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Fast ReFashion

Prof. Becky Earley

A key approach for TED researchers is to 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 has recently begun to evolve into a practice that facilitates others to create a refashioned garment for themselves, using readily available tools and resources like irons and dry foods. This approach Earley calls ‘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 will be published on the MFF website in June 2014.