Drawing on the unique opportunity that the HEREWEAR project presents of a systemic focus on textile ecosystems, UAL has launched its first cross-college collaborative major project for MA students in the Textile Design, Fashion Futures, and Service Design courses. Following a preparatory workshop in December, the collaboration was launched on March 8, 2023, with an in-person workshop at the Centre for Circular Design at the Chelsea College of Arts in London.

Ten students were invited to participate in the programme based on their response to the call for expressions of interest. HEREWEAR researchers Rosie Hornbuckle and Laetitia Forst were impressed by the diverse range of ideas relating to bio-based/circular/local that these students hope to address through their work. The programme will support collaboration between the students and the HEREWEAR partners and broader networks, helping the students explore the HEREWEAR topics and make connections between their projects while co-learning and gaining valuable skills for professional practice once they graduate.

Over the next few months, we will introduce each of the students and their projects, and follow their progress!

Launch event – what happened…

The aim of this first session with the group was to get to know each other and discuss wishes and ambitions for this partnership. To meet more closely, the session started with a warm-up using the HEREWEAR sample collection of bio-based materials for ‘material speed dating’. The students chose material from the samples on display, and in rapid succession, they spoke to each other one on one to explain what inspired or intrigued them about this fabric. This raised questions about how biomaterials are manufactured, and what challenges may exist for their use in fashion, especially when replacing conventional materials.

Figures 1 and 2. Students describing materials from the HEREWEAR sample collection to each other. Photo credit Laetitia Forst

To get to know each other and learn about common interests, each student briefly presented their ideas for their final MA project. They brought objects or images that are key to the development of their ideas. These ranged from a manifesto for conscious fashion to system maps to 3D printed textile samples. Each student’s work is distinct and approaches one or more of the three pillars of the HEREWEAR project. For many, ideas are still in development, and this is an exciting moment to discuss the theory and context behind their design practice. Even when coming from different courses, there are common questions between projects, which point to valuable cross-pollination opportunities as the programme progresses.

Figure 3. A student presenting her 3D printed PLA textile experiments to the rest of the group

The session concluded with a discussion on our hopes for collaboration, what challenges we might see to working together effectively, and how we might overcome these. The aim was to discuss practical measures that can be put in place from the start to support an equitable and mutually beneficial collaboration between students and the HEREWEAR project partners.

The students foresee some challenges in communication, in particular concerning technical aspects between students from different courses. This issue and the others brought up in the room were approached with a will to be open in sharing information, not being afraid to ask questions, and being supportive of each other, for instance, by multiplying channels for discussion, from studio visits to messaging groups.

Figure 4. Students brainstorming their hopes and foreseen challenges in this collaboration

The next stage of the collaboration will be in the form of tutorials, providing the students with expert advice on bio-based, circular, and local innovation in textiles and fashion. As the projects evolve, they will represent the multiple ways by which the HEREWEAR principles can support a change in the industry.