15 August 2022
Author: Toyosi Badejo-Okusanya
Motivated by this harmful reality, Dr Francesco Mazzarella, senior lecturer at London College of Fashion (LCF), is embarking on a research project that aims to develop a framework for decolonised design practice. Called Decolonising Fashion and Textiles, the project will collect oral histories in relation to the cultural heritage of refugees based in East London. The project team and participants will then co-create culturally-grounded fashion and textile artefacts, while a social enterprise model will be outlined with the aim of enhancing the resilience of the refugees.
Moveover, Professor Lucy Orta, chair of art and the environment at University of the Arts London (UAL), is leading a community art project that explores personal and family migration stories through textile crafts. Titled Traces: Stories of Migration, the project explores the migrant history of the rag trade within East London communities. Focussing on intergenerational, personal, and family migration histories, it recognises the creative value of diversity through each person’s lived experience. These concepts are translated into textile artworks capturing the participants’ unique identities and histories.
At an international level, Zaatari Action is an exemplary project engaging refugees through fashion activism. Led by Helen Storey, professor of Fashion Science at LCF, the project aims to co-create knowledge that can heal communities, while researching ways that refugees’ lives can be improved through fashion. Zaatari Action evolves from Dress for Our Time, a project that transformed a de-commissioned UNHCR refugee tent into a fashion artefact aimed at engaging the public with the connection between the refugee crisis and climate change. Originating in Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, the project led to the co-creation of 15 projects with those living in Zaatari, addressing educational, livelihood, and enterprise creation opportunities, with a clear focus on women and young girls at the camp.
These projects point towards a more embedded, situated, and reciprocal approach to design, in a way that rebalances power dynamics, diversifies and widens the fashion system, and fosters cultural sustainability. By giving voice and agency to migrants and refugees, new lessons of community resilience can be drawn from people’s lived experiences. Especially in the face of our collective uncertain future, we need to shape a more inclusive and resilient fashion system, one that supports more fulfilling and flourishing relationships between ourselves and with the beautiful material culture that we wear.
Dr Francesco Mazzarella is a Senior Lecturer in Fashion and Design for Social Change at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL).
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