Tools and collaborations

Photo by Gabrielle Miller

Photo by Gabrielle Miller

This post is by Gabrielle Miller, a freelance textile designer, and a research assistant on the FIREup project at the London College of Fashion.

Recently, I have been thinking about how our skill sets and the tools that we use define us.

We all use a range of tools, the mix of which makes us unique, and defines who we are – a bit like our DNA. Unlike our DNA, we can pick up new skills and tools, and share them with others.

How we define ourselves is important for getting involved with and finding collaborative work. Your tools let others understand which skills you have to offer and how they might compliment and enhance a project.

When I look in my ‘toolbox’, I see new tools that I have yet to pick up, and old tools and skills that are dusty and that I never use any more. As both a designer and a researcher, I find myself switching between a varied array of the digital and physical. I have to admit that my readiness to pick up a traditional embroidery luneville hook (a small handheld instrument that has a hook on one end for the application of beads and sequins as seen in the photograph above) has declined and been overpowered by the digital supremacy of technical devices and software tools.

I have worked on interdisciplinary projects with teams of scientists, technologists and designers. We all worked with each other having a general understanding of each others’ backgrounds and disciplines. In the past we were defined by more singular titles (e.g. embroidery designer), however I have noticed that nowadays we are increasingly becoming people of many trades and skills. Collaborations have been part of this step forward in how we tend to work; multidisciplinary skill sets are driving interesting and innovative trends.

So one question is how do we encourage and make it easier for people with varied skills to come together to do work in the fashion industry?

FIREup is both a research project and a digital platform that aims to connect the UK’s designer fashion industry with academic researchers in order to catalyse innovation.

Part of the platform was developed to connect people based on the identification of their skills and area of work interests, rather than just their titles. Research into classification relating to the UK designer fashion industry was carried out so that people would find it easy to describe themselves accurately.

To bring about some of these interactions, a series of collaborative workshops were organised which aimed to introduce research opportunities and methodologies to small and medium fashion business in the UK.

One of the four projects was the collaboration between accessories designer Michelle Lowe-Holder and Dr Thomas Makryniotis, a researcher in 3D and virtual technologies at the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Digital Studio, and CSF’s Professor Sandy Black. They worked together to develop new concepts and product innovations for accessories using 3D printing technology.

Michelle was introduced to an entirely new manufacturing process for digitally printed small batch production, and Thomas to the working methods of a textile materials-based designer/maker. They ended up with innovative prototypes and new skills to add to their toolboxes. You can hear them talking about the collaboration here.

As we move into a more multidisciplinary collaborative world, the fashion industry will continue to expand its toolbox. We may find that certain tools become obsolete, and from what I can see, there will be more digital tools rising up.

We need to make sure that not only are we open to the growth of new tools, but that we support the industry by sharing good practice and knowledge exchange.