LASTING asks the question: How can the lifespans of consumer goods be increased?
The question is critical because evidence suggests that longer lasting products lead to less materials extraction, lower levels of pollution, and less energy use in all the phases of a product's life, including transportation.
Yet despite this, product longevity has been largely absent in the environmental discourse and public debate, nor does it figure on the top of the agendas of industries or private households. Indeed, the present system encourages replacement of existing goods with new products rather than maintaining, repairing or adjusting the current ones.
The task is to begin to decentre knowledge and practice of durability from a focus on the West. The focus of this part of the project is to explore perspectives on clothing durability from outside Europe and North America. This involves examining plural perspectives with guides from Africa, Asia, Australasia and Latin America. The work includes exploring how to use care as a key research practice and value to change how work is done.
‘Decentring Durability’ explores plural ideas of clothing durability to move away from the dominant and typical Euro-American framing. The project exposes different ways of seeing, being and understanding the world and clothing.
Decentring Durability is an outcome of one strand of work from the LASTING project.
Clothing durability – extending a product’s life in order to keep it being used rather than replaced and therefore increasing product and system resource efficiency – is a much relied upon and encouraged environmental impact reduction effort in fashion. However, the assumptions underpinning such strategies remain invisible. Decentring Durability examines these by exploring the plurality of ways in which durability is thought about and practised through drawing on insights from semi-structured interviews conducted outside the global north. The diverse perspectives that were shared embody other ways of knowing, valuing or doing durability that go beyond western understandings. Decentring Durability brings together the decarbonising and decolonising agendas through emphasis on resourceful practices and attention to the constant reproduction of dominant ideas that directly contribute to the socio-ecological crisis. In the project, the plurality of durability ideas and actions help reframe conventional representations of long-lasting clothes. They also become worked examples of decentring practices in both fashion and sustainability. The decentring emphasis of the project is evident in both content and process. Research produces knowledge and the process by which this knowledge is created matters. Particular attention was given in the research process to: taking care (of ourselves, one another and others), recognition of difference (in ways of knowing), the language being used (or not used), and the handling of data during the analysis and presentation of findings.
The Decentring Durability project is conducted by Kate Fletcher and Anna Fitzpatrick. We, Kate and Anna, identify as White-British women, who write and speak only in English, which we recognise as having limitations for deep decolonial work. We hope to be conscious of how power relations and our privileges will shape this research. We also acknowledge that the cultural structures that we work within favour individualism over interdependence and unconsciously we carry this with us within our research. Decentring Durability is a strand of work of the LASTING research project.
Outputs from Decentring Durability
Decentring Durability introduces 14 features of clothing durability as starting points for decentred action and understanding of long-lasting clothes. These include some things often found in Euro-American literature on durability, for example a focus on garment design. Other features, like the body, myths and stories, colonial legacies and place, open up different ways of thinking about, valuing and doing durability.
These 14 features are in no way definitive or exhaustive. They reflect diverse cultures, skill sets, temporalities, values, economies, taste, methods of co-operation and experiences of durability in specific places, today.
Decentring Durability impacts thinking about clothing durability by:
Diversifying durability practices to break apart dominant approaches and assumptions that drive social and ecological harms;
Offering plural points of departure for durability investigations that move away from technological and/or market-driven starting points to recognise and give space to difference as powerful but overlooked drivers for environmental change;
Describing a more plural, evolving – though incomplete – durability framework to support learning and action;
Showing how a decolonial approach may be applied to sustainability and fashion.
LASTING: Sustainable prosperity through product durability
LASTING investigates durability as one of the most promising strategies towards more sustainable consumption.
Interdisciplinary Project Team
The project will generate interdisciplinary knowledge between the fields of social science and natural science to measure the significance of product durability. Moreover, it will unite businesses that focus on product durability, develop new ideas and prospects, and demonstrate how lifespans can be part of sustainable business models.
The interdisciplinary nature of the research is supported by a strong consortium from academia, two environmental organisation, and six industry partners. The project team for LASTING from Centre for Sustainable Fashion is Professor Kate Fletcher and Post-Doctoral Researcher, Anna Fitzpatrick
Projected project outcomes for LASTING include:
The provision of actions for durability
Strategies to reduce waste and promote sustainable growth with longer product life spans, and thereby contribute to a sustainable and resilient future for clothing and textiles, furniture, and household appliances.