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.