ReGo 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 activism, craftsmanship, and storytelling to shift the current narrative around youth violence.
Led by Dr Francesco Mazzarella, the project is funded by Foundation for Future London and 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. Throughout the project, 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. The project provides opportunities for the young people involved, to gain new skills and build employability. The project aims to further explore the meaning of fashion, supporting learning about materials and making processes, leading to valuing more the garments which we wear, nurturing diverse competencies, and catalysing change in others as well as in oneself.
ReGo takes metal from knives and transforms it into 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 accessories (such as buttons, rivets, tags, etc.) that are used in bespoke fashion collections manufactured by East London-based 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 builds on the success of pilot project ‘CUT’, which transformed 270 knives into buttons and rivets which were used in a bespoke collection of 150 jeans, donated by Blackhorse Lane Ateliers, a denim design and manufacturing business based in Waltham Forest, London. The CUT project team organised co-creation workshops with young people from Waltham Forest to customise and produce a collection of jeans, aimed at protecting young lives, through fashion activism and raising awareness. Participating in the project, the young people have gained agency and new skills that will make a lasting impact on their lives. Project CUT demonstrated how design operates within a cultural context and provides room for relational engagements and strategic experimentation. It illustrated the power of fashion to shape better lives, and showed 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, a pop-up exhibition and an auction of the jeans) will be delivered. Funds raised from the auction will contribute to supporting a charity with on-going activities using fashion against knife crime and providing opportunities for young people in the fashion industry.
Project CUT has received a ‘Good Brand 2021 Award’ from Sublime magazine in recognition of advancing social and environmental sustainability, evidencing the potential for socially engaged innovative and collaborative business models and inspiring and leading the way for future fashion brands. In fact, project CUT 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.
Dr Francesco Mazzarella, Research Fellow in Fashion and Design for Social Change at CSF
Anna Millhouse, Senior Project Manager (Stratford) at LCF
Robin Lockhart, Director of Catalyst in Communities
Cassie Quinn, UAL Graduate
Romero Bryan, Lecturer at LCC and LCF
Lorraine Henry, Associate Lecturer at LCF
Abigail Jones, Associate Lecturer at LCF