S4S – Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing

What is the S4S story?

Running from November 2017 to September 2019, ‘S4S – Designing a Sensibility for Sustainable Clothing’ is a collaborative research project co-hosted by the department of Politics at the University of Exeter’s Environment & Sustainability Institute (ESI), at the Cornwall Campus, and the Fashion department of the School of Art at the University of Wolverhampton in the West Midlands. 

Against a backdrop of major environmental concerns about the impact of the fashion industry’s production methods and the amount of ‘fast fashion‘ clothing consumed and discarded to landfill,  people across the fashion industry, government and research are working on ways to address a multitude of environment problems. This research project focuses on supporting consumers in pro-environmental behaviour change through making and mending textiles and clothing.

“The value of unused clothing in wardrobes has been estimated at around £30 billion. It is also estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year.”

source WRAP UK

Funded by the the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), we have worked collaboratively with a number of local and national partners including Fashion Revolution and sustainable fashion label Antiform. Our workshops have been hosted by arts and community venues including The Hive, Black Country Living Museum, Krowji and The Poly. You can find out about all of our partners here.

The S4S project is exploring how we can support people to Think, Feel and Act more sustainably in relation to the clothes we wear – we call this ‘designing a sensibility for sustainable clothing’. We are doing this by inviting people to join in with a range of participatory activities including workshops, wardrobe audits, clothing diaries, reflective discussions and film making. This ‘social design’ process engages people in pro-environmental behaviour change both individually and as a group.

Between February and October 2018 we invited people in Cornwall and the West Midlands to join the S4S project as participants and take part in a series of practical textiles workshops. We ran 42 full day workshops across the two sites, with our participants taking part in up to 20 workshops each.

Photo © Nina Constable Media

From learning to spin yarn and embroider with gold thread to ‘un-knitting’ and up-cycling pre-loved garments, these expert-led workshops enabled us to find out if the development of creative skills can help us adopt a more ethical and environmentally conscious approach to the way we consume clothes. 

Photo © Nina Constable Media

We documented our participants journeys as they learned about making and mending  clothes and fabric through interviews, ‘wardrobe surveys’, clothing diaries and reflective videos but the whole project is not just for them, it’s for you too. By clicking on the blue highlighted text you will be able to discover not only why it’s so necessary to change how clothing is manufactured and consumed but also how you can become part of the change.

Here at S4S, we all agree that we love clothing, fashion and creativity, but we also want to take care of our environment and it’s inhabitants. The S4S website is a place to share our findings with you as well as to engage wider participation from everyone to join us in the on-going conversation on how we can all THINK, FEEL and ACT more sustainably about what we wear.

Now that the project is moving towards completion we are publishing our research findings at a range of design and politics conferences, including IFFTI 2019, PSA2019, and DHS The Cost of Design.

To find out more watch the S4S Project workshop films on our YouTube channel, or find us on social media:

Twitter: @S4sSensibility
Instagram: @s4s_sensibility
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/S4sSensibilty
West Midlands Facebook Community Page: https://www.facebook.com/S4Sstitchedup/
Youtube Channel: S4S Project