Keepers of Lost Clothes is an ongoing project exploring the relationship we have with found or discarded garments and considers the ways in which this clothing might be remade. Each of our garments is unique. They are made from clothes that other people have fallen out of love with; found in the back of the wardrobe, the bottom of the drawer or jumbled on a charity shop rail. These garments have been washed, ironed, unpicked, dismantled, cut and re-stitched to create new clothes to fall in love with.
Some design details from the original garments have been salvaged and whilst some retain their original functionality, others assume a new decorative purpose: a patch pocket traditionally found on the breast of the left bodice appears on the back yolk; a button stand traditionally found at the centre front shifts to the side seam; stripes and checks originally cut on a straight grain appear on the bias.
- All of our garments have been designed by students studying BA Fashion at Leeds Beckett University.
Keepers of Lost Clothes is a pedagogic research project centred around embedding sustainability within the BA Fashion curriculum, increasing awareness of the industry’s impact upon the environment and encouraging students to adopt environment conscious approaches to fashion fabrication and production.
The first module students study on the course is F4.1 Pattern and Construction. The module provides them with a comprehensive introduction to the pattern cutting and construction process and culminates in the production of an original shirt. In 2017 students were asked to source three or four men’s shirts from family, friends or charity shops with a view to methodically unpick them and use them to create new garments, rather than purchasing fabrics on the roll. Throughout the delivery of this module teaching practices and principles facilitate collaboration between Katie Lenton, Jenny Prendergast and the participating students through a range lectures and workshops encompassing: design, deconstruction, machine, and traditional hand construction techniques. Students have demonstrated development of a conceptual approach to considered design resulting from their experience of this module. The impact of this sustainable approach has several key benefits:
- Unpicking different shirts provided students with insight into the stages of the garment fabrication process, and helped them to appreciate seam details and the shape of individual pattern pieces, also contributing to their understanding of how 2D shapes create 3D garments.
- The parameters set by utilising existing garments had a positive impact upon the innovation of the designs produced by the students. The second-hand fabric’s limitations meant that design details such as a patch pocket (traditionally found on the left or right breast) might be transferred to the back yoke.
- The pedagogic approach explored through this project facilitates an introduction to sustainable design, pattern cutting and construction, whilst also addressing preconceptions about the aesthetics of ethical clothing.
- As a result of this project there has been a significant increase in student’s adoption of resourceful and sustainable approaches to fabric sourcing and usage.
Raising public and industry awareness of issues surrounding fashion disposal is at the core of this project. By teaching the value of sustainable practice through learning activities tailored to both provide students with key production skills and promote mindful design, plays a role in tackling fashion’s environmental impact. Through the project students become advocates of re-use and upcycling practices, and as a result are challenging the public’s perception of sustainable clothing by producing desirable, creative and commercial garments.
The format of this project will be extended in the coming years, with the new website providing a showcase of student work, as well as incentivising achievement and generating income. The principles of this project will be applied to the Level 5 module F5.1 Tailoring Principles, with effect from 2018/19. As we progress through this project, we will promote the instigators of change, our students; whose innovative and novel approach to sustainable design will continue to challenge the traditional design process.
Katie Lenton and Jenny Prendergast