Long Story Short: The Future of Sustainable Fashion Consumption

 

Following the trends of the circular economy and embracing the principles of the digital culture, the project ‘Long Story Short’ aims to investigate how a systemic change can be implemented to satisfy fashion consumers’ expectations with the broader perspective of designing a new culture of responsibility.

Despite the actions taken in spreading awareness about environmental issues, various studies show how they consistently failed to change or create new, counteracting behaviours. The hypothesis here formulated hence explores the unbalance between the fast, digital and the slow, sustainable world. If the digital world makes us more demanding, sustainability requires more time, investments and research, hence creating a ‘value-action gap’ in those that are consciously aware but practically stuck in traditional consumption patterns.

In the attempt of bridging the gap between thoughts and behaviours, the project focuses on individuals needs and desires to nudge waste reduction by tackling the emotional connection to clothes and exploiting social media’s ability to empower. Long Story Short tries to re-imagine, through the formation of collaborative networks and proactive fashion practices, not only traditional fashion business models but also the relations among individuals, their garments and the environment.

Ultimately, by proposing a digital platform facilitating meaningful and impactful interactions between wearers and garments, the project envisions the creation of a radical future scenario: that of rethinking a society based on new kind of exchanges, beyond monetary value.

Take Part In The project. Share your Story!

Under the umbrella of Long Story Short, the campaign Knitted Stories aims to collect the stories behind our garments to build a community not only of fashion appreciators but of fashion change makers. Creating an emotional attachment to our clothes – our story – is the first step to nurture an interest for the environment too.

 

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Politics & Poetics: An investigation on the digital reformulation of crafts’ production through jewellery making.

During the last couple of decades, a seemingly quiet revolution has invaded the field of craftsmanship. Wrongly attributed to a realm ontologically opposed to those of innovation and technological advancement, crafts today have entered the digital infrastructure.

Embracing the desire of improving the human experience, craftsmanship is probably the most primordial kind of technology. Still today the latter plays a fundamental role: as an object, it serves a culture by evolving with and through the evolution of values, beliefs and technology of a given community; as a movement it stands for one of the finest types of knowledge, combining the physical with the intellectual experience.

Combining the traditional values of craftsmanship with a tendency towards more futuristic scenarios, such as open-source platforms, full automation and consumer-led participation, the new Digital Craft movement is more than just technological change. It is about redefining the craft practice above the parameters of the handcrafted objects and building the premises of a new evolution of crafts’ value and role within the contemporary global society.

Due to the broadness of craft, the research has approached craftsmanship from a specific angle, that of jewellery, chosen especially for its inherently political identity. Beyond carrying the physical configurations of personal values, jewellery is also a metaphorical representation of power relationships by being a relic of social, economic and political status.

The here presented body of research will critically analyse the implications carried by the new craft, once again challenging the factory systems, for the achievement of a future strategy that positions craft at the core of the most imminent societal debates.

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The Future of Healthcare

Certainly, every person who has ever come in contact with hospitals have felt, at least once in their life, a sense of dissatisfaction regarding the services provided by the latter. In front of an ageing and growing population, the rise in numbers of chronic disorders and disabilities, economic and political crisis, the current system governing healthcare outstandingly appears as obsolete and dysfunctional.

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The Elephant’s Artworks

The Heygate Estate, a brutalist building from the 1970s in the district of Elephant & Castle, was home to more than three thousand people until it was included, in 2014, in the ambitious regeneration project of the area which leads to the building’s demolition.
The Elephant & Castle Project, designed by the organisation Lend Lease in collaboration with the Council of Southwark aims to re-brand the district into a more human-sized, sustainable and desirable area to satisfy the ‘zone 1’ requisites.

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‘Elephant & Castle is a place where people just travel through; the program wants to make the area a place in which people want to stay. […] The 1960s architecture, the roundabouts and the unappealing subways are starting to be wiped away to create a new destination in which to live, work and play’ (35% Campaign, 2012 cited in Southwark Notes, 2013).

From the demolition of the Heygate Estate, an exciting hub of pop-up stores and start-ups called the Artworks had been launched in 2014.
Similarly to Shoreditch’s Boxpark, the c village, comprising of 39 brightly coloured shipping containers deriving from the former estate and arranged over three floors, includes a variety of amenities. By offering a low-cost business and retail space, the hub brings a good concentration of creative businesses and independent artists. ‘The aim is to provide not just an office but an entire ecosystem providing a destination and an experience that is flexible, collaborative and fun’ (The Artworks, 2015).

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The shipping containers at the Heygate Estate, witing to be plugged in. The Artworks, 2013

 

Fiona Colley, member for regeneration at Southwark Council, claimed: ‘The idea of the interim uses and creative projects in and around Elephant & Castle is to make sure that Walworth continues to thrive during substantial change, especially while the demolition and construction work takes place. Walworth is already a popular area for artists and students in the creative industries and is a hub for small businesses and independent retail. Artworks will provide temporary space for more of these types of business and support our drive to boost the local economy’ (Southwark Notes, 2013).

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The Artwork, 2014

Apparently exciting many are the contradictions concerning not only the Artworks project but also the whole regeneration program. The ‘regeneration’ of the Heygate Estate has brought, in fact, to the demolition of 1,200 council houses and the re-building of only 71 new ones. ‘With private rental being unaffordable for so many, it’s pretty head-smackingly obvious that regeneration, in this instance, means social cleansing’ (Hancox, 2014).

HAS THE WORD ‘ART’ IN IT SO MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU (Southwark Notes, 2013).

shipping-containeraddWhile the council keeps on claiming the benefits that the new ‘Boxpark’ will bring to the local community, the latter doesn’t seem to perceive them.

‘Here it is still not actually clear what ‘benefits‘ they are being to the area with this unexpanded statements’ (Southwark Notes, 2013).

The land on which the Artworks has been built was, in fact, a well-used green open space.

‘Artworks now seeks to open up a public space that was taken away from us to run what is essentially a private business that then pretends to provide or will provide minimal community uses’ (Southwark Notes, 2013).

Apparently not bringing any benefit to the former community, the initiative also doesn’t seem to contribute to the local creatives. The rental costs, around £180 per week for a 320sq ft container, bills not included, results in quite expensive considering also other areas already know to be much bigger creative cluster such as Shoreditch, Brixton, etc. Moreover, interesting is how, although being close to the London College of Communication, in a classroom of roughly 50 people including graphic designers, illustrators, design managers, etc., no one knew much about the Artwork project. Apparently serving neither the former estates’ communities nor the creatives, the Elephant & Castle regeneration scheme is a perfect example of the new trend of marketing cities, or districts, as creatives only for the private and lucrative purposes of business in the disadvantage of local communities.

Bibliography:

Pop-Up Stores and Participatory Economy

Hectic, precarious and digitalised, the city’s lifestyle is dramatically changing the way we experience daily environments. While cities grow faster than ever and the crowds become increasingly frenetic and voluminous, people inevitably try to find refuge in the digital world where everyone can have his seemly peaceful spot.

Especially when it comes to shopping, it has become surprisingly challenging and intimidating to enjoy buying in high street shops which, the majority of the time, are overcrowded with people inevitably obstructing the enjoyment of such activity. It is for this reason, that, consequently, more and more buyers are turning to online shopping, a relaxing and enjoyable experience easily done by their home’s sofas. The e-commerce business is, in fact, dominating the market scene representing a $262 billion industry. ‘The brick-and-mortar retail experience, whether in strip malls, malls or separate buildings, is on the decline overall, particularly in the specialty retail sector’ (Storefront, n.d.). Nonetheless, even in a digital age where everything is ephemeral, people are still experiencing a feeling of nostalgia for a human-sized, not reproducible and physical retail experience. Shops are, in fact, not only places for buying but also for mutual visibility and social engagement. What thus appears from the market’s demands is the need to reinvent the experience of shopping, not through a new chain franchise but through a unique, welcoming and innovative concept of retailing.

In this scenario, Pop-up stores, or temporary shops, arise as the perfect answer. ‘No matter what form the pop-up retail shop comes in, this trend is going to become more and more prevalent as retail stores and mall owners seek to find a way to remain relevant in an increasingly e-commerce-centric world. These changes are beneficial to consumers as well by giving them a way to see unique products in person instead of hoping that their Internet pictures do them justice’ (The Storefront, n.d.). The strength of temporary retail shops lays in the capacity of creating an eclectic and memorable experience through the investment of a small budget, short time and high level of experimentation.

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MOMO pop-up store, Hong Kong

From a consumer perspective, neither digital nor physical retail is enough for today’s shopper, and what pop-up shops can do is link the internet world with the real world (Stuart Anderson, TfL’s head of retail, cited in Faul, 2014).

Pop-up stores, seen as a ‘lucrative means of bringing innovative  retail experiences to life’ (Faul, 2014), are not only desired by small independent firms but have been increasingly employed also by high street brands. Through this new concept of retailing, affirmed brands connect quickly and build stronger relationships with their customer, sell more, build brand awareness and loyalty and test new markets or products.

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Beach pop-up store

The onslaught of digital technology in our lives, as much as in business, is altering the way we communicate and interact and is increasingly underlying our necessity of collaboration. Social media are, in fact, based on the idea of community and shared place – concept of which we are witnessing the lost in the physical world. Moreover, the economy of the last decade has been increasingly based on participation, a reason why platforms such as Uber or Airbnb have successfully entered our everyday lives. Ultimately, also Pop-up stores represent the rise of the participatory economy.

Pop-up Stores are the zeitgeist of all brands in 2016 and are no stranger to collaboration (The Storefront, n.d.).

Partnering allows, in fact, brands or designers to embrace a larger audience. Quick cash flow is not the only outcome of temporary shops: they are ‘revolutionising retail in a time when consumers long for connection and are communicating brand messages purely’ (The Storefront, n.d.).

Although, collaboration in pop-up stores doesn’t necessarily need to happen only in the background. Pop-ups are interactive hubs that often put the crowds in charge of determining the evolution of the shop.

 

For example, The Street Store in Cape Town, South Africa, founded in January 2014, lays on the public’s participation. The pop-up is a fashion store where the target customers are for the majority homeless people and can easily be recreated everywhere. While encouraging people to donate their second-hand garments, which are hung on the sidewalks of the city, the shop’s mission is to provide free of charge clothes to anyone that can’t afford to buy them from a high street retailer.

 

Reaching more than a 1,000 people on its first day of operation, The Street Store changes lives. The ease and accessibility of the pop-up shop allow for the ability to be utilised in other locations besides Cape Town (The Storefront, n.d.).

Built on crowds spontaneity but portraying a particular purpose pop-ups of this form are increasingly growing in our society. The emerging phenomenon symbolises the need to reformulate not only the praxis but also the meaning of shopping and consumption. Instead of designing goods we need to invest in the creation, or co-creation, of services and experience which employ products into the realisation of a fairer economy of shared meaning.

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The Street Store, Cape Town, 2014

Bibliography 

Pedagogy and Cultural Practice

The most important role of museums is not only communicating the past but also stating the present.

Similarly to how human beings structure reality into categories to formulate meaning, museums are built onto positive and negative comparisons which cooperate in shaping a coherent message for the visitors. ‘Museum-as-institution became a great field of comparison […]. [T]he museum’s comparison began to operate within a space neutralised by efforts to range and to classify: all objects of type A in one place, those of type B in another’ (Krauss, 1986 cited in Greenberg et alia, 1996).

When entering an exhibition space, the displayed objects thus loose singularity in virtue of a higher purpose, that is communicating to a specific audience a precise discourse and, in some occasions, display, through the past, a single version of the present. This phenomenon, as described by Malraux (1947), in the museum artworks exist only in relation to each other. While the objects of interest appear themselves to become ‘silent’ and to be trapped in the machine by getting decontextualised, the sum of them – the exhibition – strikes an aesthetic statement.

Accordingly, through their collections, cultural institutions can construct social, cultural and political representation: ‘they make statements about how the world and its peoples, histories and cultures are conceptualised’ (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000). By showing significant images portraying important actions or events, collections take also on a pedagogic and moral role. Through the persistent exhibition of specific pictures and exclusion of others, a state can control its identity and the way society and history are perceived by the citizens.

The history of the National Portrait Gallery is a perfect example of the relation between pedagogy, society and cultural institutions. At the opening of the National Portrait Gallery in 1856, when the collection was made of almost 230 (of which only 22 showing women) portraits, a precise picture of the state’s identity was given to the population: nationalism, elitism and masculinity were at the core of each artwork displayed. Its primary objective was, through the showcase of portraits of nobles and notable personalities, to ‘encourage and enable “mental exertion”, “noble actions”, and “good conduct”’ (Hooper-Greenhill, 2000).

Holding 195,000 portraits, the collection today also includes celebrities, symbol of how, through social media, the perception of ‘nobility’ has evolved throughout times. ‘Eye Pop: The Celebrity Gaze,’ curated by Dorothy Moss, is an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery which showcases, through various media (not only paintings but also video portraits, photographs and sculptures), the nobles of the 21st century such as Brad Pitt, Katy Perry or Britney Spears. David Ward ‘had been thinking a lot about what it means to be a celebrity at this current moment, and how important it is for all of us to be thinking critically about this constantly shifting and changing category called ‘celebrity’ in the age of social media”. “Eye Pop” is also an invitation “to think critically about the way celebrities can rise and fall […] People make mistakes. We have portraits of people in the collection who have certainly fallen in the public eye, but that’s part of history. So we don’t hide from that, we’re not celebrating that, we’re telling the story of reality. That’s why they’re there’ (Dorothy Moss, 2015 quoted in Goldstein, 2015).

Bringing objects together always creates assumptions on the present reality, and act as a visual statement on our society. Today, as we are witnessing the Information Age, where flows of data and knowledge are accessible at any time, and anywhere, collections displayed in gallery serve more as a mirror to our society and as an occasion to reflect rather than and a passive infusion of what being a good citizen should mean.

Bibliography:

Art & Gentrification: The Rise of The Creative City

As stated by Atkinson and Easthope, ‘creativity and economic development have become a key feature of the theoretical and practice landscape of urban politics in the last decade’ (2007).
In an age of globalisation, where the population is losing the sense of locality, shared places and identity, the importance of including creativity into city policy arises (Landry, 2000). The growth of the creative economy has lead countries to invest in their urban planning strategies to redesign cities for the new market trend.

‘With the move towards the information and conceptual age, the focus has turned towards attracting particular types of people with specific skills and capabilities. As a result, many major metropolitan areas around the world are now more drawn to a developmental formula that combines a focus on the new economy, investment in cultural resources, and an attempt to create a vibrant sense of place’ (Atkinson and Easthope, 2007).

The creative city appears thus as a cluster for the creative class, made of artist, software designers as well as management and legal experts (Pratt, 2008). Grouped and defined by Richard Florida, the creative class has three characteristics: technology, talent and tolerance. The occupations mentioned above, from Florida’s point of view, are a part, in fact, of the new high-tech economy, are distinctive of creative talent and are represented by a tolerant and diverse lifestyle.

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Artwork, in the district of Elephant & Castle, is an example of the attempt of regenerating the area for attracting the new ‘creative class’. Made out of containers from the demolished Heygate Estate, the art hub aims, in disadvantage of the pre-existing communities, to bring a new social class to the district.

What’s interesting about this definition is the ‘exercise of place marketing’ that serves as an urban planning strategy. ‘Florida develops a line of argument concerning how to attract educated labour and, thereby attracting high-tech industries, and to achieve growth’ (Pratt, 2008). The problematic of such definition lays in the failure of considering the pre-existing conditions and communities of the cities. Although, the reality of the creative class is not necessarily based on a bohemian lifestyle, from which comes the need to design cities like large shopping centres or themes park. Artists today are, in fact, nothing but the ‘archetypal post-Fordist worker: never tied down for long, floating from one short-term project to the next, constantly thinking outside of the box, always on the lookout for new ideas, with no discernible split between “labour-time” and “leisure-time”; willing to carry the risk of a “creative” life on their own, rather than look to the state or a collective organisation for support. The line between “the artist” and that post-Fordist ideological hero, the entrepreneur, is so slim as to be virtually invisible’ (Bolton, 2013).

The attempt of developing new creative cities is determining a phenomenon of gentrification, which mainly arises where there is a lack of affordable housing. The paradox of the new economy is that if one hand it aspires to ‘create clean and safe spaces to encourage social and economic investments’; on the other it creates ‘a desire for gentrification and the supplanting of needy communities with high-income groups who might also facilitate the improvement of the physical fabric of the city’ (Atkinson and Easthope, 2007).unknown

Although, art is not the determining cause of gentrification. ‘Artists colonise cheap and dilapidated property, in time those seeking a ‘boho culture’ (Brooks 2001; Lloyd 2006) move in so as to be close to the artists. Of course, the key point for cultural entrepreneurs and artists is that as the art galleries and rich loft owners move in the artists are forced out due to rising prices (Shorthouse 2004).

Experts like Florida or Landry, while offering social and urban solutions to the new market demands (the growth of the creative industries), are leaving out the problem of gentrification, defining it as an unavoidable phenomenon for the pursuit of more ‘open and tolerant cities’ (Atkinson and Easthope, 2007). The outcome is that social and economic inequality are still being included in the new planning scheme. Instead of promoting, through urban planning, only one or a few groups of society, a more inclusive kind of design, where art becomes a mean of overcoming class and minorities struggle, ‘rather than a means of erasing it’ (Bolton, 2013) is the real challenge of the creative cities. Art should alleviate inequality instead of increase it in the name of the prosperity of the few.

Bibliography 

  • Atkinson, R. and Easthope, H. (2007). The Consequences of the Creative Class: The Pursuit of Creativity Strategies in Australia’s Cities. 1st ed. Australia: University of Tasmania.
  • Bolton, M. (2013). Is art to blame for gentrification?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/30/art-blame-gentrification-peckham [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].
  • Heathcote, E. (2014). Are creative people the key to city regeneration?. [online] Financial Times. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/349f249c-c642-11e3-ba0e-00144feabdc0 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].
  • Inclusion by Design: Equality, Diversity and The Built Environment. (2008). 1st ed. London: Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.
  • Kapur, J. (n.d.). Capital limits on creativity:  Neoliberalism and its uses of art. [online] Ejumpcut.org. Available at: http://ejumpcut.org/archive/jc53.2011/KapurCreativeIndus/index.html [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].
  • Pratt, Andy C. (2008) Creative cities: the cultural industries and the creative class. Geografiska annaler: Series B – Human geography, 90 (2). pp. 107-117.DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0467.2008.00281.x