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Fashion is a compelling component of contemporary culture, it forms and expresses identity and belonging in physical and digital communities in which we live or spend time. Fashion is not the starting point of our social and environmental challenges, but it can play a distinctive role in solving and dissolving some of symptoms of our imbalanced lifestyles. As a powerful visualisation of our cultural habits and as a personal and collective expression, its exploration offers potential points of intervention in the status quo that is currently hurtling us towards irrevocable damage to our home, the planet, and to many of our fellow companions here.

Another vital place for consideration is our geographical locations. The seeking of safety and socialisation, the making of culture and commerce, are all elements that seeded the first cities and indeed remain the elements of their increasing development towards a planet where it is anticipated that 75 – 80% of us will be living as city residents by 2050. A city is a place of dynamic interaction and congestion, a microcosm of the challenges and possibilities of humanity, a place of both resourcefulness and, in places, passive consumption.

Habitat is an emerging body of research, led by Professor Dilys Williams, which seeks to explore our habits of living through fashion’s actions, relationships and locations framed in the context of the city, as well as to engage fashion as a mediator to explore our concerns whilst living in these locations. First stop, London, where we are.

Habitat is being explored through a range of experimental approaches and events.

Habitat Field Day

Image by Ana Escobar

Image by Ana Escobar

December 2013 CSF held a Field Day to explore issues around fashion as a social and place maker. Attended by a mixture of students, press and industry presentations were given by The Met Office, Forum for the Future as well researchers in the centre – Kate Fletcher, Sandy Black, Lucy Orta and Dilys Williams.

I Stood Up

Image by Agnes Lloyd Platt

Image by Agnes Lloyd Platt

Through city dialogues, facilitated by fashion artefacts, I Stood Up, seeks to form and voice public concerns in relation to violence against nature and people, which are being gathered to form new design briefs, the responses to which will seek to offer ways for and with the public to dissolve concerns and replace violence with peace.

The first phase of I Stood Up takes place in London, as a diverse urban landscape and cultural, creative and fashion hub. CSF took to locations in the North, East, South and West London to engage the public in coversation around their environmental concerns in relation to living in the city. These dialogues revealed five primary concerns: Air pollution, water toxicity, waste, energy resources and loss of wildlife. I Stood Up t-shirts were gifted in exchange for thoughts and opinions, and offered a visual means for participants to be a voice for change.

The second use of this methodology took place at the House of Lords as part of an All Party Parliamentary Group in Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion (APPGESF) event.

Wear your culture

Image by Anna Fitzpatrick and Renée Cuoco

Wear Your Culture, an event to showcase the project to date, brought together members of the AHRC project team at Wellcome Trust as part of Being Human: A Festival of the Humanities. The event explored the idea of how fashion can voice our cultural concerns about London and the environment. Journalist Kelly Bowerbank chaired the panel discussion, with Professor Lorraine Gamman from Design Against Crime Research Centre, Dr Tom Corby from Westminster and Professor Dilys Williams, CSF.

I Stood Up for (bio) diversity

Building on the success of last year’s AHRC Being Human Festival, and extending the I Stood Up methodology to explore a local community’s thoughts and ideas about nature and biodiversity, a pop up exhibition was hosted in a disused shoe shop in Chrisp Street Market in Poplar, East London. Over 140 passersby visited the pop up gallery sharing stories about their clothing and nature in the area, offering insight into how fashion can enable the local community to voice their concerns about nature and biodiversity. Specially designed I Stood Up t-shirts referencing locally threaten species were gifted in return for thoughts, time and ideas.

Future Cities Film

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