What’s Your Fashion Love Story?:
Fashion Revolution at Phenomenal Woman Project
Clothing holds memories. Holes and wear represent moments and experiences both mundane and meaningful. Clothing is also expressive! Garments can be bold or subdued; they can represent personality, interests, values, and give voice to those values. Clothing serves a practical purpose. It shields and protects, and it regulates homeostasis by keeping us warm or cool.
Think about an article of clothing you love. What story does it tell? How does it serve you?
In a project for our online Phenomenal Woman Project program, AIR program director Becca Romanoski, asked our group to reflect on a garment they cherish, and to write it a “love story.” Our teens wrote letters and poems that recounted moments of wear, and expressed gratitude and appreciation. Afterward, teens created visual schematics that diagrammed the lovable details and subtleties of their clothing item.
This project was in conjunction with Fashion Revolution Week. Fashion Revolution is a global movement that aims to educate people about sustainable fashion industry practices, ones that value human rights and human capital, environmental conservation, and clothing company transparency.<sup>1</sup> The nonprofit was founded in 2007 after Rana Plaza – a Bangladesh garment factory – collapsed, killing more than 1100 people (many of whom were women) and injuring thousands more.
One of values noted in Fashion Revolution’s manifesto emphasizes personal sustainability and responsibility for extending the lifespan of your clothing:
Fashion never unnecessarily destroys or discards but mindfully redesigns and recuperates in a circular way. Fashion is repaired, reused, recycled and upcycled. Our wardrobes and landfills do not overflow with clothes that are coveted but not cherished, bought but not kept.<sup>2</sup>
In a companion project, PWP teaching artist Sam Paolini, asked teens to create an upcycle schematic for a garment of clothing that they’ve forgotten about, or don’t wear regularly. The “before” schematic diagrammed holes, unfavorable graphics, ill-fit, and lackluster designs. The “after” schematic showed changes they’d like to make to the clothing in order to wear them again. Their plans outlined hand mending, dyeing processes, painting, cropping and other shape modifications, and block printing.
The upcycle clothing schematic was the final project of this program, and a very meaningful one at that. As mentioned in an earlier post, our 2020 Phenomenal Woman Project began as a sustainable fashion and wearable art program before Covid-19 moved it online. We adapted by shifting our projects to focus on the elements of design, and our FY19-20 AIR program theme, “Reclaiming Joy.” It felt full circle to end on a project that honored the original focus of this year’s PWP: creative clothing reuse.