It was great to see one of the most innovative fashion researcher at a recent panel discussion about 'design hacking' at the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA). Otto von Busch is a researcher who's work explores how fashion can be re-engineered by consumers for a more self-empowered, bottoms-up approach.

Design hacking seems to have taken off as a concept in the design community and the discussion was chaired by an RSA collaborator, Scott Burnham who has written a paper on design hacktivism. The term 'hacking', has came from computer hackers - people who are able to enter a system or learn and code and then adapt it or improve it.

Otto was adamant that it is not a negative term, as sometimes portrayed. Hacking is not about anarchy and over-throwing the system, it is about infiltrating the system, or learning the 'source code', to improve or adapt it.

Otto explained that in fashion terms, the 'codes' are written by the untouchable, genius designers such as Karl Lagerfield. The code is a mystery that only the designer knows and the fashion consumer is merely the passive receiver of this 'design wisdom'.

Fashion hacktivism however, is when the fashion consumer is able to hack the source code and adapt or change fashion. Otto frames this mainly at the garment level, and he has created projects which offer people knowledge about customising garments or making your own. He also runs workshops and opportunities for people to gain new skills to create their own type of fashion garments.

Otto came to see us at TED last week and we hope to work with him on some porojects in the near future. His PhD thesis has now been published in an easy to read format, called Fashion-able: Hacktivism and Engaged Fashion Design, avaialble to order via his website.
At the end of last year we attended a conference at the V & A called 2012 Imperative Teach-In run by Eco-Labs. It was organised to encourage 'ecological literacy' amongst design educators, and tutors and students from design courses from all around the UK attended.

The title of the event refers to the urgency of the current environmentally challenges we face and is a 'call to arms' to all design educators to embed sustainable design into design curriculum's by 2012.

As the founder of Eco Labs, Jody Boenhert says, "Design education must embrace its unique ability to facilitate change by engaging with the concept of ecological literacy, communicating key concepts of environmental sustainability, and initiating a wide-reaching learning process".

The Teach-In ning site has been set up as a network to connect design teachers and to offer methods and teaching tools to facilitate this change.

There was some inspiring speakers at the event, including John Thackara, Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation and Richard Hawkins a climate scientist, which are available via the website.


BA Chelsea graduate (2006) Yemi Awosile has been chosen to go to Pakistan as part of the British Council's The New Silk Road cultural exchange project. She will spend one month at a textile college in Lahore teaching about sustainable textile design and will also do research into the Pakistan embroidery traditions and the current textile industry. After Yemi's return, a textile designer/educator from Pakistan will come and do a residency at the textile department at Chelsea.

Yemi was recently an RCA Innovation Fellow exploring the commercial potential for her innovative cork-based knitted materials and is very interested in exploring potential for new materials in Pakistan.

Yemi follows on from designers Basso & Brooke who went to Uzbekistan last year, and textile weaver Ismini Samanidou who is currently out in Bangladesh as part of the project. You can read her blog about her experiences.


Digital hands project

Several members from TED are currently involved in a new project trying to link craft and technology in textile production in India, called Digital Hands. Clara Vuletich wrote a TED postcard from their initial trip to India in November, where partners were found to work on the project.

One partner is Bodhi, a block print company from Gujurat, run by the inspirational Mala and Pradeep, a couple who are passionate about pushing the boundaries of traditional print processes for saris. Mala designs her own patterns for saris and other garments and the designs are hand carved into wood blocks and then hand printed on the long print tables in the factory. Sari fabrics are also dyed in the factory and then printed on.

All the water from the factory is sent through a closed-loop water filtration system developed by Pradeep. Once the water has been cleaned it would only need the addition of chlorine to make it drinkable. This filtered water is then re-used and because they also save gallons of rainwater in their large water tanks during the monsoon, they rarely need to turn on the tap.

This is amazing considering that they are using synthetic dyes and also considering the vast amounts of water that are used for block and silk-screen printing and for dyeing of fabric. It also interesting that they have chosen not to use natural dyes. They believe that natural dyes do not work reliably at this scale of production and that there is a lack of consistency in the colour. However, if the water is able to be filtered through a closed loop system like this, and the performance of the synthetic dyes meets their requirements, it makes the use of natural dyes seem redundant, which is controversial to say the least.

For more images of the Bodhi factory see the TED Flikr site and more updates on the project will follow on this blog.
The UN have organised a seminar on the fashion and luxury industries and its impacts on the environment. A very good line up of speakers will be attending at the two day conference in Geneva this Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st January.

Redefining Sustainability in the International Agenda: Inspiring Greater Engagement in Biodiversity Issues will include panel discussions with the founder of Noir fashion label, Tamsin le Jenue from Ethical Fashion Forum, representatives from high street brands Gap and Mango, luxury label Hermes and model Erin Oconnor, to name a few.

An MA student from Chelsea will be attending the event and will be feeding back to TED on the outcomes which will be made available on this blog.


Recent graduate Mary Penny (BA 2008) has had her final year dissertation published by an independent publisher. The paper, The Woven Textile Industry in Lao PDR: the extent to which woven textiles are influencing the regeneration of Lao PDR and the role of women, is available on Amazon.

Mary Penny was interviewed by TED about her final thesis and studio project and the footage is available to view here. This interview is a sneak preview to some exciting new interviews and content that we will be making available via the new TED website, coming soon!


Becky Earley and Kay Politowicz have been invited to deliver a series of workshops and lectures to design students at Weissensee Kunsthochschule, Berlin in April 2010.
TED's 'Design Stories' workshops will be open to a multi-disciplinary student audience including fashion, product and textile design students.

TED has been invited by Dr. Zane Berzina, Professor for Conceptual Development of Materials and Surface Textiles at the college.

Ever & Again project completion

The Ever & Again:Rethinking Recycled Textiles project officially ended on 30th November 2009, after four years. The project has seen the development of ground-breaking research into ways that designers can upcycle textiles and has included an exhibition of design prototypes in 2007 and a major symposium in 2008.

The final outcomes from the project are being compiled into a publication, Upcycling Textiles which is due out later this year, edited by Rebecca Earley, with a foreword by John Thackara.

The publication will include 22 illustrated essays by leading international academics and designers including: Dr Otto von Busch, Professor Stephen Scrivener, Dr Dorothy Maxwell, Cyndi Rhoades , Tamsin LeJeune, Dr Emma Neuberg, Helen Carnac, Amy Twigger Holroyd, Dr Jessica Hemmings, Kate Goldsworthy, Clara Vuletich, Professor Marie O’Mahony, Dr Lucy Norris, Dr Jo Heeley and Professor Mike Press and Professor Kay Politowicz.

It will be available through the TED website and there will be more information shortly.


Co-design workshops

TED has continued to run several workshops with the new MA group here at Chelsea and the latest one was by Jennifer Ballie, the TFRG PhD student who explored co-design with the MA group.
Jen developed a series of garment case studies and students were asked to develop scenarios for customisation which consider co-design methods, involving the consumer and a designer.
A summary of Jen's recent lecture here at Chelsea Co-Everything: Defining Co-design for Fashion and Textiles is available here.