A research project led by Professor Dilys Williams, which sought to explore our habits of living through fashion’s actions, relationships and locations, framed in the context of the city.
Fashion is a compelling component of contemporary culture; it forms and expresses identity and belonging in physical and digital communities in which we live or spend time. Fashion is not the starting point of our social and environmental challenges, but it can play a distinctive role in solving and dissolving some of symptoms of our imbalanced lifestyles. As a powerful visualisation of our cultural habits and as a personal and collective expression, its exploration offers potential points of intervention in the status quo that is currently hurtling us towards irrevocable damage to our home, the planet, and to many of our fellow companions here.
Another vital place for consideration is our geographical locations. The seeking of safety and socialisation, the making of culture and commerce, are all elements that seeded the first cities and indeed remain the elements of their increasing development towards a planet where it is anticipated that 75 – 80% of us will be living as city residents by 2050. A city is a place of dynamic interaction and congestion, a microcosm of the challenges and possibilities of humanity, a place of both resourcefulness and, in places, passive consumption.
Habitat is a body of research, led by Professor Dilys Williams, which sought to explore our habits of living through fashion’s actions, relationships and locations framed in the context of the city, as well as to engage fashion as a mediator to explore our concerns whilst living in these locations. In London, where we were Habitat was explored through a range of experimental approaches and events.
Habitat Field Day
In December 2013 we held a Field Day to explore issues around fashion as a social and place maker. Attended by students, press and industry, presentations were given by The Met Office, Forum for the Future as well researchers from Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) – Prof. Kate Fletcher, Prof. Sandy Black, Prof. Lucy Orta and Prof. Dilys Williams.
I Stood Up
Through city dialogues, facilitated by fashion artefacts, I Stood Up, looked to form and voice public concerns in relation to violence against nature and people, which were being gathered to form new design briefs, the responses to which sought to offer ways for and with the public to dissolve concerns and replace violence with peace.
The first phase of I Stood Up took place in London, as a diverse urban landscape and cultural, creative and fashion hub. CSF took to locations in the North, East, South and West London to engage the public in conversation around their environmental concerns in relation to living in the city. These dialogues revealed five primary concerns: Air pollution, water toxicity, waste, energy resources and loss of wildlife. I Stood Up t-shirts were gifted in exchange for thoughts and opinions and offered a visual means for participants to be a voice for change.
The second use of this methodology took place at the House of Lords as part of an All Party Parliamentary Group in Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion (APPG ESF) event.
I Stood Up at the House of Lords
With a general election looming the APPG, led by CSF hosted 'I Stood Up at the House of Lords', as part of Prof. Dilys Williams' Habit(AT) project, inviting first-time voters to Stand Up for their concerns through fashion making and wearing.
Finding out about the very low engagement in politics by the under 25s galvanized us to see if we could engage first time voters with politics. Since then, we have seen a huge surge in interest by the under 25s, which we hope will energise the ambitions of the APPG to engage young people in politics and the issues around sustainability.
First time voters were invited to spend the afternoon at the House of Lords discussing and making fashion objects to represent the concerns they had for the future. The event was followed by a debate about these issues. The panel at the debate included: Louise Court, Editor-In-Chief Cosmopolitan magazine; Professor Frances Corner OBE, Head of London College of Fashion and Pro Vice-Chancellor University of the Arts London; Lois McNay, Professor of Theory of Politics Oxford University; Professor Dilys Williams, CSF; Lord Tyler, Liberal Democrat Peer; and Alison McGovern MP (Labour).
Wear Your Culture
Wear Your Culture, was an event held to showcase the Habit(AT) project, bringing together members of the AHRC project team at Wellcome Trust as part of Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities.
The event explored how fashion can voice our cultural concerns about London and the environment. Journalist Kelly Bowerbank chaired the panel discussion, with Professor Lorraine Gamman from Design Against Crime Research Centre, Dr Tom Corby from Westminster and Professor Dilys Williams, CSF.