During the Responsible Fashion Series there was an exclusive showing of creative projects at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts 

Justice starts from labels & Reblug

Ioana Corduneanu (Asociatia Semne Cusute SEMNE, Romania) 

What was Eve wearing when she left heaven? What plant did she bring down to earth, for all of us to cover up with? Here, in Romania, with at least 7000 years old tradition in cultivating it, we think it's hemp. Yes, it was considered a gift from Mother Earth, a piece of heaven, a magic plant like no other, celebrated in festivals and rituals. 

​Hemp grows up so fast and robust that it surpasses weeds. It doesn't need the help of pesticides or other chemicals. Yet it offers help to us in so many ways.

Hemp provides sustenance for bees, in a time when other resources are scarce. Hemp also feeds the traveling birds before their departure in the autumn. And it feeds us too, with its protein, for our lent / vegan dishes. It also nurtures our skin with its oils. It protects the sensitive skin of new-born. All while being the most robust natural fiber, strong enough to be used in the naval industry. Hemp absorbs sweat and neutralizes body-odors, saving us water, detergent and time for washing. We can turn it into paper, we can make bricks out of it. Hemp cleans the soil of toxins and provides more oxygen than the same area of forest. And it naturally grows right here, in Europe, because it's good for us and our specific local needs.

Meet the 100% hemp fabric as never before: explore the traditional fibers, traditional practices and benefit from the collective metaknowledge. With its humble nature, hemp clothes remind us to dig for treasures right where we are. See, smell, touch and try a glimpse of our traditional fashion heaven.

Making fish skin pattern-based garments

Developing digital tools for the fashion industry based on Arctic indigenous tradition 

  • Elisa Palomino (Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London, UK)​
  • Anna Solo (Department of fashion Design, Shenkar – Engineering. Design. Art. Ramat Gan, Israel) 
  • Ayelet Karmon (CIRTex, The Israel Center for Innovation and Research in Textiles, Shenkar – Engineering. Design. Art. Ramat Gan, Israel)
  • Ori Topaz (CIRTex, The Israel Center for Innovation and Research in Textiles Shenkar – Engineering. Design. Art. Ramat Gan, Israel)

In Arctic regions resources were precious, and indigenous people used fish skins in a resourceful and efficient manner. This was also an ethical position made out of respect to the animal. Arctic clothing was constructed according to the fish skin shape and each skin fitted to the next like a puzzle without leaving any leftovers. The pattern was made according to the skins length and shape and not by cutting a pattern out of a flat continuous sheet like in current fashion industry. Each garment was made from the remains of several weeks of fishing, processing, and sorting of skins of an entire family or tribe. These ancestral artisans were unwittingly enacting contemporary concepts of zero waste that are nowadays getting the fashion’s world attention and respect. When it comes to working with waste materials, the importance of implementing zero waste is extremely important. 

Today, fish for food consumption is massively growing worldwide. Anticipating major amounts of skin waste, which could be developed into new raw material for fashion requires developing and customizing existing digital tools so that they can complement the work process needed. This task entails two quests: understanding the best way to connect fish skin pieces into continuous sheets and garments and understanding the fashion industry digital tools in the pattern making, cutting, and sewing processes. Working with these two elements and combining them into one coherent process is the key into integrating the use of fish skin into the fashion market. This has the opportunity to create major impact where tons of fish waste will be upcycled instead of being thrown away.  

Fish skins have a unique trapezoid-like shape, with two long sides and two short ones (one longer than the other). Since each fish has two sides to its body, fish skins usually come in pairs of left and right, which can create a symmetrical repeat between the two sides of the body. We have used Arctic indigenous craftspeople methodology of identifying the module of the fish skin as a building block. This was a key point in developing fish skin usage into a parametric planning tool for designers. The blocked trapezoid that each fish skin piece contains, is a module that is automatically produced by the software, and which can be placed to form a continuous surface of either semi-circle or rectangular nature. Using fish skin units as parametric building blocks allows creative freedom for designers on a mass scale, with the digital interface acting as a participatory platform which ensures zero-waste designs. 

Shoe Design kit

​​Aki Choklat (College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Greetings from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan USA

We are a fashion design department focusing on accessories, mainly footwear and bags. Craft is in the core of our teaching philosophy, with students required to always make their items from beginning to end. When the Pandemic hit in March 2020, we had to leave our premises.  Like most fashion educators, we were suddenly forced  to find solutions for distance learning. One of the main problems for us was how to enable students to create footwear at home, without the use of our department technology (e.g., industrial-level leather machines, specialist tools, etc.). Instead of thinking about how to exactly replace what we were doing in our studio, we began to re-evaluate the things that might be critical for students to learn from our program (in this case, in the students’ first year). 

Our conclusion was that it is important for students to understand construction first and foremost (i.e., how a shoe is constructed and its order of operation). It is also important for students to understand the pattern and how it relates to the three-dimensional form. We fully understand that in more advanced classes making footwear via online teaching is possible, but what we created gave distant learners a good starter pack. In order for students to understand the relationship of 2D to 3D, we decided to create a shoemaking starter kit. We designed a box that comes with all the necessary material needed for a student to assemble and make their own shoe at home. We made a sneaker kit and a high heel kit. The kit comes with patterns, leather, glue, internal 3D printed components, a 3D-printed last and a 3D-printed heel/wedge. Students could use this as a starting point and foundation for understanding how an item is made. The finished items then become a draping tool for furthering ideas as well.  All (first year) students were sent the same kit, which nevertheless resulted in various interesting outcomes.

Wearers Voices: Citizen Stylists disrupting the fashion system

Margo Barton (Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand)

More often than not critiques of fashion focus on visual aesthetics, with the aim to ‘get the look’ and sometimes on the technical and making expertise of the craftsperson. There is limited critical discussion around tactile aesthetics of fashion, or enquiry into the intimate relationship between wearer and fashion object, identified as “the hedonic experience of touch”. Additionally, the experience of wearing is overlooked in most popular culture reviews of fashion. Why is this so? Can the wearers of fashion, (the consumers, the models, the designers) together disrupt how fashion is interacted with, through a more mindful approach?

The Research Lab of Ambiguous Futurology

Sasha de Koninck (University of Colorado, USA) 

The Research Lab of Ambiguous Futurology creates heirlooms for the future. We are living in uncertain times, some might even say, ambiguous times. The Internet of Things has evolved into the Internet of Disposable Things. Our technology is becoming smaller and cheaper to produce. We are buying fast fashion made by cheap, unsafe and underpaid labor that we view as disposable. We no longer care about WHO makes our clothes, HOW they are made, or WHAT their impact is on the world. We are creating so much waste, and have no ways of processing it. What is the future we are creating for ourselves?

Diamond in the Rough

Ra ‘Skill’ Thomson (Shih Chien University, Taiwan)

As a fashion educator I believe I have a responsibility to inspire, encourage and teach students a more sustainable way of thinking as opposed to our current fast fashion mentality. No one is in a better position to influence the next generation of designers than ‘us’ the teachers and tutors. 

Even the word “fashion” implies that something will be short-lived. So let’s replace fashion with craftsmanship and business with awareness and teach our students to care, think outside the box and find the diamond in the rough.

The focus of this project was to collect fabric waste from the classroom, use it to create unique designs and prove to the students that what they considered garbage was actually still a valuable raw material. Whilst the recycling was an important part this project, the key objective was to dispel any preconceptions that sustainability isn't "cool" and recycling results in a cheap "homemade" looking product. For this reason, emphasis was put into creating interesting wearable designs that would inspire and include student opinion in order to spark inspiration. Let’s plant the seeds of change now so our future grows green.

Custom territory

Ben Hagenaars (LUCA School of Arts, Custom Territory, Belgium)

CUSTOM TERRITORY (CT) is a collective of shoe makers, designers and wearers that aims to decentralise the global shoe industry into local territories, where boundaries between designing, making and wearing can blur. 

In collaboration with local actors Custom Territory transforms locally available resources into custom-made products that express a contextual design language. Our goal is to develop a network of territories where each territory generates its own custom creations. 

CUSTOM TERRITORY ANTWERP (CTA) is our first case study that applies participatory and circular design methods to shoes in the city of Antwerp. Through this local focus Custom Territory researches the potential of an inclusive fashion system that minimizes its ecological footprint.

The Bark Cloth Research Network

A collaborative, international research network that aims to uncover and promote the full potential of Ugandan bark cloth.
  • Kirsten Scott and Karen Spurgin (Istituto Marangoni, London, UK)
  • Fred Mutebi and Stephen Kamya (Bukomansimbi Organic Tree Farmers Association)
  • Prabhuraj Venkatraman and Jonathan Butler (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
  • Lesli Robertson (independent designer and researcher, Fulbright Specialist)

A multidisciplinary group of researchers, artists, environmentalists, farmers, and fashion and design practitioners in the UK, US and Uganda is investigating the properties and potential of a radically indigenous and endangered textile: Ugandan bark cloth, produced from the mutuba tree (ficus natalensis) and part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Our research methods include fieldwork in Uganda; natural dye experiments; the development and testing of a biophilic design strategy; textile laboratory testing of strength, wear, water and abrasion resistance, drape, shape and fit; scientific laboratory testing of the unique antimicrobial properties of bark cloth; and the exploration of bark cloth in woven textiles. 

Fashion research has acted as mediator in connecting our diverse disciplines, experiences and interests, leading us to unforeseen discoveries which may provide significant benefits to peoples and planet. We have come to understand and document the central role of the mutuba tree in restorative, agroforestry systems - the slow and wholly regenerative processes around tending mutuba trees, and harvesting and making bark cloth in Uganda; we have demonstrated that bark cloth is able effectively to kill MRSA bacteria, at a time when it has become resistant to antibiotics; we have created natural dyes that are not only beautiful and sustainable, but which may confer bark cloth’s antibacterial properties to other materials; we have developed a holistic design strategy that synergises the specific characteristics of bark cloth with the body’s biomechanical requirements; and we have demonstrated its potential as a truly restorative, slow fashion textile through the creation of a series of luxury fashion garments. The project is dynamic, evolving in response to new knowledge as it is generated through collaborative research: we have only just begun.

Next steps include testing different species of mutuba to identify, measure and compare their anti-microbial properties; conducting wear tests with human participants to assess any benefits to their mental and physical wellbeing from wearing bark cloth; more testing of natural dye from bark cloth waste materials; the development and testing of biocomposites using bark cloth scraps; and biolaminates for bark cloth to improve its water resistance and wear; the creation of further propositional garments that explore the potential contribution of bark cloth to responsible fashion. We hope that our work will support the continuation of bark cloth making in Bukomansimbi and across Uganda by raising awareness of its unique properties and, therefore, will sustainably improve its market to preserve this important indigenous knowledge system.

From Cash Cow to Cow

Sophia Buter (ArtEZ, University of the Arts in Arnhem, Netherlands)

It-bags (leather designer bags) are a well-known concept in the fashion world. High-end luxury brands have a clear strategy of selling those leather bags as much as possible, through articles in fashion magazines and via influencers on social media. The production process of designer bags for brands such as Hermes, Dior and Gucci are shocking to say at least. The It-bags are cash cows for high- end luxury brands. The profits are enormous and the production process is horrible. Animal and human rights are being affected by this production process. 

When you look at leather products, you can no longer see any traces of the fact that it was once an animal, despite the fact that the piece of leather is the skin of an animal. We have a schizophrenic attitude in relation to animals. If we look at fashion, walking down your dog at the street but at the same time wearing a jacket with fur show those two different attitudes. We show affection to the animal but at the same time we consume the animal by decorating our body’s with them. Two attitudes are in one consciousness.

I am a fashion activist who emerges for animals used within fashion. With my exhibition I challenge you as a consumer to open up to new perspectives and be inspired by the story of the cow.

Fragments Garments

Elisabeth Jayot (Pantheon-Sorbonne, France)

As the need for an extended clothes lifespan clashes with consumers’ desires to follow the fashion social fact of fast ever changing trends, those prototypes explores the extent to which philosopher Gilbert Simondon’s ‘open object’ theory ([1965], 2014) may contribute to implementing the circular economy within the fashion industry. Simondon opposes ‘closed objects’, whose lives end upon exiting the factory because time and use inevitably degrade them, and ‘open objects’ that are made to last because they have the ability to evolve along technical progress, as they can be repaired, upgraded, transformed, and their parts reused into new products. After demonstrating that the ‘open object’ concept, initially applied to machines, could be transposed onto fashion design, we prototyped ‘open garments’, conceived as seamless modular clothing, easily and quickly manually assembled, dismantled, and transformed by a non-skilled person without tools ; we henceforth present an actual human-scale demonstrator of a ‘Fashion Fabstore’, a concept of local on-demand digital fabrication of customized modular clothing first enunciated in 2017 (Jayot, 2019) ; such implementation could lead to inverting the fast fashion paradigm by replacing copyrighted designs produced overseas, by a worldwide designers pattern digital trade combined with production relocation through a network of fablab-inspired micro-manufacturing units. 


Antonella Valerio (Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Belgium) 

LET’S TWIST AGAIN turns industrial textile waste into crafted up-cycled braided cords.

Aware of the finite dimension of environmental resources, the project reinvents the approach of design, starting from the choice of materials, revalorising an old machine of cords braiding.

LET'S TWIST AGAIN is the result of a highly human content story about resilience and collaboration, born from the encounter of different people whose synergy was essential to its development.

This project started at the VLISCO company, located in Helmond, a small village in the Netherlands, during an Erasmus+ internship, which allowed me to deepen my observation on industrial textile production.

Inspired by the regenerated fiber process, I thought about creating an 'up-cycled yarn', starting from the Dutch company’s production leftovers.

The first part of the research was dedicated to the exploration of the material, through a veritable dissection of the fabrics, revealing their limits and possibilities.

I worked with the staff of the Textiel Lab and the ladies of the shelter centre VINCENTIUS in Tilburg, the Netherlands, whose support was crucial to the development of the project.

The research has led to the development of an innovative technique to allow the textile waste to be converted into a new quality material.