What is the Fashion Praxis Lab?

The Fashion Praxis Lab at The New School is a platform where reflective fashion practice meets public action. Our focus is on developing radically different modes for the practice of fashion, from its perception, its integration into our everyday lives, and alternative business models supporting human flourishing through dress. The aim of the Fashion Praxis Lab is to bring together scholars, practitioners and business who seek to examine and expand current notions of fashion, including its practices and modes of production, by affirming and prototyping more inclusive, cooperative, and convivial dress practices.

In collaboration with Lisa Rubin, associate professor in psychology at The New School, the Lab also develops work on the theme of “Fashion, Emotion and Self” and runs a seminar on the topic at Public Seminar.

The Lab hosts guest fellows and researchers, and arranges a series of workshops and seminars each term with designers, artists and scholars from across The New School and external guests.

Formally, the Fashion Praxis Lab is a research lab across The New School, bridging across  three Parsons schools; School of Design Strategies, School of Fashion, and School of Art and Design History and Theory. The steering council of the Lab is represented by Otto von Busch (SDS), Lucia Cuba (SoF) and Christina Moon (ADHT).


What do you mean “Fashion Praxis”?

In her book The Human Condition, Hannah Arendt argues that Western philosophy all too often focuses on the contemplative life (vita contemplativa), a life in thought and theory, while neglecting the living aspect of experience that makes up the active life (vita activa) of all humans. Arendt calls “praxis” the highest and most important level of the active life, the socio-political condition dealing with human plurality, and “the founding and preserving of human bodies.”

According to Arendt, our capacity to analyze ideas, wrestle with them, and engage in active praxis is what makes us uniquely human. Praxis, then, is a mode of human togetherness, which implies collaboration and part. Arendt shows how participatory democracy, with its mechanisms of inclusion and engagement, stands in direct contrast to the elitist and bureaucratized forms of politics that have come to define our modern epoch.

We view fashion in parallel to Arendt’s praxis, understanding fashion as a mode of human togetherness. Our aim is to develop a body of tools, narratives and practices, which emphasize our shared participatory realities and, which stand in direct contrast to the elitist forms and exclusive notions of Fashion appropriated by the capitalisms that characterize the current conditions of our society.

We begin our research from lived experience, what we call “living fashion.” We share an interest to re-imagine systems for production, exchange, and education that will help us reconnect to our human potential in establishing a public realm. At its base, we believe this public realm supports values and notions of success based on cooperation, longevity and joy.