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  • Nina Stevenson and Sarah May

Nurturing a Fashion Commons for Education


Collaborative work by project participants. Photography by Aleks Faust.
Collaborative work by workshop participants at the Lab E20. Photography by Aleks Faust.

In his essay Name the Colour, Blind the Eye: Reimagining Education, Bayo Akomalafe calls to ‘disturb the exclusivity of higher education’ and reimagine learners as being ‘community ready’ instead of ‘industry ready’. This sits well with Centre for Sustainable Fashion’s (CSF) ongoing enquiry into how fashion education can nurture fashion practices that allow for human and planetary flourishing, rather than perpetuating and upholding the exploitative and extractive ways of the prevailing fashion industry. 


For CSF's Imagining Possibilities Festival earlier this year, CSF’s Head of Education, Nina Stevenson, and London College of Fashion (LCF) Lecturer in Fashion Styling and Production, Sarah May, brought their thinking and practice together to create a walking conversation to imagine what a fashion commons for education might be - a scenario for fashion education where learners develop the knowledge, skills and capabilities to be community ready.  


“Moving towards a society based on Commons sufficiency requires recovering a Commons way of thinking and relinquishing dominance thinking, the dualistic problem-solving approach underpinning non-egalitarian and unsustainable social systems.” 

Kenrick, 2009 


Over the course of an April morning, a group of fashion students, tutors and practitioners gathered at LCF and together used walking as a critical practice and qualitative research methodology to explore the connection between bodies, environments and the sensory in the area local to LCF's East Bank campus. 


Workshop participants exploring nature in East Bank. Photography by Aleks Faust.
Workshop participants exploring nature in East Bank during the walking conversation. Photography by Aleks Faust.

The area local to our campus holds many contrasts – a heavily landscaped space with much evidence of human intervention, punctuated by moments of wild nature, under the eye of monolithic structures such as the uber-mall Westfield (or as some call it, Wastefield) and gargantuan Olympic venues.  Whilst walking, participants were invited to listen, observe, sketch, touch, record, gather and feel the local environment using tools we provided. Connecting with each other and with their surroundings we asked them to find examples of common wealth, sufficiency, nature, community, deep democracy and care, all of these being essential attributes to a commons way of thinking and being. 


Collaborative work by project participants. Photography by Aleks Faust.
Collaborative work by workshop participants during the workshop at the Lab E20. Photography by Aleks Faust.

The explorations were reconvened at nearby Lab E20 where sharing, collaging, reflecting and connecting took place around a physical circular canvas. The sharing of found objects from the walk started conversations around our hopes and fears for fashion education, surfacing tensions and frustrations alongside optimism and joy. Participants reported gratitude for time and space for personal reflection, human connection and trust. Some invested in words and conversations, others found space for thinking through making.  


Through these activities a community was formed, and the idea of a fashion commons for education was developed. If you would like to create your own community for exploring the teaching and learning of fashion in a more than human world and nurture ‘community ready’ learners, then we invite you to use these resources. 

 


References 


Akomolafe, B (2016) Name the Colour, Blind the Eye: Reimagining Education available at https://www.bayoakomolafe.net/post/name-the-colour-blind-the-eye-reimagining-education (Accessed on 28.03.23) 


Kenrick, J (2009) “Commons Thinking” in The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy, Green Books (p 55) 

 

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