Behind the Project

Relearning roles: designer, producer and consumer

Even though there is a vast amount of information concerning the negative environmental and social impact that the overproduction of fashion contributes to, the industry still manages to attract and make more people into consumers as they are playing on the human need and desire for renewal.

Every act of consumption requires a degree of participation and this participation could perhaps be used as a force for change of the way fashion is created, used and shared. This to possibly cultivate a delay in the way consumption is made. Do-It-Yourself (DIY), Do-It-Together (DIT), open design, participatory design, co-design, redesign, customisation and the emerging maker culture are all approaches challenging relationships between the designer, producer and the consumer as the user is more active in the making process. In the long run this creative activity could replace the need to consume products with the speed it is done today.

These scenarios do however demand a change in attitudes and mindset amongst all involved in order to find ways to imagine new ways to enjoy fashion with new skills, mindsets and systems.The different kinds of users and makers of fashion thus need to relearn new skills – or recall skills that used to be inherited from person to person. The Life of a Dress installation proposes a space for this, a place to experiment a learn from one another. Not with the intention that everyone should become designer but with the belief that everyone has to share and that could contribute to improving our common bigger picture. 

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PhD Thesis

Redesigning Together: Relearning Roles and the Value of Materials in the Overproduction of Fashion

Based on the two premises that (1) everyone can be a designer at times, and (2) reutilisation is a viable sustainable approach to deal with problems of waste, a third premise (3) an installation matters was put into practice as an installation containing an exhibition and a crafting workshop was organised in Mozambique, Mexico, Sweden and Singapore. Taking support from the two theoretical frameworks of community of practice and activity theory the participants’ activities and responses during the redesign of second-hand garments were analysed. The resulting installations can be said to have facilitated four different temporary communities of practice in which learning and artefacts were socially produced.

The project shows that people were attracted to and then inclined to participate in the proposed activities as they voluntarily chose to engage and find their own role in the process of reusing and redesigning materials that they previously had not considered using. Their resulting artefacts confirm the initial assumption that everyone can be a designer at times if given the opportunity. The project also shows that it is possible to use the concept of reutilisation and redesign to gather people from different socio economic backgrounds with different motivations, ages, cultures and pre-skills into a collaborative learning experience that also becomes a means of production.

To place the production process closer to consumers in this way changes people’s relationship towards the materials and processes needed for the production of fashion. They become closer to their personalised garment and their perception of waste materials changes. This revaluation of roles and materials could have an impact on the way people choose to continue to engage in fashion as they may either move away from the habit of buying new materials or begin to create affordable fashion from what already exists. If this initiative can become recurring within communities then significant difference could be achieved as people choose to turn waste into resource, satisfying their need for renewal and urge to be creative together whilst coming up with their own everyday approaches to sustainable fashion.

Access the full PhD here or send a request for your own hard copy by sending me an email here.


The Life of a Dress- An Introduction

An introduction to The Life of a Dress traveling installation and a peek into the journey of the map dress. 

Access the full booklet here or send a request for your own hard copy by email here.


The Life of a Dress- Mozambique 2013

A diary of the preparation and execution of the life of a dress-installations second visit to Maputo, Mozambique. Photos by Roberto Rubalcava. 

Access the full booklet here or send a request for your own hard copy by email here.

Community of Practice, Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Together, Participatory Design, Social Production, Sustainable Fashion, Value Creation