Welcome

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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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The last glossary working group update of the year

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Blogroll / Glossary working group

“Imagine us all together in the same room one day”

In our last meeting of 2020, the UCRF glossary working group paired in groups to work on definitions of the keywords to think beyond the descriptions. It was important for us to study each word in pairs and then bring the ideas to the table for further discussions. We feel that this created a room to discuss in-depth critiques, thoughts, and diverse approaches to words and how we use them. It’s been an exciting room to be in for the year 2020 and we imagine us all together there also physically. If you think you can contribute with your visual designs, contact us here

UCRF – Member of the Month – Noorin Khamisani

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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 sixth participant is Noorin Khamisani.


>How would you sum up your research / practice?

I am a designer and academic from London, UK currently based in Dubai, UAE.  My professional practice is a fashion label called Outsider which is focused on design for longevity. During my MA in Fashion Futures (2018) I reflected on this and my research into Fashion Design for Multiple Lives developed.  This is an exploration of circularity and how the design process needs to evolve for a clothing rental model within a fashion library or informal sharing lifecycle. 

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

I teach at a new university called the Dubai Institute for Design and Innovation, the original curriculum was developed with Parsons, The New School. This has provided me with the opportunity to embed sustainability into the fashion design courses. It is the foundation of every syllabus and project brief, not an add on or a single project. 

I have drawn on my teaching practice for my research. In September I presented a paper at the International Upcycling Symposium on the subject of mapping a new design process for upcycling. This encouraged students to approach their projects in alternative ways, not automatically starting them with new materials.  

I have also developed a collaboration with the Zay Initiative which is an archive of historical clothing from the MENA region. This was progressed with a view to decolonise the teaching of fashion history and to explore the unique perspective of the region.  

>What are the conflicts you have encountered around fashion and sustainability in your work? 

In my professional practice, I realised several years ago that even by offering my clients a sustainable alternative to conventional fashion, I was still a part of the problem simply by making more stuff in a world that has in many ways reached peak stuff.  Within my academic work, I see my students struggle with resolving their wish to create with wanting to be sustainable and responsible fashion designers.  This has led me to pursue research on the future of fashion design education. 

>What do you consider the key sources and cases when it comes to fashion and sustainability?

Fashion Revolution, The Earth Logic Fashion Action Research Plan and  Arturo Escobar’s Designs for the Pluriverse have all become very influential within my approach to teaching sustainable fashion.  

>Could you recommend some less known sources or cases you think should be more widely shared?

I have really enjoyed Global Perspectives on Sustainable Fashion, edited by Alison Gwilt, Alice Payne and Evelise Anicet Rüthschilling for the varied and diverse approaches to sustainability in fashion practice.  

Here in the UAE, the exhibition Fashcultivate is a fascinating example of local context design. Date palms are the starting point for a variety of pieces created by artists and  designers. 

>Thank you for your insights Noorin!

UCRF – Member of the Month – Victoria Frausin

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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 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:

  • Sewing Cafe Natural Dyes Project: A living collection of plants for natural dyes to highlight the feasibility of natural dyes in Lancaster and Morecambe. In partnership with Claver Hill Farm
  • 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?

Clean Clothes Campaign, Fashion Revolution, Wrap, War on Want, Labour behind the label and obviously UCRF Facebook group

>Could you recommend some less known sources or cases you think should be more widely shared?

Stitched up , The Seam

>Thank you for all your insights Victoria!

Update from the glossary working group

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Activities

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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