We live in a ‘throwaway and replace’ culture, our growing population and demand for new products has placed huge pressures on our planet’s resources. Our economy is locked into a system in which everything from production to economics and the way people behave favours a linear model of production and consumption, where resources pass through from sourcing to disposal in a ‘take-makeuse-dispose’ construct. Climate instability, volatile commodity prices, ocean dead zones, vanishing forests, stalling economic growth, expanding food insecurity and resource conflicts are all part of the resource to waste linear economics (Grayson, 2008). Any of these are surely justifiable reasons to explore a new pattern. The Circular Economy is a new construct being positioned as a solution to addressing complex issues around material waste and linear models of resource use. This paper explores this concept within the context of fashion and textile design in the UK, and does so from the textile designer’s perspective to explore how this might be achieved. The circular economy offers a new outlook for design practice and designers will need to learn how to adopt a more pro-active, systems-based approach that truly ‘closes the loop’ (Goldsworthy, 2014).
This paper provides a preview of a six-month feasibility study titled ‘Re-Mantle and Make’ led by the Glasgow School of Art. This research is funded by a larger project titled ‘Future Makespaces in Redistributed Manufacturing’, a two-year research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The larger project is led by Baurley, Tooze, Stewart and Hunter (2014-16) from the Royal College of Art, London, and explores the role of maker spaces in redistributed manufacturing (RdM). Our study will be undertaken in partnership with Kalopsia
Collective, a micro-manufacturing unit based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Together we will conduct practice-led research to produce a small collection of fashion accessories within a circular economy model. In addition to the collection we will prototype a potential future maker space for circular textile design to scope what tools, techniques, equipment and materials might be required. Currently there are limited practical examples and it is unknown if it is truly possible to implement close loop innovation within the textile sector and on what scale. Our study aims to explore the barriers and opportunities to this closed loop scenario.
Through the research we aim to investigate how we can use maker spaces to cultivate circular thinking for textile designers and provide them with resources to develop circular design knowledge and practice. Re-Mantle and Make was defined as a term by the authors as a provocation to challenge our perceived perception of a finished artifact. This is also a model aiming to demonstrate how future maker spaces could be developed to experiment with strategies for material recovery, repair and reuse on a local scale, providing educational hubs for designers to experiment and learn. This will be achieved through consultation and partnership with textile manufacturers, engagement with higher-education institutions, small to medium enterprises and policy makers to investigate the potential for sustainable, circular design futures in the textile industry.