Centre for Circular Design at University of the Arts London is a leading voice in academic design research and knowledge exchange. The team focus on using practice research approaches to steer and support circular economies and communities around the globe.
Design has been an important element of the resource-intensive production and consumption systems of the 20th Century. It continues to play a significant role in the damaging impacts on natural systems and human populations throughout the textile supply chain.
By bringing together academic and industry research CCD explores design for circular contexts with approaches ranging from emerging technology, systems design, materials, tools, user behaviour and social innovation. The Centre brings together UAL research staff, PhD students, national and international academic researchers, cultural institutions, industry and commerce to create new connections to support people and planet.
Partners & Collaborators
We launched as Centre for Circular Design in 2017 but our research journey began in 1996 as Textiles Environment Design. We are taking our past achievements into our circular futures.
Laetitia’s PhD expands the notion of design for disassembly as a design for recycling strategy to the field of creative textile design practice. It offers a typology of disassembly approaches that are relevant to the scale of textiles and proposes a methodology that puts making at the centre of circular design innovation. The collection of samples and prototypes that result from the research demonstrate a range of techniques for textile assembly that can be disassembled for upgrade or recycling of complex combinations.
Repair, practised throughout history, became outmoded in the 20th century by increased consumption. Although repair features in many making practices it is often not recognised as craft and skill in its own right. Bridget Harvey used studio practice, workshop facilitation, curation and protest to explore contemporary repair cultures, defining Repair-Making; seeing it as a craft of its own, as creating and hiding narratives, and implicitly and explicitly relating to activism. Repair-Making is social as well as material: a field of exciting actions, communities and politics, changing objects, mindsets and habits.
She also proposed autography as a practical and conceptual affinity between hand-writing and hand-making, and her episodic structure as a new way of constructing and organising practice-based writing for makers.
Miriam Ribul’s practice led PhD ‘Material Driven Textile Design’ (2018) developed a new methodological framework, and new material processes, combining methods from materials science and design. The research was structured around a model of three research residencies in pioneering material science laboratories: the Cellulose-based Textiles Section of the Biorefinery Unit’s Bioeconomy Division at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden in Stockholm and Borås, as well as the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems at Aalto University’s School of Chemical Engineering in Finland.
Phase 2 of the Mistra Future Fashion project began with questioning whether garments could be designed for different speeds of use. This ‘Circular Speeds’ work involved proposing ‘ultra-fast’ and ‘super-slow’ design prototypes for different extremes of use and different circular systems.
Researchers worked closely with material developers and service providers, to design appropriate materials for different speeds of use, production and recovery. They developed the concepts whilst also continuing to share their approaches with fashion designers in industry to enable commercial prototypes to be developed alongside the research garments. The work resulted in several major outcomes: The Circular Transitions conference and Making Circles exhibition in 2016, exhibits in the V&A’s Fashioned from Nature exhibition in 2018, the Disrupting Patterns exhibition with Filippa K also in 2018 and the Circular Design Guidelines published in 2019.
A beautiful soft draping woven fabric and a cosy powder-blue knitted baby’s cardigan… made from pre- and post- consumer textile waste? Until recently no one would have believed it could be possible, but demonstrating this principle: that textile waste can be used to make high-quality market-ready textiles and other materials was the aim of the EU H2020-funded Trash-2-Cash project. The 3.5 year research project involved 17 partners from 10 different countries selected to represent the whole material life cycle. An experimental design-driven methodology was used to enable the collaboration along with new facilitation techniques and Life Cycle Thinking approaches designed and delivered by CCD researchers; the circular design concepts informed the materials development in an iterative co-design process to produce six sensational master case product prototypes.
This research was conducted as part of the Mistra Future Fashion phase 1 work. It addressed the need for textile designers to contribute to systemic change in the industry, through challenging oneself and one's beliefs. The project included workshop techniques that resulted in new tools being created to aid the designer on a journey of discovery, through the Sustainable Textile Designer, to the Design Facilitator, to Design Steward. The full Transitionary Textiles thesis is available below:
Jen's practice research was titled ‘e-Co-Textile design’ and applied the concept of ‘fashion activism’ to explore how textile design and making might be combined with social and digital media tools, to pilot alternative fast fashion models and promote sustainability. Jen is now the Research Manager at V&A Dundee, Scotlands first Design Museum and her interests have become more interdisciplinary over time, drawing upon the fields of user experience, interaction and service design. More about her PhD can be found below:
The Centre was honoured with this industry-focused award in 2014 for their contribution to sustainable textile design education and industry influence. The award noted that TED had made a significant contribution to how sustainability issues were understood and how problems could become design challenges for future generations.
The arsenal of tools, methods and approaches for circular design developed, tested and used by researchers over 18 years since the group’s first formation had become a valuable resource to the team and it became obvious that it could also be valuable beyond the Centre. CCD decided that making these tools accessible could help Textile Designers bring about change in their own practice, be that in academic or industrial contexts. In 2014 the team were finally able to make their accumulated experience and resources accessible to a wider audience through the Textile Toolbox web portal which was funded as part of the Mistra Future Fashion phase 1 program. Textile Toolbox remains a valuable archive for textile designers.
FIREup (Fashion, Innovation, Research and Enterprise) was a one-year initiative based at University of the Arts London (UAL), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and lead by Professor Sandy Black.
FIREup was intended to unlock the potential of industry and academic collaboration, and was designed to help designer-fashion businesses in London access knowledge based in the university’s research centres and academic staff across three prestigious colleges: Central Saint Martins, London College of Fashion and Chelsea College of Arts.
TFRC’s Professor Becky Earley was a a co-investigator, along with CSM’s Adam Thorpe. During the year Earley designed and delivered workshops, and mentored a seed funded project between Kate Goldsworthy and SME Worn Again. The SocioLog workshop enabled UAL researchers and lecturers to share insights and ideas for the sector, using an online platform workshop space. The Project Passports workshop brought SME’s into UAL to review: fashion and textiles design research; available funding; bid writing; and networking.
The project ended in March 2014, with an industry-facing London event. You can read more about it on tge project website.
Cultures of Resilience (CoR) was a two year, cross UAL project that aimed to research and present a new cultural discourse on resilience with the hope of bringing about a more resilient society, better able to cope with the crises and disasters of the early twenty-first century. The CoR programme of eventsintended to bring together the CoR project groups and collaborators, to provide a space for the exchange of information and the documentation of research and actions associated with the project.
Prof Rebecca Earley and PhD students Bridget Harvey and Clara Vuletich conducted three workshops Repair Before the Break, Cool School Tools and Shavasana Shirt as part of the Cultures of Resilience 4 day event programme included in the University of the Arts, London, Research Fortnight celebrating research activities in the University.
Repair Before the Break built on the discourse of repair and encouraged participants to think about repair before the break, asking what forms might be understood to be resilient, flourishing and repairable, prototyping ideas for objects that communicate repairability using drawings, mappings and lo-fi objects.
Cool School Tools included staff and pupils from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School to explore regenerational inventiveness using a toolbox to explore the basic premise agents + tools = resilience. Lining the gallery with plastic sheeting, wallpaper lengths and garments, primary school children used the toolbox to upcycle t-shirts from the lost property department using mark-making through play with a range of toys to create a wall installation, finished garments, film and curriculum resource pack.
Shavasana Shirt transformed the gallery into a yoga studio for a one-hour yoga workshop conducted in the studio and via Skype from Australia; and whilst the participants meditated and moved they used transfer inks to mark make on their wallpaper yoga mats. The resulting ‘designs’ were used to co-create an overprinted upcycled shirt. Shavasana, the ‘corpse pose’, ended the session, from which the participants were reborn, to be more mindful designers and consumers.
A key approach for TED researchers wasto facilitate workshops that can inspire consumers and designers to engage with materials towards closed-loop thinking and action, and to share their ideas with fellow participants. Earley’s Top 100 work begun to evolve into a practice that facilitated others to create a refashioned garment for themselves, using readily available tools and resources like irons and dry foods. Earley called this approach ‘Fast reFashion’ – referencing the speed of high street trends, but drawing people back to their wardrobes or a second hand shop for the garment that will begin the fashion process – the material and the personal transformation.
The approach was first tested at TED’s Black Hack workshop (Chelsea, September 2012), where 10 TFRC researchers were invited to design and execute a heat photogram overprint for a polyester garment, using the heat press. In the next iteration – Black Hack Chat – a collaborative workshop was designed for the 10th EAD conference (Gothenburg, April 2013) and combined two research projects: the Black Hack approach was fused with Old is the New Black, where Jen Ballie and Otto von Busch re-worked old clothes using black paint. The aim of the EAD workshop was to push the boundaries of textile design practice through co-design, to identify how it can be used as a tool for citizen engagement for both the individual creating for themselves, and the retailer who wishes to creatively engage with their products over a longer time frame. In the run up to the event Earley made Fractal Shirt (2013) using a domestic iron, and published a ‘Shirt Film’ for people who wanted to make at home during the workshop session.
Building on feedback and insight from the EAD workshop and the techniques developed with the iron, Earley teamed up with Copenhagen Business School (CBS) PhD researcher Kirsti Reitan Andersen to run a workshop for the MISTRA Future Fashion (MFF) consortium. Symposium Shirt (November 2013) tested researchers from a broad range of science and humanities disciplines to create something to wear to the symposium dinner that evening. With only an hour at the end of the day to refashion a polyester item, the MFF scientists used both ink and transfer paper with irons (on table tops) to create Fast reFashion attire.
The next phase of the Black Hack work took the ideas to China, to engage with a very different group of stakeholders. Shanghai Shirt (October 2013) explored MFF PhD researcher Clara Vuletich’s ideas about social textile design, producing prints with a group of garment factory workers. Three months later, the Hong Kong Shirt (January 2014) created a co-designed item with 11 industry designers as part of the Miele Challenge, at the ReDress 2014 forum.
All the shirts from the Fast reFashion research were published on the MFF website.
Very little academic research addresses the real issues of implementing Circular Design in industry, but CCD see this as one of the most important pieces in the Sustainable Fashion Industry puzzle. Through a series of 5 workshops with the design team at H&M Stockholm, as part of the Mistra Future Fashion project, researchers gained a valuable insight into the challenges of implementing change from within a large global high street brand. The workshops involved using Ted’s Ten and other design tools in experimental formats to enable in-house fashion designers to discover the mindset, space and the leverage to practice circular design. The work resulted in 12 new redesign concepts and fed the ongoing research at CCD.
Kate completed the first UK practice-based doctorate focused on ‘designing textiles for the circular economy’. The project was supported as part of the Centre’s AHRC Funded project ‘Worn Again’. The research focussed on the then emerging fibre-to-fibre recovery space, with the launch of Teijin’s Eco-Circle technology launching just weeks into the project. This along with Kates interest in innovative manufacturing processes resulted in a practice led project with both technical, creative and strategic outputs.
Firstly, the research framed multiple strategies for circular design in its many complex forms, within a now, near and far future context. Secondly, it developed a new application for ‘laser welding’, a technology not prevalent in textile manufacturing. The textile processes developed resulted in over 20 finishing processes which could be applied to a recycled polyester substrate or composite material which would also preserve the mono-material character of the textile for future F2F recovery.
VF Corporation owns 30 brands across four groups – outdoor, active, workwear and jeans. They commissioned the team to use TED’s The TEN to develop a series of inputs for the Innovation Group at this major fashion collective. The researchers first created a UAL-wide student competition and presented the results at MIT Media Lab in Boston in 2011, where they also delivered a TED’s The TEN workshop to the top VF CEO’s. In 2012 they curated a showcase of new prototypes using The TEN as the framework for a VF Innovation event for 350 employees, that lasted 3 days, in North Carolina, USA.
Kay Politowicz selected graduates of 2012 who demonstrated an inventive approach to contemporary design. For them, sustainability is synonymous with good design – and represents a potentially successful way of doing business, based on the underlying principles of sustainability.
Many design graduates are setting up in business using local skills and resources. SME's are networking to provide themselves with material streams (including waste-streams) and with collaborative solutions to shared technologies in the production of textiles.
Traditional textile crafts - previously abandoned as uneconomic, are now being revived to make luxury products to complement the mass production of cheap basics. Coalitions between hand-made ‘one-offs’ and digital technology are revolutionising an approach to distributed manufacture by young designer-makers. Big business is taking note of trends in this area and are looking for scalable translations into large scale production for competitive advantage
One question we are often asked is how can anyone change the fashion industry? With such a complex range of issues it’s difficult for any individual organisation or researcher to make an impact alone. That was why the Mistra Future Fashion program took a strategic, systemic approach to achieving a Circular Fashion industry, by involving a diverse range of expertise across 8 focused research programs. During Phase 1 CCD’s role was to investigate “Interconnected design thinking and processes for sustainable textiles and fashion”. This involved developing a range of design workshops and tools with fashion designers working in industry, with one of the main outcomes being the Textile Toolbox web resource. The work culminated in the formation of a new framework for Circular Design: Materials, Models and Mindsets which now underpins much of the Centre’s work.
“It all starts off when a small collection of motivated individuals within a community come together with a shared concern: how can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change?” www.transitiontowns.org
Creative Transition was a series of parallel events that took place at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art. It was intended to be a testing ground for experimentation and evaluation of Fine Art and Design approaches to creative resilience.
The proposal was the first within a more long-term project that asked: how do we make Art and Design schools resilient and sustainable in the current social, economic and ecological climate? The Transition Town movement aimed at raising awareness and instilling practices to facilitate communities in transition from dependence and consumption, to resilience and sustainability. The team intended to develop and adapt the Transition Town model to suit the needs of Art and Design colleges, through the creative transition of academic, institutional and community practice.
CCW is made-up of three colleges, each with its own academic character. This project was designed to operate within the CCW Graduate School at both local college level and as a cross-college collaboration. It was a bottom-up approach to a top-down imperative; a strategy reflected in the choice to look at adaptation methodologies being developed by grass-roots organisations such as the Transition Towns movement.
Principal Investigators: Dr Hayley Newman, David Cross, Edwina Fitzgerald, Becky Earley, Prof. Kay Politowicz, Clara Vuletich
Funded by: CCW Graduate School
Kay Politowicz become increasingly interested in the potential for design to affect an environmentally damaging ‘fast fashion’ throwaway culture, which in 2011 was growing in size and speed throughout societies on a global basis.
A particular interest of Kay’s was in the production of material for garments that were designed to last an appropriate amount of time for their intended purpose. In collaboration with designer Sandy MacLennan, she produced the first of a range of garments demonstrating a ‘Short-Life’ concept (based on material developed in the paper industries for household and medical uses), to complement the exciting developments in longevity, creative repair and quality production of fashion.
An engineered ‘Short-Life ‘ textile, which forms the basis of a virtuous circle of renewal, could satisfy consumption and disposal in the fast stream of cheap fashion and by recognising a throwaway culture it accommodates the need for newness without consumer guilt. ‘ Short-life’ products address increasing raw material shortages by designing a system to ‘recover’ material in a loop of recycling for continuous use, whilst designing out laundry altogether and its associated environmental impact. The collection proposed new industrial alliances between the unrelated industries of fashion fabrics, paper manufacturing and recycling, as part of a closed-loop system of production, disposal and regeneration. Emerging business interests, which are supporting new cellulosic fibre development designed to replace cotton, could be attracted to the development of a new, aesthetic and practical, non-woven product with a cellulosic component, for fashion or work-wear.
Using substrates and processes normally associated with other industrial applications, material costs were kept very low but volumes can be very high. The resulting artefacts added to existing knowledge by adapting industrial technologies to develop a Lyocell based non-woven fabric, with a fibre strength better than paper but with similar attributes, dramatically increasing the environmental credentials and desirable aesthetic fabric qualities.
The fourth event from the 2011 TFRC Open Lecture series, run in conjunction with Craftspace, examined the emergence of the Slow Movement, within a context of design, making and art practice. The two guest speakers, Alistair Fuad-Luke (author of Design Activism) and Helen Carnac (curator of Taking Time: Craft & the Slow Movement) mapped out the ground that this new creative thinking occupies, both addressing the theory and the practice, as well as the local/global economics and politics that fuel the movement.
This was the second event in the TFRC Open Lecture series, and introduced Prof. Mike Press (Mike is Associate Dean of Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design) with his talk titled Hand-made Knowledge.
Mike talked about the value of craft, as not only being embedded in the finished object, but in knowledge of processes, materials and ways of thinking that can be applied to other contexts and disciplines.
He talked in the context of the current university and government cuts, where most emphasis is being put on STEM subjects - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, and the value and strength of 'soft' subjects like craft. He showed how craft defies this 'soft' label by highlighting the work of crafts people who had radically impacted on culture through their thinking and making
How can we crystalise the key principles behind our practice in a way which is useful to us and the wider design community? Whereas many of the outputs of CCD relate to one particular project The TEN represented and made tangible the experience accumulated in the Centre over 14 years. The tool comprises 10 sustainable strategy cards which aim to help designers reduce the environmental impact of textile design, production, use and disposal. The TEN are not a check-list, but rather they are a framework for creative thinking and action. As ideas emerge, The TEN can be used to develop layers of reflective thinking and review - a chance to redesign and improve, or simply to communicate concepts more clearly. CCD researchers have used The TEN extensively in teaching and in industry to inform the design thinking process behind the creation of new sustainable design prototypes.
Inspired by the ‘La Duree’ concept explored by fashion designer Martin Margiela, TED members developed a practical workshop to whitewash and overprint garments from our wardrobes.
The intention was to use practical strategies to preserve, conserve, extend, prolong and generally retain the qualities and even some of the emotional values, of the garments we have kept and wish to revive in our lives.
This was the first in an annual series of TED workshops, to hold practice-based collaborative workshops where we record and learn from each other.
Principal Investigator: Kay Politowicz, with the TED team
Parade was organised by the CCW research cluster Critical Practice and was a project that explored the diverse and often contested conceptions of art being in public. It took place on the Chelsea Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground and consisted of a range of different ‘stall holders’ forming a ‘Market of Ideas’.
Parade offered a platform for textiles staff and research students from TED to invite reflection from a passing audience about emotional attachment to items of their clothing, as part of TED’s Wardrobe Disclosure stall. If up to 80% of a product’s environmental costs are determined at the design stage, then the challenge facing designers is to invent new approaches, including slowing down the accelerating stream of garments going to landfill. By gathering and acting upon information gathered through an informal survey about the ‘emotional durability’ of clothing, designers can play a radical and innovative part in proposing a more sustainable society.
Principal Investigator: Kay Politowicz
Funded by: CCW
Parade, Millbank, 2010
Wardrobe Disclosure stall, Parade, 2010
"Sustainable Design in the Real World is just an Educators Fantasy...."
For this event, four speakers were asked to take up a position pro the motion and anti the motion for 10 minutes respectively, to make their case. The audience were then asked to vote, for which speaker they preferred. The speakers were: Kieren Jones, recent RCA product design graduate and 'professional amateur; Clare Brass, eco designer and founder of SEED Foundation; Sandy McLennan, textile designer and founder of CLASS; and Dr Otto von Busch, fashion hacktivist and researcher.
The event was designed to be a challenge to the assumptions often made by committed environmentalists, that the case for sustainable design is already made. Higher Education in Art and Design has, in some cases embraced and in others nodded, towards the inclusion of sustainable strategies for design thinking in the curriculum.
Where do we all stand? This two hour experience was designed to nudge each of us closer to a view, with some creative argument, humour and a good deal of common sense. In this issue as designers, manufacturers, educators or students, how real is our view of the real world?
Four TED designers worked together to produce two exhibits to represent the idea of ‘upcycling’ at the Science Museum’s Trash Fashion: Designing Out Wasteexhibition. These two exhibits demonstrated design-led concepts about the aspirational re-use of our old clothes and textiles.
The designers were all previously participants on the AHRC funded four-year research project, Worn Again: Rethinking Recycled Textiles, and this work continues to develop some of the final themes. This new work intended to: reuse low quality (high street) and damaged natural and synthetic textiles and clothing, and remake it into high-quality, classic style, designer eveningwear; keep the new items monomaterial in construction; explore a range of technologies as a tool-box for design research practice; and employ ecodesign thinking and collaborative methodologies to generate new design concepts for fashion and textile design.
Principal Investigators: Becky Earley, Dr Frances Geesin, Melanie Bowles and Kathy Round
Funded by: Science Museum, London and CCW
Overprinted second-hand polyster blouse, with detachable polyester lace collar. Rebecca Earley & Frances Geesin, 2010. Image: Science Museum
Digitally printed silk jersey dress, using vintage dress imagery. Melanie Bowles & Kathy Round, 2010. Image: Science Museum
The aim of this project was to develop a window-blind light prototype, by exploring alternative applications for electro-luminescent printing. Electroluminescence was printed directly onto a Venetian blind using established technology to develop an environmentally-friendly, multi-functional product. The product development was done in collaboration with Luminous Media. The project also aimed to assess the potential avenues for the application of this type of product in the interiors market and/or for light source in developing countries.
Principal Investigator: Prof. Kay Politowicz
Funded by: CCW
The ‘Peoples Print’ was a series of textile design projects that developed new systems for participatory design to empower consumers through direct involvement in the design and making process.
The project explored methods of co-design, Slow and emotional durable design concepts, which aimed to transform consumers into co-designers of textiles and garments, using interactive methods of DIY, handmade, and traditional techniques. These methods, re-formed with modern-day digital production, created an individual bespoke printed pattern that reflects the character of the user and their environment.
Finally, utilising local print bureaus and sewing services for the production and making of a final garment.
The Projects included:
Slow Grow Mary’s Sweet pea Shirt
The Brixton Market Skirt
The Wallpaper Dress
Kathy’s Kaleidoscope Scarves
The Brockwell Rose Brixton
Principal Investigator: Melanie Bowles
Sweet pea shirt, 2010
Sweet pea shirt, 2010
This was a collaborative project between TED and several partners in India to bring together traditional crafts with emerging technologies to anticipate new solutions in the sustainable design and production of textiles for the furnishing sector.
The key Indian partners included several small textile companies with environmentally sustainable practises: hand woven silk from Assam (North East Handicraft and Handloom Development Corp), hand printing and embroidery from Gujurat (Bodhi) and new emerging digital textile production from Delhi (Digitex India Inc.). The main aim was to broaden the scope for interior fabrics to have an appeal for both discerning Indian and western consumers. The resulting model of practice could be transferred to other geographical locations and markets.
Principal Investigator: Prof. Kay Politowicz, with Lorna Bircham and Clara Vuletich
Funded by: HEIFE (2010 only
Wooden blocks, Bodhi, Gujurat 2009
Block printing, Bodhi, Gujurat 2009
TED members and guest artists/designers took a barge trip along a London canal, and discussed ‘slow design’ and what it means to them and their textiles practice. The conversations were themed in the following way:
Session 1: What does ‘slow’ mean to you and your practice as a textiles designer? How does teaching impact on your practice in a positive way? In what way does research affect the speed / quality of your work?
Session 2: Slow Food lunch discussion - What is the Slow Food movement about? Are the issues and ideas transferable / relevant to textile design?
Session 3: Slow and the Textiles Industry - What does slow, speed and quality mean in large-scale textile production? How could the ideas behind the slow movement improve the ecological impacts created in the textiles industry?
Session 4: A Japanese Sashiko embroidery workshop, led by Emma Neuberg of the Slow Textiles Group.
Session 5: What ideas do we have for a practice-based collaborative slow textiles project?
The intention was to repeat the format for this one day event different UK cities, including groups of local makers and artists conversing on slow modes of transport.
Service-provision for upcycling, as an integral part of a product life cycle, is a recurring theme in Earley and Goldsworthy’s practice-based research. Twice Upcycled was the first occasion where the CCD researchers explored their approaches in combination to produce multiple future cycles for one garment. Earley used textile print design to give a second-hand shirt an updated aesthetic and increased value for a second use cycle. Goldsworthy then used laser-welding technology to update and repurpose the garment, creating a new high-value garment without additional resources for a third cycle of use. Adding multiple use cycles to garments through low-impact technologies driven by Textile Design approaches, provides a unique opportunity for garment longevity in one approach explored through CCD’s research.
Simonson co-curated this exhibition of work from members of the Textile Futures Research Group (TFRG) in the virtual platform, Second Life™. The work was launched at the ICA, during the ‘What Future for Living Textiles’ seminar series (2008). Other exhibition outcomes in 2009 include: Tokyo Design Centre, Japan; Ucity Art Museum, Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, China; and Lethaby Gallery Central Saint Martins, London.
Caryn Simonson in Second Life, 2008
Melanie Bowles in Second Life, 2008
17 July 2008
Chelsea College of Art & Design
This Symposium was one of the key outcomes from the Worn Again research project. The aims of the Symposium were to engage the audience and invited fashion and interior textile designers in thinking about high quality and innovative recycling practices for the future, or upcycling. The morning session featured the work of several of the most well known designers working in this field, who presented in a Pecha Kucha style session. Speakers included Orsola De Castro (From Somewhere), Emmeline Child (Emmeline4Re), Kerry Seager (Junky Styling), and Barley Massey (Fabrications’).
This was followed by presentations from four designers who presented their upcycling work in the context of the four ‘inter-connected’ design ideas being explored in the project: Kate Goldsworthy (recycling and new technologies); Cyndi Rhoades (recycling and ethical production); Amy Twigger (recycling and systems and services) and Emma Neuberg (recycling and long life).
Becky Earley then presented the Worn Again research project and the newly emerging knowledge around the interconnection of several design strategies for design-led upcycling.
For the afternoon session key participants from industry were invited to contribute to an informal panel discussion, or ‘interface’, with the designers and audience, to discuss the potential for shifting these ideas into mainstream and larger scale commercial production. This was chaired by Dr Jo Heeley.
Image: Nick Rochowski
Amy Twigger-Holroyd, Image: Nick Rochowski
Ever & Again is an AHRC funded group research project concerned with textiles recycling from the designer’s perspective. It is about ‘upcycling’ – where the products must improve upon the original textile in some way. The researchers recognise that there needs to be an economic incentive for textiles recycling to have a future in the UK.
Most of the participating designers in this exhibition were in the second year of the research project and had been part of a series of workshops exploring recycling in the context of four key sustainable design strategies that included ethical production; long life/short life; new technologies and systems and services design.
For this exhibition, the curator Rebecca Earley asked the designers to think about recycling in its broadest sense, in the most innovative and creative of ways, before focusing on creating an exhibit that explores an aspect of the project brief in more detail.
Five guest artists, designers and writers were also invited to develop exhibits, so that the themes could be explored in other contexts. In addition, the exhibition also contained the work of eighteen textiles graduates from Chelsea. After being introduced to eco textile design through their course work, they have gone into the working world and put some of these ideas into practice.
Running along side the exhibition was a curated series of workshops for students and schools, and guided tours by the curator.
Kate Goldsworthy exhibit, Chelsea College of Art & Design, 2007
Ever & Again exhibition, Chelsea College of Art & Design, 2007
This research was undertaken with the support of the Central Middlesex Hospital who were undergoing extensive regenerative building work and were involved with the Art in Healthcare programme. “After evaluating statistics regarding the pros and cons of single use versus reusable gowns, we decided to use a high grade nonwoven polyester fabric which could be simply and cheaply manufactured using sonic welding joins. The first prototype gown is made from a fabric that is 100% recyclable.”
Principal Investigators: Lorna Bircham and Sue Ridge
Funded by: Central Middlesex Hospital and Chelsea College of Art and Design
This project was a collaboration between TED member Lorna Bircham and public artist and Chelsea colleague Sue Ridge.
This research explored methods of designing textiles with digital media, with the intention of retaining historical and traditional textile elements that have been lost in the new technological explosion. The main aim was to redefine a contemporary textile craft practice utilizing new digital technologies. The outcome for this research was an eight-piece textile collection of digitally printed scarves on silk. This collection was shown at Craft Fair ‘Origin’, Crafts Council, October 2007.
Funded by: Crafts Council and Chelsea College of Art and Design ‘Well Fashioned’, curated by Rebecca Earley aimed to review the existing state of eco fashion in the UK and was the first exhibition that surveyed this important emerging activity. It included the work of 21 UK based designers, small fashion labels who revealed what could be done within this exciting and growing discipline of eco design.
By appreciating all the various ways fashion designers can approach ‘green’ fashion, the exhibition looked closely at the materials, processes, techniques, and thinking, that goes into the creation of these collections.
There were examples of garments that use organic fabrics, and alternative ones like hemp, bamboo, wild silk and ingeo, and a consideration of whether natural fabrics are better than synthetic fabrics. There was also collections made using natural and azo free dyes, fairly traded fashion, and collections made by reinventing and seeking to preserve and promote traditional UK and ethnic making techniques.
‘Well Fashioned’ also included designers who create recycled and customised clothing, and who do so in a way that involves and connects with the consumer. The exhibition considered the impact the consumer has on the environment by buying, washing, and disposing of clothes, and the design strategies that try to lessen that effect.
Many of the designers included political and ethical messaging in their work, and run their small companies adhering to a green or social ethos.
Ultimately, the exhibition revealed an articulate and well-read generation of designers who were emerging within sustainable fashion, one which was not solely London-centric. This new breed of design pioneers can be found in Wales, Herefordshire, Brighton, and beyond, and are active in connecting with and considering the world around them. They have seen for themselves what the fashion industry looks like behind the scenes, and they have sought to make a change.
The exhibition became one of the most visited Crafts Council exhibitions on record. “Earley has brought passion and dynamism to the Crafts Council, raising a flag for craft and design examined in a profound way”. (Suzy Menkes, International Herald Tribune).
Image: Sam Adam, 2006
Image: Sam Adam, 2006
Image: Sam Adam, 2006
Rebecca Earley developed this collaborative research project as part of the Well Fashioned exhibit at the Crafts Council, London. This project brought together three experts from different specialism’s to explore theoretical ideas about eco fashion in a practical way. The team consisted of Earley, Kate Fletcher, and Helen Amy Murray, a designer known for her innovatively stitched and sculpted interior textiles.
Funded by: Chelsea College of Art and Design
At this point the majority of design approaches to ‘up-cycling’ textiles resulted in a ‘recycled aesthetic’ which spoke more of ‘waste’ than of innovative and exciting fashion design. With a view to challenge the status quo of recycled fashion, researchers at the Centre sought to improve the design process for recycled textile products, whilst also addressing the aesthetic and market appeal of such products, funded through an AHRC grant. The Centre’s workshop-based action-research approach, was used this time with a team of textile and fashion designers. The resulting prototypes were presented in a special exhibition: Ever & Again: Experimental Recycled Textiles. The designers collected feedback from the exhibition to review and reflect on their design approach.
Well Fashioned was a breakthrough exhibition conceived by the Crafts Council and curated by Rebecca Earley. The exhibition brought together garments from 21 designers that addressed a range of eco fashion design approaches from materials and processes to the role of the consumer, as well as responding to political/ethical issues. The work represented a particular moment in sustainable fashion design, where the ‘recycled’ aesthetic was at its peak. It was the process of sourcing work for this show that sparked the Centre’s enduring interest in pursuing approaches to Circular fashion and textile design that showcase design skill, creativity and invention, rather than aimless use of waste materials without creating value.
One of the main resources that Textile Designers were crying out for at this time, were frameworks for practicing sustainable textile design. Recognising that there were methods and approaches which could be formalised and therefore made more accessible, Earley (with Fletcher) created ‘5Ways’ to do Fashion Textile Design with more consideration of ‘ecological’ impacts. Using design workshops to explore the 5Ways framework the group produced five prototype garments to demonstrate the approach. This “framework > workshop > making > prototyping > reflecting” action-research methodology typifies the work of CCD and can be seen in many of the subsequent projects
This project represents research into the developments of fabric production for interiors. The work was part of the ‘Shadows of the Infinite’ project, exhibited at Viale Umbria 40, Milan, Italy. The aim was to develop textiles that could transform a space through the application of technologies that enable fabrics to create and pattern environments, such as filtering and conducting light or heat. The fabrics were not only decorative, but could be joined into structures, which divide and alter the space with the patterns of light and shadow they create.
Principal Investigator: Kay Politowicz
Funded by: EU and The London Institute
The main objective of this project was to help promote the unique silk industry of the area of Assam, one of the seven North Eastern states of India, by finding a new export furnishing fabric/product market as well as to encourage a group of tribal weavers to become more financially independent.
The most perfect solution to the problem was to introduce a method of exhaust dyeing in which the dye is gradually transferred from the dye bath to the yarn in a repeat process until the remaining water is clear and pure. Having tested the method in the UK by a quality control analyst at Thames Water, the project was satisfied that there would be no toxic effects from the residual water. The dye method was then successfully piloted by the local village and a collection of samples were made.
Principal Investigator: Lorna Bircham
Natural indigo dye derived from UK woad plants was the subject of this project work. The researchers were asked to design exhibits, workshops and events for the Eden Project in Cornwall. The garden was just a clay pit building site when the researchers Becky Earley and Gary Page began to develop the concepts. Working from a Yurt for the first few years the researchers developed the following: indigo dyeing workshops with school children; co-creating dressing up clothes for a catwalk show by visitors; and performance costumes for Eden staff which told the story of the history of this ‘magical’ dye plant.
Kate's PhD was the first studentship in TED (1996-1999). 'Environmental improvement by design: an investigation of the UK textile industry' can be requested here.
Becky Earley received an Arts Council grant in 1999 intended to develop new directions for makers who have established practices. The Means of Production grant enabled Becky to team up with Dr Kate Fletcher and BA textile graduates from Chelsea, to explore the lifecycle of textile fashion products through three distinct themes – production, use and disposal. The resulting garments were exhibited in new York with the British Council’s Great Expectations exhibition in 2000 as well as a solo show at the Lesley Craze Gallery in Clerkenwell.
Sustainability really wasn’t being explored in any considered way by Textile Designers in the early 1990’s. Recognising that there were many ways that Textile Designers could explore more ‘environmentally-friendly’ practices Professor Kay Politiwicz set up the Textile Environment Design research group, which in many ways was pioneering in its focus on practice-based research, making and teaching sustainable design approaches. While not having the framework to focus on circularity in the early days, TED provided the core values and foundations for the Centre for Circular Design, which puts people, materials and making and the forefront of its approach.