ReGo means to rethink our ego and go again and again through a continuous process of change both in oneself and in society. It is a strategic design project connecting creatives across disciplines with the aim to illustrate to young people that they have a choice in shaping their lives to be more purposeful. It leverages the power of fashion, making, and storytelling to shift the prevailing narrative around youth violence initially, and then focusing on other societal issues that the participants want to address through design activism.
Funded by Foundation for Future London, the project comprises a combination of training in fashion design, media and social entrepreneurship delivered by London College of Fashion (LCF), alongside transformational mindset coaching from Catalyst in Communities, and hands-on work experience with local businesses. The project provides opportunities for the young people involved, to gain new skills and build employability.
Throughout the initial project campaign, knives are transformed into a collection of fashion items, co-created by young people from four east London boroughs (Waltham Forest, Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets) and local fashion brands. In the current phase of the project, the ReGo participants are trained to become workshop facilitators delivering creative activities in schools, in order to amplify the impacts of the project, but also for the young people to become catalysts of further change in the wider community. The long-term goal of the project is to register ReGo as a social enterprise, involving young people in running it, and collaborating with bigger brands towards a wider fashion activism campaign, gradually expanding at national or even international level.
ReGo uses fashion activism to address societal issues and offers educational and employment opportunities for young people in the fashion industry.
Fashion Activism Against Knife Crime
Levels of serious violence between young people in London are persistently high. Knife offences involving people aged 10-17 have risen from 2,639 in 2013 to 4,652 in 2019 (Ministry of Justice, 2020). This is not a new story, and not much is changing to address this issue. Within this context, the purpose of project ReGo is to turn knives – the very weapons that can take a life – into something that could support a life. The assumption behind this project is that a knife is only dangerous in someone’s hand; up until that point, it is just a piece of metal. To shift this narrative, the ReGo project team receives knives from KnifeSafe – an organisation that collects knives in bins to make public places and venues safer and securely disposes of them, by crushing the metal. Project ReGo transforms – through water jet technology – the metal of the knives into items of a bespoke fashion collection (including jewellery, bags, and garments) manufactured by local brands.
In doing so, the project contributes to demonstrating that adopting a public health approach is needed to give youth agency and produce social change in order to subvert the potent allure of knife crime. With research showing the multiple factors inherent in knife crime, working across public agencies, community stakeholders and industry professionals to bring about positive action is essential. With this in mind, project ReGo enables a multidisciplinary team to come together to share their knowledge and respond to the experiences and aspirations of local young people, determined to activate positive change.
ReGo made multiple diverse contributions to the locality, and to the situated issue of violence between young people. As a result of their participation in the project, the participants felt connected with a community of support and built confidence to work on their goals. The project also contributes to the University’s place-making activities and civic role and responsibilities, helping to realise the vision of Fashion District to make East London a place where people and businesses can thrive, through fashion, sustainability, and innovation. Through the ReGo products and the communications around the project, ReGo contributes to the on-going reframing of narratives around knife crime.
ReGo was one of the finalists of the Green Gown Awards 2022, for the ‘Benefitting Society’ category. This achievement recognizes that significant benefits to society can be generated when we trust, nurture, and support young people, and involve them in local activities. Such a project can be considered as a micro-site of activism, but it also contributes to fostering macro-changes in society and in people’s perceptions of the fashion system.
Project ReGo demonstrates how design operates within a cultural context and provides room for relational engagements and strategic experimentation. It illustrates the power of fashion to shape better lives, and shows how culture, creativity and collaboration can play a crucial part in tackling some of the most challenging issues facing society. Putting young people at the heart of the creative project has enabled them to influence the shape of the project, leading to meaningful connections and lasting impacts. A public engagement event (consisting of a panel debate, film screening, a music performance, and exhibition of the project outputs) was delivered in May 2022. To accompany the exhibition, and to launch the fashion collection, the team collaborated with creative street advertising specialists JACK, part of BUILDHOLLYWOOD, across sites in East London, showcasing an exclusive photoshoot starring the young people involved in the project. The ReGo collection is available to rent exclusively via LOANHOOD, the innovative rental platform offering a sustainable and accessible way to refresh wardrobes and wear unique high-end items that people might not otherwise have has access to. All proceeds raised will go towards supporting on-going educational and employment opportunities for young people in fashion.
Project ReGo offers a generalisable framework that can apply meaningful techniques across different settings linked to diverse subject foci. Such a project sought to work locally to map the drivers and barriers for knife crime, co-creating knowledge as well as products with young people and youth workers, to make a difference in local communities, and to increase relational networks. Building on the experience of the young people, new skills, relationships and opportunities are generated. The potential focus of such a fashion activist project as well as its creative network, skills and techniques are numerous and scalable and offer further opportunities for incremental knowledge exchange.
For more information, watch the short film below.
Dr Francesco Mazzarella, Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Design for Social Change at CSF
Robin Lockhart, Director of Catalyst in Communities
Cassie Quinn, Project Coordinator
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Contact for the project
Dr Francesco Mazzarella, Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Design for Social Change
Project ReGo was funded by Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, funded by Westfield Stratford City and delivered by Foundation for Future London.