Film still from 'dress-series/measure' by Ruby Hoette en Elisa van Joolen, edited by Sunanda Sachatrakul (2011)
|slowLab is currently fundraising on Kickstarter to take the Slow design movement to the next level. During the campaign, we're sending out posts like this one that explore different branches of Slow design knowledge, introduce some of the people involved, and demonstrate why building a platform for this knowledge is important. Thanks in advance for your support!|
Fashion is an area of design overflowing with positive potential. It's also a major player in the 'fast' world, which means that its Slower aspects are often missed (or at best distorted) by the sheer scale of the industry and its pace of production and consumption.
In their 2006 book, England in Particular: A Celebration of the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive*, Sue Clifford and Angela King of Common Ground remind us that "Scale is important, as is the question of who defines it." There, they point out that: "When things are looked at on a larger scale, sensitivity is lost. People become 'the public'; streets and fields become 'sites'; words and streams become 'natural resources.' These abstractions render professionals forgetful of lives, livelihoods and places."
|Clifford and King's focus on local stories, details, authenticity, and humanity have a lot in common with the fashion research of Ruby Hoette and Elisa van Joolen, whose work helps to restore balance and regain a "fineness of grain" (Clifford and King's terminology) to how people perceive, use, and participate in society through their clothing. The two designers' ongoing project dress-series is based on their common interest in reshaping ideas around clothing, time and space, what they call "the experience of fashion in context."|
Ruby and Elisa explain it as follows:
"With context we mean society: the space, physical and ideological in which the object of clothing and the ritual of fashion manifest and acquire layers of meaning and value. [Our project] reveals the beauty of the ordinary and the surprise of the extraordinary in the everyday through observations and subtle interventions. [It] delves into wardrobes, thrift stores, high end department stores and everything in between. It registers the moments standing on a city street corner or noticing a pair of fluorescent shoes on a busy train. It is a space to celebrate the playfulness of fashion and imagine ways for it to be pushed beyond accepted forms of production and presentation to a more inclusive reality."
|This is surely the kind of thing design activist Stuart Walker had in mind when, in 2010, he proposed the terms 'Slowing' or 'doing Slowing' to describe processes of actively pursuing more reflective thinking, expressions and relationships by design. **|
Whether the topic is fashion, digital communication or urbanism, ALL instances of design have sensory, emotional, social, cultural and environmental consequences that in the 'fast' world are too often distorted or hidden from view. 'Slowing' helps bring those aspects into focus and begins to show us a better, more holistic way forward.
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Research image from 'dress-series/measure' by Ruby Hoette and Elisa van Joolen (2011)
* - Thanks again to Simon Heijdens for gifting this book to slowLab in 2007!
** - Stuart Walker is professor of Sustainable Design and Co-Director of ImaginationLancaster, a creative research lab at Lancaster University (UK). His recent focus within product design is on establishing a "meaningful and sustainable material culture" on topics ranging from product aesthetics to design that encompasses notions of spirituality.