I try to stay away from them as much as I can while continuing to be a part of the system that is not yet regenerative.

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