This case study, which explores a participatory textile making research project, is written by Iryna Kucher. To see more case studies or find out how to contribute one yourself, click here.
Title of case study project or workshop
Mending futures. Exploration of domestic mending in fashion through wardrobe studies and participatory textile making.
Name(s) of researcher(s) and university affiliation, if any
Iryna Kucher, Design School Kolding, Lab for Sustainability and Design.
Context for research
When did the research take place?
It is an ongoing PhD project, which has started on 01.05.2020.
Aims of research
This PhD project focuses on the study of the slow rhythm of consumption in the field of fashion, addressing its attention to the practices of mending, both traditional and new. The project attempts to bridge the participants’ knowledge from different social settings to allow articulation of imaginaries across places, to open possibilities for shared worlding through co-exploration and participation, and to envision the futures of mending practices.
On the practical level, the research is articulated into two main phases:
1. Exploration of mending practices through wardrobe studies, and series of workshops with a small group of six co-explorers (3 from Denmark and 3 from Ukraine). Within this stage the group is co-designing a pre-defined set of aesthetic parameters, comprising of the most versatile mending techniques, structure, colours, materials and corresponding 3D printed mending tools. This stage aims to explore how the design process can facilitate scales of engagement with mending practices on a domestic level.
2. The second phase will consist of a series of participatory mending workshops with a broader audience, and aims at understanding how design can inform mending and how mending can inform clothes construction, by drawing the parallels of sustainable approaches within product design and fashion design fields.
Description of research method
This PhD project is drawn upon the wardrobe and material methods and is conducted within the broad field of material culture moving across disciplinary boundaries of sociology, history, and design.
Furthermore, it intends to go beyond the understanding of the existing practices and embraces a Research Through Design (RTD) methodology, where researchers are collaboratively, materially, and critically engaged with futures, understood as collaborative explorations of possibilities situated between the preferred futures and mundane, design and everyday life, past, and future.
Why did you choose to use this method?
I have chosen to adopt these methods because, within my previous research project, I found out that both methods have provided layers of richness to the research process in two distinct ways. Wardrobe interviews enable an unexpected level of openness. Enter such an intimate space as someone’s wardrobe significantly shorten the personal proxemic distances and both the co-explorers of this research and I were guided by the fashion objects in a very fluid way. While within the participatory mending workshops, the members of the group were able to co-explore similar issues from different perspectives, share their findings and affect each other’s practices. The shared objective and the commitment to the common pool of knowledge has created cohesion within the group and allowed the emergence of the unexpected.
What did you learn from the research process?
The process of this project (undertaken till now), and co-exploration with people who are already engaged with the mending practices, allowed me to unfold how mending practices and their aesthetic codes are interpreted and materialized in Western and Eastern social contexts and helped me to frame the part of the project which is focusing on how mending futures can be envisioned and facilitated by the design process.
The overall process of this design research was informed by the wardrobe studies undertaken by Sophie Woodward, Else Skjold, Kate Fletcher, by the doctoral thesis of Amy Twigger Holroyd, and by the Stitching Together project.