5.1 citizens to stop or change certain purchase
5.1 Conclusion5.1.1 Thesis Summary and ContributionAimed at informing technologically adept and interspecies aware methods of making fashion in the Anthropocene, this dissertation presented a new theoretical and conceptual framework for making material and form that emerges from collaborative communities of humans and nonhumans.This study made the argument that any new framework for interspecies ways of making fashion must address two key hierarchies that underpin unsustainable practices in fashion: the primacy of the producer over consumer, and the dominance of the human over nature. In the context of anthropogenic climate change, it is becoming increasingly evident that some of the processes of modernity—unrestrained growth and endless progress—are problematic, even dangerous, and that we need new solutions. To do this, we need to consider the nonhuman organisms that animate fashion, first by looking at designers and then at artists who are already working with new frameworks by collaborating with nonhuman organisms in the context of art and design. So far, no such formal methods have been developed for fashion, so this research sought to fill the gap by developing a framework that combines the consumer-led practices of the “sharing economy” with interspecies collaborative approaches.The fashion industry, which intensively uses natural resources, must clarify its role and relationship to nature in the Anthropocene. Sustainability, and the desire of designers to take responsibility for the effects of their design decisions—social and environmental—is an undeniable trend, and has left its mark the industry. New production methods, such as zero-waste cutting, weaving, spinning, dyeing, and disposal, have been developed in response to an overwhelming amount of research calling for fundamental change in the industry (Fletcher 2016; 2015a; 2015b; 2014; 2012; 2010; Collet 2015; Rissanen and McQuillan 2016; Rissanen 2015; Esculapio 2014; Black 2013; Ballie; 2013; 2012; Caniato et al. 2012; Clarke 2008; Beard 2008). New methods are important first steps, but so far, not yet enough to make an impact on the industry. Rather than react to damaging practices by asking individual citizens to stop or change certain purchase behavior, or demand that a brand to retroactively change an environmentally damaging yet economically effective supply chain, this study showed that alternative fashion production systems can be consumer-led, and based on small-scale local initiatives based on engaging with local landscapes. Japanese papermaking, used to make garments and other daily life objects, is a model of community-based interspecies making that challenges the value of these hierarchies in this era of climate change. The analysis of data in papermaking communities elucidated ways of making that problematize the human-nature hierarchy. In other words, it showed that a framework can be developed for making in extended communities that include nonhuman organisms by negotiating new ways of designing with Earth, rather than of it. In chapter 1, “Hierarchies in Fashion: Producer over Consumer and Human over Nature,” two of the fundamental hierarchies the dominant fashion industry is contingent upon—the primacy of producer over consumer, and man over nature—were defined and explored to promote a conceptual and theoretical framework for fashion design that is predicated on human and nonhuman communities. This chapter outlined why Japanese papermaking culture was used in this study, and how it aids in understanding these hierarchies and can contribute to the development of novel methods for fashion design. Papermaking in Japan is a longstanding material-making practice through which qualities of interspecies collaboration, openness, and transparency were explored by fieldwork in situ (addressed in chapters 3 and 4). Using data collected during site visits to papermaking towns across Japan, this dissertation has sought models of novel community-based production methods that could be applied to fashion.Chapter 2, “Designing Utopia: Bridging the Technological and Social,” outlined the historical background and context for the study by exploring the implications of the Anthropocene on the discipline of design in general, and on sustainable fashion design specifically. In the first part of the chapter, design is shown to have developed from a technology of need-fulfillment to a technology of desire-creation, and now into a tool for social criticism and speculation on the future. To more fully understand the two hierarchies at the center of this study in the context of sustainable design, it was important to look at the history of social and ecologically conscious design by following a vein of literature beginning with Industrial Revolution-era 19th-century utopian thinking from Morris, then widening the scope to include environmentally-conscious design from Papanek, speculative design narratives from Dunne and Raby, and design for social innovation from Manzini. The central thesis of this chapter is that socially just and environmentally sustainable design needs to bridge the technological and social realms, and consider nonhuman ecology. Chapter 3, “Do it Yourselves: Consumer Agency Through Community,” aimed to show that socially just and environmentally sustainable alternatives to the dominant fashion industry can be consumer-led, and emerge from projects and proposals that problematize the producer-consumer hierarchy. The chapter reviewed emerging interdisciplinary projects and ventures aimed at empowering consumers to reclaim their agency. It then extrapolated three core perspectives from the literature surrounding consumer-led design and production: collaboration, openness, and transparency. These three perspectives were shown to be vital in developing new methods for community-based design practices that bridge the social and technological aspects of design, and can also be used to understand the potential for interspecies collaboration in art and design. By using these perspectives to look at contemporary projects and papermaking, which is a longstanding making practice, this chapter was able to show that community-based production can be polysemic and multiscalar, giving it the flexibility required to contribute to the development of novel fashion design methods in the Anthropocene. Significantly, this chapter also showed that some consumers are finding ways of reclaiming their agency in the top-down fashion industry. These consumers are making things in communities—sharing, collaborating or being part of the design process, and becoming producer-consumers by occupying simultaneous ontological positions in relation to fashion. In chapter 4, “Growing Fashion Through Relationships with Nature,” the findings of the previous chapter were expanded by questioning community-based making practices in art, design, and papermaking in order to understand the processes and products of a creative community that includes nonhuman partners for making. In this chapter, real-world examples of makers who destabilize the human-nature hierarchy were documented and analyzed. The aim of this chapter was to reflect on methods of making that problematize the human-nature hierarchy to develop perspectives on material making in extended communities that include nonhuman organisms. In other words, negotiating new ways of designing with Earth, rather than of it, and exploring ways that emergence can be a vehicle for design. This aim was explored by asking the following question: can nurturing and forming, as opposed to extracting and processing, inform a method for making fashion? To answer this question, the theory and practice of interspecies collaborative art and design were explored by problematizing the dualist worldview, and then arguing that emergence could be the core vehicle for interspecies collaboration. The above question was then considered through contemporary interspecies art and design practices as well as fieldwork in the Japanese paper clothes-making community of Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture. These inquiries into both burgeoning and longstanding practices helped lay the groundwork to propose that terroir can be found in textile materials much in the same way that it can be found in wine and cheese and that this contributes to the argument that adversarial fashion strategies can be developed in small-scale, local places as a result of tight relationships between people and their landscape.In conclusion, the Anthropocene calls for radical propositions for alternative fashion design practices that will restructure the fashion industry. This dissertation addressed this need by developing a novel framework for bottom-up system change. Scholarship on collaborative methods for sustainable fashion design fails to address the possibility of interspecies collaboration. This present study showed that this is a viable method, and provided the theoretical framework for justifying such a method for fashion design. Further, this study demonstrated that the pairing of social and technological innovation is vital to such methods for fashion design in the Anthropocene because it enables new means of overturning the two fundamental hierarchies of the dominant fashion industry—producer over consumer, man over nature.This dissertation also discussed the ways consumers, acting as producers themselves, can address systemic changes, not by altering purchasing behaviour, but by developing their own pathways to consumption that open fashion’s black box, where the sites and materials that animate fashion are hidden. These pathways are built by consumers using collaboration, openness, and transparency. The original contribution of this study is the development of a framework essential to formalizing interspecies collaborative design by consumer-producers. This research provides the foundation for sustainable interspecies fashion design in the Anthropocene—a form of design that address systemic issues in the fashion system, and which acknowledges the entanglement of nature and fashion.5.2 DiscussionFashion thrives on novelty, and the concomitant ease with which trends and garments are disposed of has spread to the offshore locations where fashion is made. Since the mid-20th century, sites of production have been moving further and further away from the designer’s workshop, and textiles have become disconnected from the the landscapes that generated them—moving in one direction, away from their natural sources. These shifting sites may enable consumers to have a greater range of choices at lower costs, but have eroded the local clothing and textile customs of the places in which they are produced (Jones 2007, 35; Frampton 1983, 20). The desire for newness, coupled with lower prices thanks to economies of scale enabled by mass production, has led to an unsustainable demand for the products generated by the modern fashion industry. Modernity is embodied in fashion not only through dress—new materials, shapes and colors—but also through structures of production and consumption, specifically the way the fashion industry transforms the natural world. Hierarchical relationships that facilitate subjugation and exploitation are not unique to fashion but have been longstanding practices in human culture, and may be the cause of future environmental problems. How will future historians periodize fashion from the early 21st century, the time of growing awareness of the Anthropocene? On the one hand, the 21st century could be considered a time of great innovation as styles, references, new materials, and novel commerce strategies proliferate. On the other hand, the rate of production demanded by the industry has led to the implementation of unsustainable industry practices—offshore production in ethically dubious factories, and the deterioration of existing vernacular textile and apparel industries. Concurrently, certain educators, researchers, and designers are passionate about finding a balance between consumption and extraction in the fashion industry. So perhaps, rather than the steady step of advanced capitalism and destructive resource extraction, this period will be historicized as one of change in which both researchers and designers took a critical look at industry practices, in order to develop a more socially just and environmentally sustainable fashion industry. Perhaps historians will look back on this time and reflect on the positive changes that were made in reaction to the unchecked industrial progress of the 19th and 20th centuries, and see that the Anthropocene can be a tool—a crowbar—that cracks open the black box of fashion and helps to reframe the relationship between fashion and nature. There is no panacea for the social and environmental issues that are part and parcel with the dominant fashion industry. This thesis is neither a comprehensive prospectus for environmental sustainability in the industry nor a rigorous philosophical treatise on the aesthetics of synthetic biology or human-nonhuman relations. Rather, it was intended to contribute to the discussion around alternative fashion-production systems, and to the development of novel methods for fashion design that empower the consumer to consider utopian visions as a driving force for action. This “alternative” envisioned in this research is clusters of small-scale consumer-producer maker communities in which people grow materials and form for fashion, with nonhuman partners. These partners could be animals, insects, or bacteria, as in fermented Japanese foodstuff like nuka (a fermented bacterial pickling agent) and k?ji (a microbe used to make miso, sake, and soy sauce), which can be propagated easily, or plants, like k?zo. The consumer-producers would connect online, share recipes and care tips, just as any other community of networked makers would. The difference, however, would be that such material-making practice would be the result of interspecies relationships that are embedded in a local landscape, and therefore no two materials would be the same—a terroir in materials for fashion could emerge from these multitude holonic relationships. This study is not proposing an acceleration towards a techno-topic future, nor a return to premodern pastoralism. Environmental sustainability does not have a purely technical solution, and unless a cataclysmic event ends all human life, there is no future without technology. Even in an extinction event, the Anthropocene shows us that the results of human actions via technology may echo far into the future, in manmade traces legible in geological layers. A look back at social structures in extant material-making communities, papermaking in this case, to see how communities of human and nonhumans can produce materials and form together shows us how fashion designers can develop methods that similarly reframe our relationship with nature and that enable the emergence of form, colour, sound, and texture with nonhuman partners. 5.2.1 Contribution This study suggested that the certain types of pairings of social and technological innovation in the Anthropocene are enabling new means of overturning two fundamental hierarchies of the dominant fashion industry—producer over consumer, human over nature—in order to contribute toward a more socially just and environmentally sustainable alternative to the dominant fashion industry. By developing a theoretical and conceptual framework to help understand the relationship between human and nonhuman organisms in a material-making or fashion design process, this dissertation contributed to the growing academic discussion on sustainable fashion, and also to the development of design methods for sustainable fashion. There is much scholarship on methods for sustainable fashion design, but this dissertation fills a gap in the research: biodesign and fashion sustainability. My initial goal was to try to find a way to connect new developments in bioart and biodesign to fashion design through physical experiments. Instead, after completing part of the literature review, I saw that there was not a formal framework to understand and inform methods for biodesign in fashion. Thus, this dissertation took a wider and deeper approach, and promoted a conceptual framework for a method that involves local actors who are involved in maker culture, and proposes that the networks that enable online communities to form could also enable novel interspecies relationships to form. This dissertation showed that consumers, acting as producers, have been developing their own pathways to consumption that break open the black box of fashion production and are seeking collaboration, openness, and transparency in regard to the sites and materials that co-constitute fashion items. This study connected three seemingly distinct fields of inquiry, sustainable fashion, paper, and the anthropocene, but if each of these fields is defined differently, as clothing, craft, and ecology, it becomes clear that they are inseparable.This dissertation also had pedagogical aims in regard to fashion education. As it stands, the fashion industry uses problematic practices that are now being addressed in fashion schools. Schools around the world have begun to design and implement new courses that adopt a critical stance towards the status quo of the industry. 5.2.3 Limitations of the research There is an inherent contradiction in researching traditional crafts in order to contribute to sustainable fashion studies. Many crafts themselves are unsustainable and are currently economically supported by the government; they no longer occupy the position they once had in the everyday lives of people. Washi, kamiko, and shifu have all fallen out of daily use, and even their contemporary iterations are novelties produced for domestic tourists in Japan. While examinations of these traditional practices may offer vital information about how we can live in a reciprocal, balanced relationship with our local landscapes and natural systems, traditional craft may not be able to provide us with definitive clues regarding means of developing novel and sustainable economic systems. The interspecies methods outlined here can contribute to environmental sustainability through fashion design, as evidenced in Shiroishi, through a balanced relationship with the local landscape, but more research is needed to quantitatively confirm how these methods can be transferred to other locales. Also, a thorough comparative study of the various methods and community structures employed in papermaking communities, in particular, would also be beneficial.Second, since my academic background is in fashion design, I am interested in the history of both kamiko and shifu as garments, and washi as a multipurpose material. However, a thorough, critical examination of the history and socio-economic contexts of use was beyond the scope and aims of this dissertation. A longer and more embedded ethnographic study of papermakers may be a suitable future research topic. Third, the limitation of time and content length did not allow for a comparison between washi and other material-making practices in Japan. There are many materials in Japan with similar characteristics to washi in that they are produced communally and made from natural materials—such as linen, silk, and leather. Silk, for example, is made by harvesting the cocoon of the silkworm, and historically has been a thriving cottage industry.5.2.4 Recommendations for Further ResearchThe fundamental premise of this research—investigating the relationship fashion has with nature and proposing alternatives to the dominant fashion industry—can have implications that were beyond the scope of this research. A number of questions emerge from this study that were beyond the scope of this dissertation. First, the framework developed in this dissertation is useful in developing design methods and therefore needs to be applied and tested in practice-based study. Emergence: The notion of emergence as a design principle, as discussed in Chapter 4, could provide the conceptual underpinnings for a number of physical experiments and practice-based research projects. Neri Oxman’s (2013) work already provides a robust theoretical and exploratory basis for this. Non-hierarchical interspecies collaborative design methods need to be interrogated and tested through practical experimentation. For fashion and textile designers, the expansion of the productive capability of the nonhuman organisms in the world from passive participants to active players in the process of making could open up new pathways for expression.Terroir: Can there be a locally contingent method of making textile materials for fashion design, and what would the implications for such a method be? This method considers the local ecosystem (including humans, the landscape, and non-human entities), that could produce region-specific textile materials (exploring the notion of terroir in textiles or form). Ownership: Discussion is needed around various issues raised vis a vis “the implications of shared authorship, notions of non-human subjectivity, and issues of care and control” (Clotmag 2017) when engaging in creative interspecies collaboration. The question of shared ownership has been raised in relation to collaborative design, but how can these queries be brought to interspecies collaborations?In Closing…Based on an investigation of leading research into sustainability, Catterall (2017) argues that “radical and systemic changes will be needed and can arguably be introduced more effectively from the ground up by multiple independent actors.” However, there is a lack of research into consumer-led change in the dominant fashion industry. In order to promote systemic changes, this dissertation argued that a deeper understanding of the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that underpin the unsustainable and unethical practices in fashion is required—it is not enough to talk of mitigation, minimizing usage, or designing better. Through a deeper understanding of the fashion industry’s biases, a fundamental re-assessment of fashion’s relationship to nature can be achieved, and from this, new frameworks and methods of production can be developed—frameworks more appropriate for the epoch we live in. In other words, through reframing an extant and longstanding practice like papermaking using contemporary perspectives developed from consumer-producers—such as interspecies collaboration, openness, and transparency—this study provides a framework for nascent design practices that seek to bridge the biological, social, and technological in the Anthropocene.