Challenging Excessive Fashion Consumption by Fostering Skill-Based Fashion Education

Philip Michael Henry (University of Leeds)
Madeleine Michell (University of Leeds)


The tensions between fast fashion and the conflicting desires for sustainability have been under scrutiny since the early 1990s. Despite many worthy initiatives, slow fashion and sustainable consumption have often been viewed as mere fanciful hopes. Cursory adoption policies and a limited commitment by the mainstream fashion world appear to have been the cause[1]. Equally problematic is the growing evidence in attempts to engage consumers in changing their buying habits. Amongst such a complex array of interrelated issues and priorities, people are left believing that the individual’s impact is small and therefore pointless. This demonstrates how conflicting views on the subject matter can create confusion and hence counter-productivity. The objective of this work is to explore education and the development of traditional sewing skills as a means to offer school age consumers options as to how they choose to engage with the challenges of fast fashion consumerism.Rather than attempting to challenge mind-sets already rooted in cycles of mass-consumption and fast fashion, this work looks to build on research exploring the potential to instigate a stronger personal attachment to garments by educating younger consumers. Ideally finding new ways to encourage a sense of irreplaceability, seldom identified within typical fast fashion purchases. One of the challenges circumnavigated in this research was an underlying need for dressmaking skills. In an earlier study Hirscher and Niinimäki[2] worked with ‘pre-made’ tunics offered to participants under the concept of ‘half-made’ to be customised by the individual. More recently Martin[3] addressed the same skills gap via the use of simplistic geometric shapes to create garments. The idea driving this new study, is that the use of a simple dressmaking technique, in conjunction with a participatory design culture, can help create a positive emotional attachment to the resultant garment; an experience that could potentially result in a longer life span of the garment, hence ideally reducing the desire to discard clothing and consume more.


Participatory design; Dressmaking; Sewing-Skills; Slow fashion; Co-design; Nudge theory; Sustainability

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