Circularity and Vitalism in fashion

A new book is out by one of the lab’s collaborators: Vistas of Vitality.

Over the years, the limits of current discourse on sustainable fashion has been a recurring theme in the lab. To discuss circularity under a paradigm of growth does not seem to reduce the impact of an increasing push and pace of consumption. Neither does it address the lack of meaning and agency in how we consume and interact with garments. So far, the solutions, such as asceticism, hit the needy more than those who have power and status. When it is not moralizing the aspirations of the poor, sustainable fashion seems stuck in a paradox.

One approach discussed across the lab has been to put emphasis on how nature handles growth and learn from living systems. Part of this discussion Otto von Busch put together in a short book “Vistas of Vitality” – it can be downloaded from SelfPassage (and ordered here).

Book Sprint: Day 4

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On day four, participants mediated thinking groups based on shared interests. A discussion on “work” explored its meaning and evaluation. The conversation on “Fashion education” challenged the role of the institution in education and in making/praxis. Throughout all five days, there was much talk about thinking versus making, theory versus practice, and how to transform the “versus” of these formulations into a synthesizing force, such as a “while” or an “and.”


“If you want to innovate, you need to create the right setting for it. The only thing that makes innovation is chance, and what creates chance is chaos.”

Book Sprint: Day 3

IMG_8777Day Three consisted of breaking out into pairings and interviewing one another. The “six questions” that evolved from the Book Sprint were formulated not only for the purposes of interviewing persons abroad, but also for better understanding the context, research interests, praxis and methodology of each person in attendance.

Our six questions, evolving out of much debate and consideration, are:

  1. Why is fashion powerful today?
  2. Who makes fashion?
  3. Where does fashion exist?
  4. What makes fashion political?
  5. When did you personally experience the power of fashion?
  6. What can fashion do?

We created ink drawings and collages on this day, illustrating some of the questions, challenges and points of entry that characterized the workshop.

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Book Sprint: Day 2, or, “The Hannah Talks”

hannah arendthannah arendtThe feat of the day was in generating interview questions. The group debated how we might create a series of questions that were specific to the theme of Fashion and Politics, but that also allowed a point of entry for people of all disciplines. We hoped to keep the questions open but specific, accessible and concise. We also wanted to create a space in which interviewees might also share pieces of their own personal narrative(s), without feeling pressured or manipulated by the questions posed.

Transparency and a sincere desire to respect the multiplicity of ideologies and vantage points were at the heart of our aims.  Emerging from day two was a clear desire to create a dialogue that did not shy away from the hard questions, but that propelled our inquiries even further, opening the dialogue up to any persons not in attendance.IMG_8771

Book Sprint: Day 1


Day 1: The Question of Questioning

During day one of the Book Sprint, we attempted to formulate a vocabulary of terms through which to discuss “Fashion and Politics.” We had a free-write session for about 20 minutes, and each wrote down words/phrases on sticky notes that we affixed to the blackboard. From there, we attempted to link different concepts under the categories of either “fashion” or of “politics.” In many cases, the purportedly separate camps bled into one another, and we found ourselves debating which concepts could be considered issues of “fashion” and which were those of “politics.” This only further illustrated the inextricable nature of the two, and the fact that fashion is, inherently, political. The why, who, what, when and how still remained.

But, alas, it was only day one.

The next activity was our take on the “exquisite corpse” exercise, in which we were assigned one of the words from our new ‘vocabulary,’ and produced drawings around them. We then passed each of these drawings around, adding to the content of the last illustrator. The result was quite interesting, and revealed the layered difference of individual methodologies and research interests.