Diane Wallinger graduated from MA Fashion Futures at London College of Fashion in January, with a project focused on wellbeing and sustainable design. She trained in traditional fashion design and fashion communication, and developed her interest in sustainability throughout the master’s course. Before this, Diane completed a BA (Hons) in Fashion Communication at Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, and has been interested in exploring wellbeing within her work since then.
I wanted to pursue my research into wellbeing specifically as a fashion designer. Everyone can do something within their profession. What as a designer can I do to enhance people’s wellbeing?
I believe that maybe unsustainability and unhappiness are linked. I saw statistics about how throughout the years we are getting unhappier, despite having more stuff, so I wanted to explore this. In studies of sustainability, you see a lot of qualities that are needed to actually be prompted to adopt a more sustainable behaviour, and these are linked to qualities that you acquire when you are in a better place mood-wise. For example, when you are feeling happier you might be more able to socialise, so maybe you’d be more likely to collaborate. We need those tools to fight against unsustainability and the psychological pressure of climate change.
Wellbeing is such a wide topic, I had to figure out which part to tap into. I decided to look at self-care practices within the pandemic, using comfort as a source of inspiration - that's why there are a lot of duvet / cushion shapes. Combined with my knowledge from studies on the psychological influence of colours and material, I mixed vibrant colours for positivity with some pastels for comfort and calm.
I feel like in every one of our projects, especially as students, we open up such big doors that there is so much more to explore afterwards. I hope to continue my research, bringing with me the knowledge I already have. I'm really hoping to change perspectives on sustainability and wellbeing. I have no psychology background and my work doesn't aim at healing any mental health issues, it's mostly about ‘maybe you are feeling okay, but what if you were actually feeling good?’
What could we achieve if we were all feeling good and what kind of tools could we get from design? We wear clothing and garments everyday all the time, so I think it probably has an impact on us. I want to try out and find out what this impact is and what could have an influence on it to make it better.
I've always wanted to work in fashion, and next year is going to be 10 years that I've been studying in fashion. I’m still really excited. The industry is huge. It's employing so many people. Fashion is everywhere – we wear clothing all the time, even our bedsheets are textile. This industry has so many issues and it has so much impact. It was pivotal for me to realise that I can actually do what I like and be a change-maker, it's empowering to have all those potential tools. Working in fashion is not futile at all! But it's also quite hard to find a job at a company that aligns with your values, because they might be smaller with less employees and not able to take on interns. I think it's worth trying to fight for those values. If we keep accepting things as they are then nothing will change – even though it's super hard to say no!
At some point I would like to do a PhD to really investigate positive fashion, design and wellbeing. But I think I need more maturity and time to prepare my thinking and frame my questions. I'd love to be freelancing in my area. I need more practice in how to market myself, as well as portfolio work and defining who I am. Hopefully in five years I'll be doing a PhD and freelancing, and eventually I'll have my own business. I think it's something that's comes with youth, we are really excited and we want things to happen fast. I'm trying to slow myself down a bit and just take the time to appreciate things before moving on to the next thing! I don't want to launch a business if it will crash in one year because I didn't acquire enough experience.
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