Just Fashion Lab at Hay Festival

Hay Blog

Work by Zaki Musa, LCF 2nd Year Menswear Student. Photo by Isla Hampson.

Last week we swapped the red bus filled streets of central London for the bright yellow buttercup filled fields of Hay-on-Wye, as the Just Fashion Lab kicked off for the second year running as part of the Hay Festival programme. Our studio was taken outside for one week only, just a couple of fields and a few cows away from the main festival site. Joining us to explore and experiment with different starting points and methods for design, were curious students from Falmouth, UWE, East London, and Sheffield Hallam as well as two of our own LCF students.

The week of design and making culminated in a lively panel discussion between Catarina Midby from H&M, Orsola de Castro, Jessica Bumpus, Vogue and Margareta van den Bosch, chaired by CSF’s Dilys Williams.

What we are saying and doing through fashion and what might fashion’s legacy be in a changing world?

Examples from the lab were offered during the discussion to illustrate what happens when we re-connect with nature, think about our vulnerabilities and work with what we have over what we cannot afford to squander.

The call out to the students was simple: to value what we have in abundance and celebrate what fashion might achieve. Our partners, Hay Festival, H&M and EJF offered the resources – the space to work, the materials to work with and the ambition to communicate values through fashion. Through their collection scheme, H&M collected a month’s worth of consumer waste in all shapes and sizes.

Renee and Anna from CSF alongside CSF friends and fellow explorers Alis Smith, Brandy Nicole Easter and Lizzie Harrison from Antiform, expertly managed by Kate Uzzel created the space and means for the lab to take shape. Ideas flourished and the discussion became animated as we contemplated the challenges for the fashion industry to be a part of living within planetary boundaries and to recognise and value all of the pairs of hands in the fashion chain of production. With perfect timing, our materials for the week arrived, spilling out across the tables in multi-coloured piles. Was that a price tag? And another? Unworn gems.

Overwhelmed. Surprised. Excited came the response. After selecting what they might need for the week ahead, some turned to sketchbooks as others disappeared deep into our surroundings in search of inspiration. The week was an opportunity to explore and develop a personal fashion narrative; the garments on the table a starting point from which the stories would grow.

Some were inspired by our literary setting – how language of literature might be reflected in the language of attire – taking the notion of children as sometimes reluctant readers, to think about how and why we are reluctant to think about sustainability. For others it was the setting, the pattern of the trees, and the rows of crops in the farm fields across the bridleway. The future, fear of resource shortages and climate change influenced some development, whilst a gardener whittled knitting needles out of branches to make light of an otherwise rough task.

This kind of immersive lab offers the means to think differently about time and nature, it offers a sense of freedom from convention, to be able to see fashion and sustainability from a different perspective. The students responded by created pieces that flowed from one decision to the next rather than working to a prescribed design and plan. The outfits ready, the series was photographed and shown as part of the Hay Festival main programme and will form part of our ongoing lab work at the centre. Thanks to all involved, we will look forward to seeing how your ideas evolve.