Fashion Conscious or Fashion Compulsive?

IMG_2946Who made your clothes? What are your clothes made from? Do you know what your clothes are made from?

There are many questions raised in the making of fashion and in February CSF’s Alex McIntosh and Prof. Helen Storey were in Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds talking to members of the public about issues raised in the making, production and consumption of fashion. Their base for two days was a pop-up t-shirt factory; the real-life making of fashion would be the starting point for discussions around personal knowledge, habits and sustainable consumption.

This is all part of the TRANSFER project, a collaboration between CSF and Dr. Chris Jones from the University of Sheffield, a project that seeks to understand further motivations for shopping and what this means for the promotion of sustainable consumption. What is the level of knowledge around these issues for members of the public? And does this understanding alter our shopping habits?

The factory was a great success, drawing curiosity and conversation from shoppers and passersby, helping to start various discussions about how clothes are made and what it is that motivates each one of us when making a purchase. Despite the freezing temperatures and a temperamental machine, the machinists kept a steady supply of t-shirts passing along the production line, each one made to spec from the personal answers given in face-to-face interviews with Alex and Helen.

Helen’s past experience in showing her work in shopping centres (she’s had quiet a bit of experience of showing art installation and work that cross the discipline divides for social purpose) encouraged the choice of location in a shopping centre, as they are a great place to meet people from all walks of life and, because they don’t expect to find you there, people almost universally respond with curiosity and enthusiasm.

The response from the public was overwhelming positive. The people Alex and Helen spoke to really enjoyed being the asked the questions and hearing at the end, what their answers suggested about their habits towards consumption and the environment.

Being able to see the making process in such an unexpected venue, yet making that connection between how their clothes were made and their own awareness was a strong and moving combination. They seemed genuinely thrilled with the idea that their T – shirt was being made with a strong connection to what they had expressed.

When I asked Helen was she was most surprised about at the end of the two days she said, “realising that what we were engaged with was actually GUERRILLA COUTURE  – not making for privilege, but making for purpose! Although what I wasn’t surprised by, but I think others were, was the power of fashion and science, in this case psychology, producing a public intervention together – it really did work for the public, somehow their inner worlds brought out into the everyday in an unexpected way, just for a moment.”