Arnhem communique

Activities / Local Assemblies

A local assembly of UCRF took place in Arnhem, The Netherlands on 5th June 2019 and involved around 70 people. Following an Open Space methodology, the local assembly put forward a range of urgent themes for debate and voted to discuss nine of them — a summary of the conversations follows. In addition, seven priorities for further action and consideration were put forward, the Arnhem communique in which the Union should seek to foreground:

  • Interdependency
  • Togetherness
  • Lightness and play
  • Care
  • The knowledge and practice to grow out of growth
  • The global living wage
  • Connecting and communicating with the outside world

Discussion: Fear (of change)
Bigger players are afraid of change. Lives and incomes depend on it. Consumer: fear of not shopping/ consuming. Risks are involved. It is real…Overarching problem is moving towards the unknown. History can act as a ‘tool of change’.
Demand at different systems levels may lead to change (macro/micro). Hierarchies of fear: Visible | Emotional/ embodied.
Fear can invoke a conservation reflex, an evolutionary human trait.
Risk represents both threat and can also be innovative (and lead to profit). Shifting risk from negative to the production ‘spreading risk’, diversifying it so that small pockets of risk are in different places.
What happens when fear is prolonged? It can cause apathy. We need to discuss bringing fear out in the open.

Discussion: Fashion Education
Future fashion designers? New skills? How can we make sustainability more fundamental and/or integrated in education? Starting at kindergarten- like talking/walking and instinct…
How does sustainability align with requirements of the industry? How can graduates be change makers within the industry? Is it possible to both educate about operational efficiencies as well as initiating change? Criticality is maybe more important?
Education is not about teaching someone something – we assume that people don’t already have knowledge!
Who in education has the voice? Who makes the connections? – being an educator requires being trusted by society.
We need to trust the educators – starting to trust as we are all very aware of the issues. Acting through fear will not change the system. We’re seeing resistance through fear in both students and teachers alike. Does this come back to government policy? Teachers need to be supported.
Scaling down (I want to change the whole system but realising I need to start small/personal) this can be frustrating and isolating. Engage with people in society and each other – together in change making.
Training people for the industry as we want to see it in the future – giving space to people who want to do things differently. This means changing assessment criteria and learning outcomes.
Knowing what students know and dream of – often they have more knowledge than teachers. It is a conversation about where we want to be and what we want to do. It never gets boring! Change is exciting, dynamic and interesting.
We want to be excited again and refuel. We need to connect and work together – we also need to learn how to do this from a very young age. Learning is dynamic and is a process – a winding path on the hill and into nature.

Discussion: Locality
From Arnhem – what is local? Is local important? What is the hidden ambition behind Arnhem city of fashion? What could it become? How can we help formulate?
Arnhem wants creatives. When you have the creatives in a city, the money will come. ‘State of Fashion’ was not clear in its ambitions, still celebrating with old view of fashion.
In the Netherlands no fashion city, is there a need? ‘Fashionclash’, people’s movement still very superficial. ‘Fashion festival’ uses to connect people, create awareness about big themes.
Arnhem is mainstream and consumer focus, do we want to be capital of fashion in the Netherlands? Arnhem should be greenest fashion city of the Netherlands? Do you really need a city of fashion? Is it related to ego? In this globalized world, everyone is the same, do we still value local identity? We need locality in production, etc…. but who is the ‘we’? Who do we want to reach?

Discussion: Workers 
Global industry – fair wages – global unit
PPP, purchasing power parity, social economic costs
System always looking for the lowest price

Discussion: Commons
1. Waste – has to be reduced on a material level. Talents are also wasted. How to deal with this?
2. How can fashion be more inclusive? This would defuse the consumerist drive in fashion
3. There is a need for social inclusion in fashion. We have to overcome barriers to inclusion; make it fun, encourage engagement
4. We need a new definition of fashion – to deflate its ego, to make it more inclusive, closer to home

Discussion: Fashion Media
What role/responsibility is there for fashion journalism/media in working towards a more sustainable/equitable fashion system? Sub questions:
– Fashion media as Fourth Estate?
– How can the power structures existing within (fashion) media be dissolved/changed?
– Ultimately: how can fashion move away from being treated as a commodity?
What role is there for Union of Concerned Researchers?
– Transparency: how can we make sponsored content visible?
– Fashion media independent from (capitalist) industry.
Why does it seem almost impossible for fashion journalists to be critical of the fashion system?
– Advertisers have the power over the fashion media (Monetary driven). In their writing/reporting journalist/media are afraid to be critical about their own field of work, loss of income.
– Newspapers address fashion but have a smaller budget.
Journalists can choose to adapt a different language; move away from words as “new”,  “contemporary”, “on trend” (capitalist language).
Stricter separation between content and advertisers: for example like De Correspondent (user-funded) platform. Like the magazine Girls Like Us: one advertisement on the back (free from influence on content) pays for the whole magazine.

Discussion: Care
The care is not there then the changes are not there.
The story of the carrier bag.
The story should be changed to interdependence.
Female nature collective.
Embedded the collective mindset.
Time to take care.
In the capitalistic system, there’s no time.
Stressed and overworked.
Efficiency on line no feelings.
Care and repair time.
Embedded in the education.
The story of the care of the users.
Business as usual survival.
The fashion industry is not willing.
Look differently on growth.
Earning money survive.
The need or want of change human beings.
Fashion revolution.
Ownership agency to change

Discussion: Ego
Dealing with the human ego? How to do so? How to deal with the Ego of the system?
A desire comes from the Ego, it is about expressing individuality.
Goffmann: presentation of the self in everyday life. Too much pressure on people, how are you going to be perceived (how you should be, what you should look like).
But, you need a strong Ego to survive in the system. Do we need strong Egos or strong values?
We need embodied actions to shift. Being centred within one’s self. 
Collective, how do we support one another. Care. Create a supportive space.
Clothing affect the ways we move. What type of clothing allows people to be themselves?
What is the ontology of the Ego? Ubuntu: I am, because we are. Showing gratitude to where we come from.
How to change things while still being friendly to who brought us here. Instead of resisting, focus on an alternative approach.
This is cultural specific; indigenous knowledge. 
Ego of the environment, should we privilege that more? 
The context around the Ego; different context, different interpretation. 
We need other contexts. How do we open up to other cultures, other ways of thinking and being?
Play! We want to know which institute you are from in our culture, We make it much too heavy. We need the lightness of play in order to change. Generates curiosity. This is the core of what fashion is. How do we learn? Playful learning. 

Discussion: Outside of the University
We as researchers need to move beyond the “us”, clubby parameters.
There must be more engagement with the social status quo, and the mass of humanity that is driving and driven by consumption.
There needs to be more awareness, more effort to connect with consumers.
We need to be thinking more about what drives consumption, for example: acquisition as a way to be somebody, a way to feel rich.
Researchers have privilege/power to think (in different ways) about fashion. How to intervene, apply research to the “no-power people”? How to effect greater awareness, to connect with consumers?
Consider research on the relationship of fashion to working less, and widespread behavioural change…
We have to create communities that dissolve the have and have not economic system that drives the fashion system. Communities as means to create well-being, to protect from being manipulated by the status quo of idea of fashion… in other words… grow out of growth
Address the economics of development and the aspiration/cache of fashion in developing world.
Inclusive versus injustice, sharing, and research with positive agendas.

All images by Thijs Adriaans.

With grateful thanks to the team at ArtEZ who hosted the Local Assembly as part of its community event tied to its fashion professorship, the MA Fashion Held in Common and the launch of the exciting new journal APRIA.