- Dr. Francesco Mazzarella
Leveraging the power of fashion activism to create positive social change
Through project ReGo, we’ve been working to leverage the power of fashion activism in shifting the prevailing narrative around young violence. The aim of the project is to shape better lives and address social justice, nurturing sustainability, and prosperity for all.
Over the past year, the project team has held workshops, provided training, coordinated industry collaborations and so much more. To celebrate the achievements so far, and launch the project’s second phase, we curated ‘ReGo: Our Story in the Making’, an exhibition showcasing jewellery, bags, accessories and garments. All items have been co-created by young people from East London in collaboration with local fashion brands including Michelle-Lowe Holder, Fibre Lab, The Reclaimery and CQ Studio.
The exhibition spotlights the various outcomes of the year-long partnership between London College of Fashion (LCF), UAL's Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Catalyst in Communities (CIC). Within the exhibition, alongside physical items produced by the project participants, we’re pleased to showcase a short film produced by YouMeUs (a personal development programme for young East Londoners) and a series of podcasts created by LCF students. The exhibition offers an opportunity to fully understand the collaborations, people, stories, and the incredible journey that has brought the project to life.
This participatory action research project has enabled a multidisciplinary team to come together and work collaboratively to prevent and tackle the systemic issue of youth violence, including young people in local activities and community life in order to re-design their own future.
Through the project, knives – the very weapons that can take a life – were turned into something that can support a life. In fact, the assumption behind the project is that a knife is only dangerous in someone’s hand; up until that point, it is just a piece of metal. Hence, we took metal from knives (received from KnifeSafe) and transformed them – through water jet and laser engraving – into a bespoke fashion collection, co-created by young East Londoners (from Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, and Hackney) and local fashion brands.
In collaboration with project participants Oliver Selic and Molly Preson, sustainable accessories designer Michelle Lowe-Holder worked to design and make the ‘Wasted’ collection – exploring urban waste, such as knives and nitrous oxide cannisters taken off the streets. ‘Wasted’ transforms humble materials associated with anti-social and violent behaviour, into beautiful jewellery creating a unisex cuff, a chocker, and two tassel necklaces.
In collaboration with project participant Joyce Zale, sustainable fashion brand FibreLab, founded by MA Fashion Futures graduate Kae Katz, worked to design and make a collection of three tote bags. The tote bag designs originated from the desire to find an interesting application for recycled shredded fibres (such as old uniforms, home interior swatch books, as well as toiles and tests used in the design process). The bags are embellished with metal tags and loops designed in-house at FibreLab, and waterjet cut from knives taken off the streets.
Regenerative fashion studio CQ Studio collaborated with project participant Maria Isabel to design and make ‘Excessories Capsule’, an evening top embellished with the brand’s ‘Inflaxuation’ vegan fur and ‘excessories’ sequins which are made by using food waste and chemistry to clean textile dye-wastewater, and waterjet cut from knife blades.
The Reclaimery, a sustainable fashion brand based at Poplar Works, collaborated with project participant Fiyin Olayide to redesign and repurpose ‘Isabel’s Youth Dress’, which was worn at a wedding in 1947. During the transformation of the dress, The Reclaimery captured the essence of the 1940s treasuring ruffles and pleating, and combined it with an array of different deadstock fabrics, such as lace. This unique dress is embellished with metal waterjet cut from knives taken off the streets, to show how waste can be transformed into a unique piece, making it more meaningful and desirable.
As a result of their participation in the project, the young people involved have strengthened their voice and gained agency, through the learning of new skills in fashion design, media and entrepreneurship, which hopefully will have a long-lasting impact on their lives. The products made as part of ReGo are now available for rent via the LOANHOOD platform, a rental platform that offers a sustainable and accessible way to refresh wardrobes and wear unique high-end items that people might not otherwise have access to. The funds raised from the rental of ReGo items will contribute to supporting on-going educational and employment opportunities for young people in fashion.
More information on ReGo: Our Story in the Making
ReGo: Our Story in the Making is open from 19 May – 5 June 2022 (Thursdays – Sundays only), 12 - 6pm at The Lab E20, E Park Walk, East Village, London, E20 1JB. It is free and open to all. More information is available on UAL’s What’s On Listing.