MA Fashion Futures focuses predominantly on environmental issues, so while we had exposure to the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, we were less aware of the social side to LCF and the opportunities available to us through the Social Responsibility team. After hearing about LCF’s involvement with Artichoke’s Processions and the chance to work in a women’s prison on a project focusing on feminism with artist Lucy Orta and Jo Reynolds from the social responsibility team, we were very excited.
We were also a bit nervous and didn’t know what to expect. We had the opportunity to lead a workshop on fashion activism and screen-printing, and had a meeting with Lucy and Jo prior to the workshop to discuss details. During the meeting, most feelings of unease drifted away as they spoke of the success and engagement during previous workshops. Other than this, we had no concrete expectations. Some of us were more anxious, others more excitable, but as soon as we arrived at the workshop we were made to feel instantly comfortable and at ease. It helps that the workshop is a big, creative space with lots of natural light; a great setting to what we hoped would be a fun and collaborative making session.
Prior to the workshop we decided to put together postcards on important moments for women throughout the last 100 years. Some of the images were from the suffrage movement, while others were fun expressions of what it means to be a woman today. The women had all received a copy of ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ and ‘The Suffragettes’ – so we hoped that the concepts wouldn’t be unfamiliar, and they could find an image that they identified with or were inspired by. After giving a brief talk to the 15 participants to provide context on the session and explain the postcard imagery, Caroline Smith (a brilliant print technician at Lime Grove!) gave a screen printing demonstration. Having quite a large group of volunteers was great, particularly within the short time frame, as noteveryone understood the process. Despite this, the women were really excited to start screen printing, and while we allocated some time for the design process, many of the women had instant ideas and wanted to jump straight into the making!
The women were really creative and some were incredibly skilled. Where some women were initially stuck with ideas, it was lovely to see how supportive they were of each other. We had tried to lead the women towards designs with symbols instead of words (due to the complexity and time constraints), but they all instantly came up with powerful, passionate and feminist words and statements that reflected the women individually. Written statements were in both English and Spanish and often included phrases that showcased the collective power of women. Examples of the inspiring symbolism included fists, equal pay symbols, and a superman-style suffragettes logo. The nature of the session meant that all women in the workshop (including the volunteers) could discuss and bond over such important issues that we could all relate to, no matter our individual backgrounds.
The only downside was the time limit! Most of the women wanted to stay much longer and try their hand at other skills (such as embellishment) to finish off the pieces. They imagined turning the work into t-shirts or bags, and were so excited at the prospect of owning something that they had created, that had such an important meaning. At the end of the session, despite having to rush out, the women thanked us individually. It really made us feel that everyone present had gained from the afternoon.
It has also opened our eyes to working in other social projects, and perhaps even expanding these ideas into our personal practice and masters projects. Working in such a sensitive space truly highlighted the universal power of design and creativity in bringing people together to reflect on important global issues. It was a wonderful, collaborative experience and we all really look forward to the next sessions.