The Better Lives Lectures 2017


BL blog image 2CSF hosted the 2017 LCF Better Lives lecture series exploring the themes: Society, Nature and Power.

We talk a lot about these themes at CSF and are lucky enough to be able to explore them daily in our work with students, in research and through working with industry. When we talk about sustainability the issues always come back to how we live as a society, how we connect, value and understand nature (and ourselves as part of nature) and how we can in small ways have the power to make a difference to the world in which we live. The Better Lives lecture series gave us the opportunity to discuss some of these issues publically in relation to certain aspects of our work.

Under the heading Society, Professor Helen Storey spoke about her work in the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, her work ‘Dress for our Time’ and about the ways in which we are experiencing a new kind of society – one in which 1 in every 113 people on our planet either a refugee, a displaced person, or a migrant.

Set within the context of climate change, what sort of society we live in and want to live in is surely one of the key questions of our time? In what way can fashion make a positive contribution to a more inclusive society, is perhaps a question that as fashion practioners, students, and educators we could make room for thinking about.

To explore questions around Nature, Fashion and Sustainability a human library was created. Just like in a real library, a visitor to the Human Library chose a ‘book’ from a range of titles. The difference is that the ‘books’ were people, and reading is a conversation. In the Human Library attendees were invited to ‘borrow’ different fashion-sustainability specialists for small group discussions that ranged from questioning how much is enough and the limits to economic growth through to ways in which a designer can be an agent for positive change.

Again, the event was an opportunity to explore ways in which connect with one another and the role of fashion to challenge some of the assumptions and practices around nature, fashion and sustainability.

Finally, we explored Power with specific focus on buying practices within the industry in relation to the Modern Slavery Act. As Baroness Lola Young highlight, there are now more people living in the conditions of slavery than at any other time in history, which in numbers is some 21 million people worldwide. What is the role then, of fashion buying in eliminating modern slavery from the fashion supply chain? What power does a fashion buyer have and what are the limitations? We heard thoughts from industry, students and educators over the course of a very informative evening.

The balance of power is complex and in furthering ideas about fashion and sustainability must be explored – surely it is too simplistic to focus only on the individual buying actions of citizens as consumers in order to address the problems within the current fashion model? What of collective action? Of political change and legislation? Of challenging the norms currently inherent within fashion as we know it?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the above, if you’d like to get in touch please tweet us @sustfash using the #CSFbetterlives