We have just got back from a trio of meetings in Manchester with people who are experienced with exploring the wardrobes within homes in the North West of England.
Tuesday 15 March
First stop was to the University of Manchester to meet Sophie Woodward from the School of Social Sciences who shared with us her ongoing research project Dormant Things offering insights into the types of unused objects that reside within the home. Stephanie Roper of the Wardrobe Angel shared experiences from her styling business, which aims to reconnect people with what is within the wardrobe(s). Our final meeting with Sarah Hall a Feminist Geographer, also at the University of Manchester, to discuss her research How Do Recessions and Austerity Impact Everyday Family Life? working with households in the Manchester area to understand the impact of austerity on people in their homes. Throughout the day we explored the complexity of examining ‘stuff’ in peoples house which will be a pillar of the Wardrobe Audit method we are developing to document clothing in a number of local households. From an analysis of the material culture of the home to a window on everyday life the method will give us a sense of what is here within the homes of people in Macclesfield, our research location.
The day also made us reflect on how the Fashion Ecologies project sits between many disciplines touching fashion, ecology, anthropology, sociology and geography research. Such an interdisciplinary approach is going to foster a dynamic understanding of the research and will certainly push us into new unfamiliar spaces and ideas.
Wednesday 16 March
Spring has arrived! And so too have our project collaborators from Norway. The Fashion Ecologies is a work package for the KRUS project at SIFO and today Ingun Klepp and Arolilja Jørgensrud came to visit Macclesfield. The KRUS project is a 5 year research project looking at all aspects of the value chain of Norwegian Wool. Ingun is an ethnologist with a wealth of experience in this field and also in using Wardrobe Audit methods and is leading the KRUS project. Arolilja is a researcher with a background is in small-scale agriculture particularly wool and will be working with us to conduct a comparative study of our research in Norway.
We commenced the field trip with a walking tour of Macclesfield. Starting up in the surrounding peak district we went to see the hills and local resident sheep that make up the landscape of the town. From here we descended into the town centre. An early part of the research project was to map a 1km transect of the town centre noting the types of retail spaces on the busiest stretch of the town. Today we retraced the route together spending time in the shops to understand the fashion offering in the town. This included scoping out the second hand clothing in the numerous charity shops that can be found on Mill Street and searching for wool products in the high street retailers that are within the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. Mapping the town in this way is a core part of the project giving us insights into what the fashion offering is and will cover local clothing manufacture and suppliers, retail, care and repair and recycling. This is the first stage of building an interconnected picture of the fashion ecosystem in this place. Working with our Norwegian partners made us reflect on these (eco)systems and consider what is common between the UK and Norway and what is unique to these countries.
Thursday 17 March
Day 2 of our Macclesfield field trip with Ingun and Arolilja: today we visited an absolute institution for crafters and makers in the North of England, the delightfully named materials supplier Shufflebothams. In a deceptively large warehouse on the edge of town Shufflebothams supply high quality silks, wool and upholstery fabric to customers from Macclesfield and beyond. The space is an Aladdin’s cave of exquisite fabric much of which was sourced from local factories as they closed in the 80s and 90s. The collection acts as an archive of what was woven and printed in the area and included a good range of woollen cloths. We all felt that a having a supplier like this in the town was a real asset for Macclesfield.
Our visit today got us thinking about how we view and count the clothing in the home as part of our Wardrobe Audit. We are looking to uncover all of the clothing provision within the home and so far had been working on a traditional list of clothing categories we will count during the visit. Visiting Shufflebothams has made us rethink our audit from being about clothes to wider categories of household resources including clothes, materials, tool and equipment allowing us to capture all of the resources a household has for clothing provision.
To find out more about the Fashion Ecologies project please visit fashionecologies.org or contact us.