7003 RESEARCH OUTPUT:’TREASURED POSSESSIONS: Exploring Value and Sustainability’.

Rationale

For my FMP I am proposing a co-design fashion brand engaging the Innovative Youth Market, where consumers interact with young designers to construct their own garment.  This retail structure will challenge the homogeneity of fast fashion and liberate freedom of self-expression through enabling consumers to imprint their individuality into their fashion

However, this is not just about democratising fashion, but slowing it down, The fast fashion model which has evolved to dominate the industry relies on a relationship between consumer and product, which is confined to each season’s trend cycle. The fact something is considered no longer ‘fashionable’ as the fashion calendar biannually shifts from SS to AW, drives consumers to fall out of love with their existing items and covet trends representing what has been upheld as the latest interpretation of ‘fashion’ (Burns, 2010). This valueless dynamic, has resulted in an unsustainable throwaway consumer culture, with a host of negative and potentially devastating impacts on society and the environment, both globally and locally.

Through engaging consumers in the creation process, and allowing them to align their fashion with their specific wants and needs as an individual. my FMP brand concept aims to redefine the relationship between the consumer and their clothes through satisfaction, value and significance. Hypothetically, the resulting garments powerful function as an artefact of one’s personal identity narrative, will ensure it’s longevity, value and meaning, beyond fast fashion’s seasonal trend cycles.

This research output is designed to synthesise the aspect of my 7003 research specifically focused on the theme of FASHION, VALUE and SUSTAINABILITY,, which has underpinned the development of my proposed FMP brand concept, the process of  which I have documented on my RESEARCH BLOG and in my RESEARCH FILES.  It culminates in a piece of VISUAL RESEARCH, titled ‘treasured possessions’ which blends PRIMARY RESEARCH and VISUAL STORYTELLING to evocatively highlight how clothing has the potential to  mean so much more than it’s current hegemonic definition under fast fashion.

JOAN – TAIWANESE BOMBER JACKET

Joan’s treasured possession was a red bomber jacket with a ‘Taiwan’ badge on the sleeve.

IT’S SIGNIFICANCE…? 

Joan and I started talking about this jacket because I had seen her wearing it a lot and, in relation to this research, wondered what the reason was. It turned out that for Joan, who is originally from Taiwan, this jacket symbolises home, and her past life with her friends and family.  It has  therefore functioned as a buffer against homesickness whilst she studies in the UK, and makes the transition to life here; ‘when I wear it, I feel closer to home, to my family, to Taiwan’.  From our conversation it was very clear that Joan strongly associates herself with her taiwanese heritage and is something she is incredibly proud of; ‘Where ever I end up in life, I was made in Taiwan, just like this jacket’. This diasporic pride is clearly signified in the graphic nature of this garment, where a badge on the sleeve, clearly references TAIWAN, with the word ROOTS on the front left side.

EXPERIENCE IN THE STUDIO AND IMAGE ANALYSIS…?

Seeing Joan interact with this artefact in the studio, clearly reinforced everything that had come up in our conversation.  As soon as she put it on, a sense of strength and confidence emerged which had not been there previously considering she is a laid back character.  In order to capture as natural an interaction as possible to authentically reflect this relationship, I chose not to art direct.  Instead I had an informal conversation with her about her life in Taiwan,  to see what this would reveal in her interaction with the jacket.  The resulting images, as I expected are powerful, strong and assured, highlighting how the jacket enables her to weather any difficulties she has felt transitioning to life in the UK through making her feel instantly connected to home.  There is additionally a sense of fun and playfulness in the imaging which emerged when she was reminiscing on past times, illustrating not only how she understood Taiwan, but how she now understands life in London, which whilst unsettling is incredibly exciting.

LAURA – ‘MISSING DAD SHIRT’

THE ARTEFACT…?

Laura’s ‘treasured possession’ was a pink striped man’s shirt.

IT’s SIGNIFICANCE…? 

The reason this item was special to Laura was because it was symbolic of her relationship with her father, clearly signified in how she constantly referred to it as her ‘missing dad shirt’. When she was growing up, Laura’s father used to work abroad in Africa a lot.  Her close relationship with her father, who she described as ‘the most incredible person…he was a dream’ meant that she really felt the loss of these frequent absences which occurred ‘every month or so’.  Consequently, 15 years ago she stole on of his shirts, as a means to feel close to him when he went away; ‘I ran up to their bedroom the morning he had left, took the shirt he had been wearing the day before and put it on…much to my mum’s horror I didn’t take it off until he had come home’.  However a year and a half ago, this material possession took on even greater significance when her dad passed away.  It is now quite literally her ‘missing dad’ shirt , and is something she wears whenever she wants to feel specifically close to him, or generally safe and comforted. ‘Pop’s shirt’ is also something she refers when she tells her daughter about her grandfather.  It is now tired, worn and discoloured, with a hole through in the pocket and the seams.  However it is this ‘lived history’ which makes the item emotionally charged, and significant to Laura as a memory of her relationship with her father; ‘It is literally falling to bits and transparent from wear, but I will always love it’.

EXPERIENCE IN THE STUDIO AND IMAGE ANALYSIS…?

Seeing Laura interact with this shirt in the studio, reinforced it’s significance to her personal identity narrative. As soon as she had it on, she naturally enveloped herself within in, wrapping it around her body with her arms, folding the sleeves over her hands, or pulling it over her knees. To depict as natural an interaction as possible, I kept my art direction to a minimum, instead having a conversation with her about her father whilst I shot the pictures, allowing her to move naturally according to these memories.  The resulting images are fun, childlike and warm, projecting the nature of her relationship with her father.  However, in many of the images there is also an  undertone of longing, sadness and reflection, related to his premature passing and the grief that she is still coming to terms with; ‘sometimes I still don’t believe it’.  As the photographer, I was immersed in the emotional climate generated from this interaction..

KEY LEARNINGS and LIMITATIONS

The overall process of this 7003 research exploring FASHION, VALUE and SUSTAINABILITY, made it clear to me how fashion and clothing has the potential to mean so much more than ‘the latest trend’.

As my the process of my PRIMARY RESEARCH and my VISUAL STORYTELLING highlighted most viscerally, psychologically people can be reliant on the narrative and symbolic value stitched within a piece of clothing which enables them to feel a particular way, such as Laura’s shirt allowing her to feel close to her dad and Joan’s Jacket connecting her with home.  This ensures the longevity of particular possessions regardless of their poor physical state which from the hegemonic perspective of fast fashion, would mark them as rubbish.  Laura and Joan, will always be connected to these garments, regardless of their ‘trend’ status, due to the emotions and identity bonded within them.

This research has enabled me to develop my proposed FMP co-design brand concept, through verifying how engaging the consumer in garment creation through a co-design retail model, has the potential to create a new kind of relationship between product, maker and user.   This relationship rooted in individual wants and needs and a personal identity narrative, will generate satisfaction and value; powerful emotions which have the potential to free the consumer from fast-pace unsustainable and artificial fast fashion cycles and stimulate more ethical consumption practises.

This research could be considered limited in the sense that my research was confined to two respondents.  However the subjective nature of fashion and value and people/products relations means that, I am simply exploring this phenomena through this research rather than looking for any pattern or defined conclusion.  Therefore the amount of respondents is not integral to the validity of this research which is about quality rather than quantity. 

Additionally, the time constraints of this research meant that I have not been able to explore the literature to it’s fullest extent.  This is something I will build into my time plan for my FMP in preparation for my mini dissertation.

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