Center for Sustainable Fashion, eco-fashion, ethical fashion, green fashion, Kate Fletcher, Local Wisdom, London, London College of Fashion, New York, New York City, Parsons The New School for Design, Sustainable Fashion, sustainable style, Timo Rissanen, Pascale Gatzen, Craft of Use

What is Local Wisdom trying to accomplish?

We’re trying to find ways to increase the uptake of some of the things that we’re seeing, some of the knowledge and wisdom that we see. Sometimes it will be through objects, the creation of new product, and putting those in the fashion system. Other times it will be in really different ways, some of which we don’t know yet. It might be integration of stories or education campaigns or a business model or who knows?

[We need] ecological limits, not creative limits, to what we do with stuff.

It’s really exciting and that’s what we’re in the middle of now. We have two more focus groups as part of this phase of work that we’re currently in, and then there are seven design projects that are running. In March 2014, there will be a symposium in London and an exhibition of some of the work.

[We’ll] discuss the craft of use, which is what all of these ideas are sort of pointing towards, the skills and practices and doings and sayings associated with using things in satisfying ways. We’ll also explore it within the context of ideas of post-growth economics, which is the big sort of challenging economic framework that allows us to see strict limits to what we do with stuff—ecological limits, not creative limits. Trying to find ways to develop qualitative links to increase the potential without necessarily buying them all.

KEEP READING: BALANCING OUR IMMEDIATE DESIRES WITH THE LONG-TERM FUTURE >

Center for Sustainable Fashion, eco-fashion, ethical fashion, green fashion, Kate Fletcher, Local Wisdom, London, London College of Fashion, New York, New York City, Parsons The New School for Design, Sustainable Fashion, sustainable style, Timo Rissanen, Pascale Gatzen, Craft of Use

What are some of the project’s long-term objectives and what outcomes do you hope to see?

One of the objectives of the project, actually, is just to celebrate what people have done and just to give them a little boost so they have that slightly bigger smile.

Not only do we need to reduce the amount that’s consumed, but we also need to alter the way we see consumption.

[The project is a] real recognition that the fashion industry designs the products and you buy a product, yet your engagement with it through your life is not as a product. We’re trying to find a way to encourage people to see the design process as much more contingent on real life rather than the still life of a product, which is sold for the snapshot of an image of somebody standing. That’s not what life is like. It’s an ongoing process, and so it’s trying to make a shift.

I think that that alters where the emphasis is placed in the process of consumption, and I think that’s absolutely fundamental. Not only do we need to reduce the amount that’s consumed—because I think everyone accepts that that’s sort of informed—but also that the infrastructure of and the way that we see consumption has to alter.

Center for Sustainable Fashion, eco-fashion, ethical fashion, green fashion, Kate Fletcher, Local Wisdom, London, London College of Fashion, New York, New York City, Parsons The New School for Design, Sustainable Fashion, sustainable style, Timo Rissanen, Pascale Gatzen, Craft of Use

How do you see this happening?

We need to find some new commitment strategies that help us balance our immediate desires with the long-term future, because they certainly need to be much more effective. However, the increasing pace of consumerism and the increasing options for novelty over time have eroded the effectiveness of many of these things like willpower and strength of character.

We need to find some new commitment strategies that help us balance our immediate desires with the long-term future.

Actually it’s really unfashionable to talk about those things, but in a way those are the things that would allow us to not buy it now and see that if we don’t buy this now, actually something maybe positive will happen in the future. It’s also fully recognizing that all-out consumption induces anxiety and doesn’t satisfy people in their inner soul.

Their spirit is actually saying, “We need to moderate it.” The challenge within these commitment strategies is to try to pace consumption, not maximize it. I think there’s sort of this gray line, which says affluence is really delivered—really important to influence—increases in wellbeing, but more moderate affluence would’ve sufficed. So if we’d stopped sooner, we would’ve still had exactly the same benefits, but we’ve just gone crazy, gone headlong into this sort of thing. And I think that that’s a challenge: to enable people to see that this extra isn’t going to give you any more, so stop now.

Center for Sustainable Fashion, eco-fashion, ethical fashion, green fashion, Kate Fletcher, Local Wisdom, London, London College of Fashion, New York, New York City, Parsons The New School for Design, Sustainable Fashion, sustainable style, Timo Rissanen, Pascale Gatzen, Craft of Use

Does it make sense to combine the term sustainable with fashion?

What I’m interested in is not the words as much as the experience to which those words point. If it wasn’t called one of those, it would be called something else, and then people would bad mouth that. I feel really influenced by some ideas developed in linguistics. Language influences ideas and it influences what people think. We need to find ways that shape our brains and open up our ability to see new possibilities. Maybe there’s a whole lexicon and not just a single word.

I really object to only talking about fashion sustainability in terms of transparency and supply-chain efficiency.

I really object to only talking about fashion sustainability in terms of transparency and supply-chain efficiency, because all it does is perpetuate the focus on production-based issues that are quantifiable and measurable and bottom-line. I’m not interested in that; actually I don’t think that’s a positive view. That’s why Local Wisdom is a project that chooses to examine what is possible. It’s not a Pollyanna-ish thing, but it’s about trying to get new terms and language and experiences and stories about the things that people are doing but without locking it down as a response to a problem or framing it in that way.

Some of the qualities or the things that I would want people to experience would be a sense of resilience and empathy and joy and connectedness and interdependence and all of these things, which I think are present in, perhaps, both of those terms.

Are there any people or literature in particular that have inspired your work?

I’ve been influenced by so many completely different things and people and experiences. There are lots of authors that I find amazing, poets. I find nature, being in nature, looking at natural systems, remarkable. I find beautiful objects, whether they’re garments or other things; I find them completely world-shifting and -changing.

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