PhD application excerpt: A New Literacy for Sustainable Textiles

The sustainability agenda is becoming evermore widely discussed as more and more people realise their part in returning to nature and having a less harmful impact on the world they live in. Books such as The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy (eds. Stibbe and Villiers-Stuart, 2009) and the more recent How to Thrive in the Next Economy (Thackara, 2015) are examples of this discourse within further education. This comes from a long history of the environmentalist movement, of which sustainability is the frontier as an anti-growth, anti-capitalist future where we will think of the needs of coming generations, both human and environment wise, and strive to design accordingly to improve current threats to these systems.

Questions around what we have the power to change, where to improve and how exactly to achieve this are circulating widely within the world of fashion and textiles; through online articles and forums such as Ecouterre and Sustainable Human, with long debates in the form of comments; and have perhaps been theorised upon the most in academia, as illustrated by the hefty volume recently published of such papers by Fletcher and Tham, which strive to prove that sustainable fashion is not an oxymoron. However, the appearance of this theoretical debate amongst those who should perhaps be the best informed, that is, the young designers shaping the future of this system, is somewhat lacking. This is something that has been addressed by the research group Textiles Environment Design (TED) at Chelsea, UAL, with whom my research would be most fitting. Prof. Kay Politowicz in particular was instrumental in TED’s TEN, a learning pack in the form of information cards for designers to think about how they could reduce their environmental impact before making design decisions for a new garment. I would argue, however, that it is not only the barrier of eco-literacy within this field which needs to be increasingly addressed with tools such as TED’s TEN, but the barriers such as governing laws that are apparent once one tries to move forward with this newfound theoretical literacy.

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jess.the.weaver

is a weaver of words, storyteller of sustainability and textile traveller extraordinaire. Here you will find stories of textile design, tales of living with a mental health condition and personal travelogues. Enjoy!

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