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Fashion Ecologies

The Fashion Ecologies Project explores the relationships and interactions between garments, people and place. In a time when we usually try to understand things by taking them apart, looking at component parts in isolation, Fashion Ecologies explores clothing in context – in real places and lives – keeping things and our insights about them radically together.

The project will explore narrowly bounded geographical areas within which actual conditions, relationships, resilience and cumulative dynamics of specific places can be examined in detail, in a deep, complex mapping.

In confronting the fragmentation of many sustainability initiatives, this project adopts a location-specific methodology developed from political ecology using local production and consumption practices to evidence holistic systems, relationships and interactions to offer scalable sustainability models for the fashion industry and wider practice.

Fashion Ecologies is a research project led by Kate Fletcher Professor of Sustainability, Design, Fashion at University of the Arts London. Lizzie Harrison, working as research assistant, is drawing on her long experience of working with communities and fashion production.

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Fashion Ecologies is project of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London, and it is part of a work package of the KRUS project, led in Norway by SIFO and generously funded by BIONAER.

Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book

Ingun Grimstad Klepp with Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book

Hot off the press is one of the outcomes of the Fashion Ecologies work, a new book co-edited by Kate Fletcher and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. Called ‘Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book’ and published in September 2017 by Novus Press this volume presents a unique collection of 50 methods for exploring the actions, relationships and material contents of wardrobes.

Organised as a practical guide to gathering information about people and their clothing beyond the point of purchase, it includes visual, tactile and verbal methods and others which involve making together, loitering and a session in the gym.

With contributions from four continents from both in- and outside academic circles, this book and the real lives of wearers of clothes that are its focus, create a powerful new narrative of a more diverse, resourceful, emancipatory and holistic fashion and clothing system.


Localism frames fashion as an integrated whole: garments, clothing practices, production, people, place – including unpopular parts; not reducible to single components. It orchestrates a whole system of fashion activity, broader than that seen through the lens of materials and production alone.

This makes fashion localism part practical infrastructure – supportive individuals, skills development, knowledge of where to buy materials, toolsetc.; and part conceptual leap – seeking to reimagine garment-related interactions and decentralised modes of production as valuable clothing activity.

It marks fashion localism out a collective process and long term garment-related dialogue concerned with sustaining the place it is in, which may take the form of products, brands or government policy. It is garment-related activity that is culture and nature improving. It sometimes contributes to economic growth.

For localism, size matters. Interactions and relationships between fashion and place are strongest at small scales. The dominance of globalisation has relegated local fashion actions largely to everyday fashion actions, experiences difficult to commodify and enlarge.

A total fashion system is reliant on a subterranean network of capabilities, goodwill, imagination, reuse networks and maintenance facilities within communities, much of which is hidden from view. The ‘below ground’ activity makes the ‘above ground’ fashion system run. The imperative of localism is to promote vibrant fashion communities above and below ground. The total system’s complexity has direct implications for the social and cultural robustness of a place.

The vectors of expansion of fashion localism begin with what is available. They shape a process of adaptation that serves to intensify ideas of what is important in a region and what can be done there.

Fashion localism is characteristic of a new wave of fashion and sustainability work concerned with systemic change. Dealing with the root causes of the environmental crisis – underlying socio-economic, political forces and growth logic, this new wave enters territory full of contingencies and complexity. It tries to open out, to adopt a progressively broadening systems view, for ever closer understanding of the real world.

In the Macclesfield case, emerging themes of fashion localism comprise: Material assets; Skills; Social assets; Flow and circulation; Edges; Participation.