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Fashion Practice

The Journal of Design, Creative Process & the Fashion Industry

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Durability, Fashion, Sustainability: The Processes
and Practices of Use
Kate Fletcher
To cite this article: Kate Fletcher (2012) Durability, Fashion, Sustainability: The Processes and
Practices of Use, Fashion Practice, 4:2, 221-238
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Published online: 27 Apr 2015.

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Date: 14 April 2016, At: 23:36

Issue 2. pp. kate@katefletcher. not just material products. and design activist. which in fashion in particular are influenced by social and experiential dimensions. © 2012 Berg.2752/175693812X13403765252389 Reprints available directly from the Publishers. She works with fashion businesses. and government.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Fashion Practice.3. 221–238 DOI: 10. She authored Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys (2008) and coauthored Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change (2012). Photocopying permitted by licence Durability. Fashion. Downloaded by [94. Volume 4. Kate Fletcher Kate Fletcher is a researcher. driven by aesthetic change and tied to changing social preferences underscores the psycho-social nature of factors which affect fashion garment lifespans. This is reflected by ethnographic . n ­ on-profits.202. Yet these gains depend on changed user behavior and consumption patterns. Obsolescence of fashion products. writer. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use Abstract Longer-lasting materials and products are often promoted as a strategy to increase resourcefulness and sustainability across product groups including fashion. whose work over the past fifteen years has shaped the field of fashion and sustainability.

Longer lifetimes in turn provide us with more opportunities to access a product’s utility. needs are met. Experienced practitioners of design for durability have long recognized the limitations of many of these approaches. . as users. Yet the incongruity of relying on things to influence people’s behavior to in turn foster longevity of those things is amplified in the context of garments by the deeply social nature of fashion: what one person chooses to wear. use. most work in this area focuses on durability as originating from a product itself and that product’s potential for robustness and enchantment. is also affected by the decisions and actions of others. Expending resources and effort to extend the life of products pays few dividends unless. durability. 2004). Walker 2006). Over the last decade many of these ideas have migrated to fashion where they have been appropriated both at a materials-level and to influence product–user relationships. By extending the potential for satisfaction with existing pieces. Introduction Durability enjoys an easy relationship with sustainability. and user–object relationships to instead explore material durability as emerging from strategies of human action. we make use of the utility provided by longer-life products. sustainability. This article suggests a point of departure for design for durability that shifts away from a familiar focus on materials. waste is reduced. products. Despite the user-dependent nature of the factors that affect on-the-ground lifespans of products. design. It suggests that durability. is determined by an ideology of use. and to wear for a long time.202. have been developed in product design. Much of the development work of the theories and practice of design for durability. and subsequently change our patterns of consumption. most notably. social practice. user behavior. a discipline that has enlarged its scope and field of action over the last two decades and which aims to envision and give form to alternative ways of living (Manzini 1994. Many of the same issues that dog the success of durability as a strategy to influence consumption patterns in product design also influence the outcomes of the fashion design process. design.222 Kate Fletcher evidence that shows that garments which defy obsolescence do so in informal or unintentional ways. not from the “lifeworld” and social actions of the user.3.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 KEYWORDS: fashion. rarely as a result of design planning or material or product qualities. Resilient ­materials and products have potential to lengthen product lifetimes. resources are saved. New consumption is forestalled. such as those pioneered by the organization Eternally Yours (van Hinte 1997. while facilitated by materials. no additional ones are required. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that durability is a foundational idea of the area of study known as design for sustainability. Downloaded by [94. and construction.

202. Obsolescence and Fashion Since the publication of Vance Packard’s The Waste Makers in 1960.” And if fashion. Fashion.. “if we are relying upon the properties of procured goods for our sense of identity. and on primary ethnographic research conducted in six locations in Europe and North America to explore durability and its relationship to fashion in practice. I then shift the focus away from products to instead explore durability as emerging from social relations and human action. It should be acknowledged that for some. As Joanne Finkelstein states.3. and emotional engagement with garments. ever-changing nature. fashion and associated ideas have come to be almost exclusively organized around industrial capitalism and consumerism based on rapid product obsolescence and continually increasing throughput of resources. fashion is challenged by the idea of a more durable material culture. and what Karen Tranberg Hansen has called “clothing competencies” (2003: 306). fashion products. “a market-driven cycle of consumer desire and demand. and views on what is both desirable and practicable (Fletcher 2012) with well-recorded serious environmental implications (Allwood et al. and human well-being are rejected. I engage with a “dialogue of evidence” and draw on extensive knowledge of design for sustainability in fashion. resourcefulness. is always relevant to its time and context. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 223 In this article. I conclude by suggesting that fashion as a system of dress can act to promote longevity of ­garments by viewing durability as an outcome of activities linked to satis­fying use of clothing. including that supporting durability will also shape fashion. Yet this was not always the case. the notion of pursuing durability in fashion at all is problematic. by definition. would seem to deny fashion its essential. I propose that durability in fashion cannot only be promoted as a product-based phenomenon. and. consumerist story and imagery of fashion is reinforced by business.. knowledge of obsolescence has been building as a key way to influence .Downloaded by [94. including those that promote longer-lasting products as part of a bigger strategy of paced consumption. Moreover. and the associated ideas of resilience and constancy. For as. as an economic and cultural process. 2006).a modern mechanism for the fabrication of the self” (Breward and Evans 2005: 2). not least because durability. but rather it emerges from an individual and collective practice with dynamic implications for our use of materials. then social action. I first offer an introduction to obsolescence and then review ­durability within the familiar frameworks of materials. alternatives. Within this dominant story. it was born as a side-product of purposive social action. then we are compelled to procure again and again” (1991: 145). As Gronow (1997: 79) notes. Here the dominant.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Durability. cultural preferences. “originally fashion was not consciously created.

At least some of this consumption of clothing can be seen as essential to meet the fundamental human need of protection—insulating and shielding the body—though this physical need is quickly satisfied with minimal resource use. and creativity as expressed through our dressed bodies is also the chief challenge for durability.Downloaded by [94. Obsolescence in its ­earliest form.202. to a non-durable consumer good with novelty and brand value (Fine and Leopold 1993. the resource intensity of our need for identity formation. 2006: 16) and. In the economic period of satiation currently enjoyed by those of us in the rich North. it is using materials and marshaling resources for development of our physic life that is the chief challenge for sustainability. When these pieces are confined to the back of the wardrobe. in the increasing numbers of rarely used garments stockpiled in homes. the vast majority of garments endure physically. Burns (2010: 45) synthesizes this debate into four modes relevant across product groups..253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 224 Kate Fletcher both supply and demand of products by influencing users’ perceptions of their products continued usefulness. Yet irrespective of their waning psychological appeal. which coincided with the growing capacity of factory production of clothing and increasing supply of materials after the restrictions of the war years. a tendency towards a short “service life” and low intrinsic material value is an inevitable effect of the marketbased system of mass consumption and production of fashion (Stahel 2010: 160).” This change. For the prevailing business model’s bottom line to keep showing growth. social (shifting societal preferences and norms lead to retirement).p. communication.). In the fashion sector . where they are not disposed of and additional ones bought. A process of analyzing and categorizing the different mechanisms of product obsolescence has been underway for the last fifty years. garments have to become obsolete. though few have explored its implications. technological (changing technology renders functioning product obsolete). In the context of fashion. and economic (cost structures promote disuse and replacement rather than maintenance). “Planning for durability was no longer a priority. they do not dematerialize. They are: aesthetic (where changing appearance renders existing products obsolete).. cited by Skov 2011: n. suggesting rising rates of ownership and storage (Textile Outlook International 2009: 100).3. Indeed particularly in the saturated fashion markets of industrialized economies where most new purchases of clothing are additional or replacement acquisitions rather than sales to new a means to influence consumer spending. meaning to wear out. The legacy of psychological obsolescence associated with the fashion industry is found both in growing levels of discarded clothing (Allwood et al. had evolved into the newly discovered use of psychological obsolescence. Statistics for the UK reveal that the volume of clothes bought each year is nearly double that which is discarded. at least in psychological terms. As Burns (2010: 43) states. marked a shift in the perception of clothes from a durable consumer good with an intrinsic material value.

as an aide to negotiating the space between the inner self and the outside world. There is a substantial body of work exploring the relationship between products and modes of obsolescence in order to attempt to lessen their effect (see for example Cooper 2010). Indeed perhaps no industry has better perfected the cycle of inventionacceptance-dissatisfaction-invention than fashion.Downloaded by [94. and furniture in a number of key ways that act to change the relevance and application of concepts and strategies. such as sharing. Other differences reflect the significant role played by garments in identity formation as compared with other products.202. Taken together such differences warn against the wholesale transposition of generic durability approaches between product areas. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 225 the primary.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Durability. in a product with a hard surface. Rarely does a new item better protect our bodies physically or offer enhanced functionality. tools of obsolescence are aesthetics closely connected to social preferences and cultural conditions. and has so successfully de-linked it from physical need or function. as we work to lessen or even break up the accelerators of obsolescence. Stewart Brand describes obsolescence another way. Fashion. sometimes private. acceptance. rather we buy afresh to make visible our identity both as an individual and part of larger social groups within a particular place and time. This being said. which may be both bolstered or undermined depending on the piece. domestic appliances. Inevitably such intimacy changes the relationships that influence longevity and the relevance of strategies. and the dominance of the aesthetic and social modes of obsolescence in fashion compared with the influence of other modes such as technology in the retiring of many other products. In the fashion sector each new circuit of this cycle offers little in the way of material development or progression. As such. an unchanging visual and material quality is possible that allows for a more predictable aesthetic over time. sharing knowledge and practice across product groups is likely to generate innovation. though not exclusive. status different to other household products. Here a cycle of invention. For instance.3. items worn on the body have an intimate quality that confers upon them a personal. with different implications for design for durability. Further. an item of clothing has a softer. and discard of a continually changing series of temporary modes of appearance is disseminated across social groups. “fashion can only advance by punishing the no longer fashionable” (1994: 54). garments differ from other products such as ­electronic devices. while garments can be seen as having much in common with other domestic objects. strategies to extend the durability of clothing or textile materials become almost always expressed as a change in surface quality. While many of these ideas are portable between product types. more mutable ­surface as compared with the hard surface of many consumer products. yet little of this is specific to fashion and clothing. . By contrast. there is little doubt that while being mindful of the factors that govern a specific product’s longevity.

fewer pieces are bought because . Downloaded by [94.3. Yet the tangible sustainability benefit of enhancing the material durability of clothing is contingent on two key assumptions. Indeed more broadly. For a garment will last only as long as its least durable component. and knees. that that this extra utility afforded to the product by designing for physical resilience. the benefits of pursuing long-life materials as an aid to enhance durability of clothing has been recommended as supportive of sustainability goals (see.202. The first.and product-level durability delivers benefits. And the second linked notion. potential physical longevity of the garment depends less on the fabric itself than on the piece as a whole—the constructed material object. for example. In 2012. For garments that physically wear out and no longer function and for those that are made obsolete by economics—that is where it is cheaper to buy a new piece rather than mend an existing one—material. the organization WRAP. It allows for workmanship to be as durable as the hardworking fabric on a garment’s cuffs. I now explore two groups of design for sustainability strategies for durability in the fashion context. translates into lower levels of consumption: i. hems. fastening. starting with materialand product-level durability. then people will continue to use them.and Product-level Durability While ideas of design for durability at a conceptual level challenge consumerist culture and the contemporary fashion system. facing. similar longevity of seam.” Actioning durability as a materials-level strategy is both practical and palatable and over the last twenty years. which now facilitates the “Sustainable Clothing Action Plan” for the UK recently commissioned research into durability in the fashion and clothing sector that emphasizes garment durability as contingent of such specific material phenomena (WRAP 2012). fabric. Such tactics build an internally consistent product strategy for durability that prevents squandering resources by over-specifying resource-intensive long-lasting components in conjunction with others that only have the potential for a short life. etc. knowledge about the strength and wearability properties of materials and the methods of garment construction that are the most long-lasting is valuable. Seemingly this idea still has currency.e. While it is true that garments are material things. It matches a fabric with poor dimensional stability or wash fastness with low-grade seam construction.226 Kate Fletcher In this article. A product (as distinct to a material) strategy of durability attempts to balance a piece’s lifespan across component parts to build a shared.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Material. that if you make garments physically robust. long-lasting and robust materials are easily assimilated into existing garments and product optimization methodologies and are often aspired to as a feature of “good design. Mackenzie 1997).

000 users of domestic electronic products. such as workwear.202. meaningful association (the . As part of his doctoral research in which he surveyed the product relationships of over 2. And by cultivating an emotional and experiential connection between person and object. • Detachment: users feel no emotional connection to the product. and thus view it favorably because it makes few demands. • Attachment: users feel a strong emotional connection to the product. Durability. But for fashion clothes.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 the existing one lasts longer. Ideas of emotional durability contend that products are discarded when they display an absence of meaning. However. Batterbee and Mattelmäki (2004) for example classify three groups of objects with meaningful associations: meaningful tool (the object enables satisfying activity).3. have low expectations of it. • Surface: the product ages well physically and develops a tangible character through this process. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 227 Downloaded by [94. Emotionally Durable Design A substantial body of work. putting resources and effort into enhancing the physical durability of seams and fabrics is worth little if it is aesthetics or social preferences—or even changing waistlines—not material robustness that determines a piece’s lifespan. Fashion. Anecdotal evidence suggests that for certain garments. • Enchantment: users are delighted by a product and the process of discovery of it. Making a garment last is very different to making a long-lasting garment. we can disrupt our dependency on consumption of new goods to construct meaning and our sense of self. Chapman (2009: 33) developed a six point experiential framework to initiate engagement with emotional durability and design. most notably by Jonathan Chapman in his book Emotionally Durable Design (2005). it may be the case that durable fabrics and construction enable overalls and protective gear to be worn longer and delay replacement consumption. specifying points of intervention and pathways which offer starting points and lend structure to investigations: • Narrative: users share a unique personal history with the product. has shaped ideas around psychological mechanisms to construct meaning in material culture that attempt to foster sustained use of products by consumers. Other thinkers have also developed categorized approaches to ­emotionally durable design. which already endure physically long past their period of use. It is temperamental and users need to acquire skills to interact with it fully. • Consciousness: the product is perceived to have free will. these suppositions are shaky at best.

those designed to be shared such as by the small knitwear brand. and the garments in the final ­collection of MA student Saida Bruce designed to promote enchantment by ­incorporating hidden details that become revealed over time (saidabruce 2012).253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 object acts as carrier of cultural or individual meaning). and volunteers). • Making social connections. the London-based studio and shop Here Today Here Tomorrow (heretoday-heretomorrow 2012) that through its workshop and training courses erodes the social and practical distance between the making and using of fashion. Critiquing the Efficacy of Durability Strategies Yet irrespective of the originality and value of this work to animate a product in order to foster engagement and delay disposal. among others. which can be used in different configurations to increase variety without consumption. • Co-operatively designing and producing products together with users. This work includes. Alistair ­Fuad-Luke (2010: 147) collates a number of different approaches to extending product– user relations. the findings of consumer studies research reveal that consumption patterns are not necessarily impacted by emotionally durable design. “attachment doesn’t necessarily lead to lifespan optimising behaviour” (2010: 334). • Sharing products.228 Kate Fletcher Downloaded by [94. does not mean it will be used or replacement consumption . knitters. which creates unisize pieces with few fastenings to aid the possibility of collaborative consumption and the creating a rich use history and personal narrative. reliable. Simply because users have formed a bond with a piece. Sian Evans and Tim Cooper note. there has been a groundswell of work in this area in fashion in both commercial and research contexts. • Creating personal narratives through customization. artists. and living object (the object fosters an emotional bond). which has resulted in the production of an eight-piece collection with sixty-four local people (beaders. A summary is offered here: • Extended durability via high quality. seamstresses.202. and memory • Increasing sensorial variety. good design. Keep and Share (keepandshare 2012). ­upgradable.3. the garments created co-operatively with users such as by Antiform (antiform 2012). maintainable products. • Retention of narrative and aesthetic appeal through use personalization and aging with dignity. the modular garments of DePLOY (Deploy 2012). Notwithstanding the challenges of transposing these ideas between design sectors. personal­ ization.

however. the explicit nature of the response is beyond the designer’s control. and which shows that consumers often behave in a way so as to reduce the lifespan of products. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 229 Downloaded by [94. This is corroborated by research that reveals that those products that defy obsolescence do so in informal or unintentional ways. Here I am indebted to the work of anthropologist Karen Tranberg Hansen (2003). which show that satisfying. is still unclear to design. resourceful practices of use of garments are rarely motivated by durability. their cultural background and life journey determines this. “shifting the focus from things to social relations and interactions. rarely as a result of design planning (Park 2010: 81). They go on. the point of departure is not the things themselves but rather the strategies within which they are embedded” (Tranberg Hansen 2003: 301). with an idiosyncratic approach to maintaining quality (Evans and Cooper 2010: 321). For Tranberg Hansen. With this shift. Durability. Fashion. It is also reinforced by the findings of my ongoing ­ethnographic research project.202. cited in Tranberg Hansen 2003: 301). the problem is that material culture. It suggests that design for durability requires a different approach.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 prevented. In her analysis she overcomes this by.3. “things do not have social lives. What those required conditions are. Chapman (2010: 65) himself recognizes the limitations of designing for attachment and engagement: Although a designer can certainly elicit within users an emotional response to a given object. Such insight acts to downplay the potential of the traditional design process to influence the way in which a product is used and durability promoted and it instead emphasizes durability as contingent on user behavior. Designers cannot craft an experience but only the conditions or levers that might lead to an intended experience. with its emphasis on socially constructed things or commodities. turning around Appadurai’s (1986) now foundational idea of material culture that things have social lives. “In cases where such attachment was identified. arguing that her evidence from the streets of Lusaka reveal instead that. new products were no less likely to be purchased. falls short in explaining the fashion practices she observed in Zambia which are dominated by social exchanges and relationships. She takes Jonathan Friedman’s suggestion to approach objects and relations from a different perspective. Local Wisdom (localwisdom 2012). the unique assemblage of past ­experiences that is particular to each user. attachment merely led to accumulation and storage of seldom-used items” (2010: 334). who in her research exploring secondhand dress in Zambia is confronted with a similar inadequacy in the dominant approach to understanding her field. . Rather social lives have things” (Friedman 1991. In so doing her point of departure becomes people.

On the day of the shoot. rather than their production (either industrially or hand. like Tranberg Hansen. to uncover the behaviors that go on around. The project attempts to connect the world of material relationships. signs are put up in newsagents’ windows. and sports centers. relationships.). The project aims to pay special attention to use-related garment practices.p. in Berlin and Dublin). habits. Local Wisdom. That is. in a varied selection of rural towns and cities. The process begins with the setting up of a “community photo shoot. “belong to the consumer’s life world” (Skov 2011: n. that explores the tending.and homemade). as distinct to production-related ones. with. and to clothes during their period of use. in local libraries. Thus it seeks to explore sustainability in fashion not just as a material phenomenon but also as a broader and more dynamic process of human actions.g. material. Durability becomes embedded in the techniques and processes of use. The project connects with local networks as varied as the climate change campaigning group Cape Farewell (capefarewell 2011). with that of social relationships. These individual. and satisfying use of clothing—described as the “craft of use” (localwisdom 2012). the majority of which. local fashion weeks (e. Downloaded by [94. The shoot is widely advertised in the vicinity. This project draws on ethnographic methods alongside design process to open up the “deep inner space of the wardrobe” and amplify its insights so as to drive change towards practices of sustainability in fashion. and material expression of the person using it. I have been conducting social practice research through an ongoing project. Such a shift changes the focus of investigation of durability from the object (with or without its qualities of enchantment and attachment) to the behaviors. so often the preserve of industrial activity. insight. An open invitation is extended to the public to attend the shoot and share the stories of how garments are used. The project’s aim is to generate knowledge.3. Advertisements are placed in local newspapers and interviews given on community radio networks. and inspiration from social practices that are often ignored by industrial interests. fixing. . and their associated material effects (Lifkin 2010: 118). and social actions and processes associated with garments are recorded using portrait photography and object histories and so far have been gathered in eight locations in Europe and North America.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Local Wisdom Since 2009.” typically in a public building. and the Transition Towns movement (transitionnetwork 2011). affect a changed point of departure to develop a more expansive and accurate understanding of the relationship between fashion and durability.202.230 Kate Fletcher In the remainder of this article I. a photographer and audio equipment to record the garment’s history is set up and the team waits to see who turns up and which ­garment practices emerge.

Other practices uncovered by Local Wisdom explicitly articulate use over the long term.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Durability.. involving a transition from “the certainties of controllable things in space to the self-organising complexities of an endlessly ravelling and . such as those that mark evolving life stories on and through our clothes and those with three or more owners.3. in honing the skills of use and investigating the informal pathways of influence in fashion that spring from wardrobes. the physical durability of the garment per se appears less critical to the piece’s durability than a user’s habit of mind fostering long-term use. personal. It is often reported.). to defy the contested values of a garment producer.202. a cotton jersey top to woolen knitwear). The “craft of use” also provides a challenge for those engaging with change. Wardrobes have been described as representing “a ‘philosophy of having’. Practices as varied as dressing to reflect a personal history.. that mechanisms for collecting and feeding back the experiences of users seldom exist (Norman 1998: 142). present within most pieces. Its potential. It seems that durability in fashion is mainly a product of nurture not nature. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 231 The qualitative data generated by Local Wisdom is limited.p. Rather they are contingent on individuals finding creative ­opportunity in routinized types of behavior with existing clothes. In these practices. Rarely. and to resist cultural pressure to launder are often played out with garments that are established parts of our wardrobes. while mending and altering were common. to support self-reliant communities. It is not generalizable to the wider population nor does it allow us to make predictions about the behavior of individuals other than the members of the public who volunteered to their share garment use practices with the project. The everyday garment use practices explored in Local Wisdom are not focused on durability in particular. the wardrobe as a philosophy of being. which have been shown to be both the source of most customer satisfaction and environmental impact (Peattie 2010: 254) but about which relatively little is known. if at all. but through the practices of use. Yet what it does do is offer tentative insight into the post-purchase use practices of garments. That is.” a different representation emerges. yet in the case of the “craft of use. is uncovered as garments are used. yet many of the qualitative object histories gathered reveal evidence of long-lasting garments. to a denim jacket. for example.both literally and figuratively” (Skov 2011: n. Fashion. to start the process of recognizing where widespread action can take place. though not only those that are physically robust (these range from a silk dress. do these “craft of use” practices need much in the way of extra material consumption or money to make them possible. The use practices that foster durability are social practices that ­facilitate and emerge around the extended iterative use of those garments through time. and specific.Downloaded by [94. Such evidence tentatively reinforces the view that durability is not fostered through resilient materials and design intention.

Photograph: Fiona Bailey.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 A Life of Action “I call this my three stage jacket.202. only about five years ago. I knitted a panel and put it into the back just to be able to fasten it together at the front. In the hands of users. the one-off act of creating a piece within knowable. In order to cultivate a process of tending and use of garments. relationships. . it brings out a different Figure 1 A life of action. And then about fifteen years ago I added sleeves and a collar and some trimmings. fixed parameters becomes subsumed by an infinitely more complex task of engaging with the social context of garment use. And then.232 Kate Fletcher unravelling skein of relationships over time” (Brand 1994: 71). I became a bit too big to button it up so I added latchets across to the front so that I can fasten it..3.. The “craft of use” is thus an expression of the potential for satisfaction and individual agency with garments and a celebration of already existing extended use practices. We sort of have it for 5 years each and then post it back to each other and it’s like fancy dress for me. It began about forty years ago as a very slim waistcoat that was given to me. Image courtesy of Local Wisdom.” (Figure 1) Wear to Wear out “This is a dress that I’ve had for 25 years and share with my sister. garments have a life of their own. you see. And it is this life of action. and material effects that influences how long these pieces last. Three Vignettes from the Local Wisdom Project Downloaded by [94.

. Image courtesy of Local Wisdom.. in a lab and burning holes in it..253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Figure 2 Wear to wear out. I’ve never been one for washed products and rips and tears and destruction artificially so generally that means you get stuff that reflects how you wear things. So when I’m in my 80s I’m going to wear this dress. The fabric’s pretty horrible. twenty. part of me. I guess.. nineteen. Durability. Fashion. Photograph: Fiona Bailey.. honestly bad workmanship if you know what I mean.” (Figure 3) User-ship Such empirical evidence supports the view that durability is an outcome and not an aim of using products. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 233 Downloaded by [94. I kind of like the fact that he was wearing this when he was.3..202.. the waistband’s just been cut off and folded over.. what you do.. A point underscored by durability’s . She’d made a decision years before not to buy any new clothes and to wear everything until it wore out..” (Figure 2) Sulphuric Denim “This was my Dad’s jeans jacket when he was a teenager and he was a chemistry student in the early seventies and he wore this in the lab and he got sulphuric acid all down the front so it’s got acid burns through it.. She’d worn her way through her wardrobe and had got to her evening­ wear. I like.. At the moment I just wear it for special occasions but I once met a woman who was in her 80s and who wore eveningwear all the time. sort of. Plus it’s just a shoddy jacket.

234 Kate Fletcher Downloaded by [94. construction.” Thus product life extension becomes a nested system within broader discussions about satisfying fashion practices that ­recognize the importance to durability of a garment’s materiality—its fabrics. Mackenzie et al.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Figure 3 Sulphuric denim. Image courtesy of Local Wisdom.3. (2010: 307) suggest that while lack of durability of products is a source of dissatisfaction to consumers.202. but does not ensure it. Photograph: Kerry Dean. neither is perpetual durability valued: “a lifespan considered reasonable is a prerequisite for satisfaction. . and design—and the overriding influence of these practices on a product’s eventual length of life. nonlinear relationship with user satisfaction.

Conclusion As in other product sectors. for we are largely ‘locked in” to fashion conventions.202.” Here fashion is contingent on clothes worn in ways that requires people’s (user’s) active collaboration. social norms. habits of mind. supported by evidence from ethnographic research into satisfying practices of garment use as well as research in . In this article I have articulated a new point of departure for exploring durability in fashion.Downloaded by [94. The ability of a traditional design process to reach into the life world of the user and influence behavior appears to be weak. not as users.” or “clothing competence” (Tranberg Hansen 2003: 306) is a set of skills.” often in groups. Evoking ideas of user-ship as distinct to ownership moves the durability debate away from product-centric business language that has largely dominated product lifetimes’ discussions to date and back to a debate of wider society. they also fall outside the narrow spectrum of fashion activity that is valued by consumer society. Evidence from the Local Wisdom project suggests that such competencies promote the extended use of garments. strategies that attempt to foster durability in fashion are limited by the behavior and consumption practices of users. Other authors call this competence “task knowledge” (Evans and Cooper 2010: 334). variable. that is something that emanates from performance rather than products. most activities that promote durability start from materials and products. and where many of the practices of satisfying use are little valued and driven underground. This fashion-ability. Sustainability: The Processes and Practices of Use 235 Walter Stahel describes this expanded view of durability as “usership” (2010: 175). In this space a different role for design practices for durability emerges. and in the context of fashion clothes. habits. Fashion. not users.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 Durability. and identifiable practices that are conducive to promoting the satisfying use of garments and to the creation of fluid appearance in dress appropriate to both time and place that is expressed in a fashion “moment. reflecting the reality of durability as a behavioral issue related to material objects. ideas. Despite this. weakened further by fashion’s social nature. and industry structures that reflect a vision of ourselves as consumptive individuals. and abilities of users to create and engage with fashion from within a context of satisfaction and resourcefulness. Here the aim is to foster and amplify the skills. It is here that fashion as a process can be seen to bolster durability and begin to offer an alternative to the throwaway society.3. “craft of use. Not only are such practices personal. This is not an insubstantial task. which sees it influenced by human exchanges and actions and not just material objects. and slow to enact. sometimes framed as an extension of practical household management skills and perhaps has similarities to early experiences of fashion as a practice of “making.

Chapman..” In 2012). “Design for (Emotional) Durability. 2010. but that their extended lives are determined more by an ideology of use than by a garment’s physical robustness or the strength of the user–object ­relationship. pp. Chapman. antiform. Emotionally Durable Design: Objects. M. Batterbee. 39–60. and C. Malvido de Rodriguez and N.antiformonline. B. M. Evans. “Introduction. J. 1994.) Longer Lasting Products: Alternatives to the Throwaway Society. Cooper. ­design. Burns. “Consumer Influences on Product Lifespans. London: Taylor & Francis. It reveals that long-life garments exist. Longer Life Products. How Buildings Learn. Farnham: Gower. J.253] at 23:36 14 April 2016 other product areas. 2004. facilitated by a garment’s materials. Oxford: Polity Press. 1–7. J. pp. Chapman. 1991. Appadurai. Mattelmäki. 2005. London: Penguin. 61–76. 2010. “Subject/Object Relationships and Emotionally Durable Design. Cooper (ed.” Design Issues 24(4): 29–35. Evans. though played out in material form. Cooper (ed. Bocken.” In T. Experiences and Empathy. 319–50.) Longer Lasting Products: Alternatives to the Throwaway Society. pp. C. Gyi (eds) Design and Emotion. Finkelstein. Deploy. 2010. J. For such processes recognize the social and experiential dimensions to fashion. Hekkert. Evans (eds) Fashion and Modernity.deployworkshop. J. which.236 Kate Fletcher Downloaded by [94.) Longer Lasting Products: Alternatives to the Throwaway Society.202. P. influence how long clothing lasts. capefarewell. Cooper. and construction. http://www. 2005.capefarewell.3. pp. In short. This suggests that in order to promote greater resourcefulness and longevity of products in fashion. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. E. (accessed March 6. Laursen. S. 2012. pp.” In T. Oxford: Berg. 2009. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (accessed March 6. van Erp and D. London: Earthscan. K. durability is user-based rather than productbased. Breward. and T. C. 2012). Farnham: Gower. 2012). and T. 337–41. T. The Fashioned Self.” In C. http://www. 2012. 1986. “Meaningful Product Relationships. S. 2011. Cooper (ed. “Re-evaluating Obsolescence and Planning for It. S. Farnham: Gower. (accessed March 6. P. http://www. Well Dressed? Cambridge: University of Cambridge Institute of Manufacturing. . J.” In D. Breward and C. it is to clothing competency and the “craft of use” that we must turn our attention. References Allwood. Farnham: Gower. 2006. A.

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