Duck Journal for Research in Textiles and Textile Design

Volume 2

What is the impact of austerity on craft making and fashion design?

Published August 2011


The impact of recession and periods of austerity have led to changes in textile making and the skill base that supports these activities. The recent financial difficulties in the UK are resulting in an increase in craft based workshops, retail outlets stocking textile supplies and temporary shops popping up in residential areas that offer sewing machine classes and pay-by-the-hour sewing machines. Students and graduates of textile design courses are experiencing difficulties in obtaining work placements and employment in the sector. However, speaking recently Karl Lagerfeld (1) said that his work in fashion design has not been affected as he is working in a global arena where not all markets are in recession. The Crafts Council (2) reported in April 2009 that although there was a slight decrease in visitor numbers to recent contemporary craft events, there was no discernable impact on sales figures. They envisaged however a shift in the demographic of the contemporary crafts consumer. Changes in consumer attitudes and a reduction in the teaching of textile skills in schools has led to a generation with different perceptions of making.

Through this second call, DUCK wishes to explore how craft making and textile design activity is affected by austerity. Submissions are invited which address one or more of the following themes:

  • What changes have been observed in textile craft making and/or textile design during and following periods of austerity such as financial recessions or war?
  • In what ways do changes brought about through periods of financial constraint perpetuate during ‘good times’?
  • How do textile designers and designer makers respond to changes in consumer demand and markets for their products?
  • In what ways do financial constraints such as increased costs for materials lead to innovation and ingenuity in craft making?
  • Do periods of austerity act as a catalyst for the acquisition of craft skills? Do they change the perceived value of textile design and making?
  • To what extent does reduced funding for textile and textile design research impact on craft makers?
  • How do periods of austerity impact on notions of luxury and bespoke in relation to textile products?

All submissions are available to view as pdf documents
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1. Deprivation Fashion

Nan Turner, University of California, Davis; Department of Textiles and Clothing, Davis, California

Abstract: The experience of living through the difficult and austere years of the Great Depression and WWII during the 1930s and 1940s taught people to treat their limited wardrobes and possessions with care to prolong their use. During WWII, governments enforced rationing and restrictions of civilian clothing so that scarce resources could be diverted for military needs and to fuel the war effort. One result of these challenging restrictions was that people were inspired to invent creative ways to stretch the life span of their wardrobe, through ingenuity, re-use and re-purpose. Sixty-five years later, the life style of western culture has become more focused on a sense of entitlement and overuse. Recently, however, growing awareness of the limitations of our natural resources is motivating people to start voluntarily restricting their consumption of clothing. It is also inspiring the "Slow Fashion" movement that echoes the efforts of civilians during WWII to sustain their limited wardrobes. I propose that there is a great deal that can be learned from the cultural knowledge of people who lived through the Great Depression and WWII about leading a more sustainable life style of "deprivation fashion."

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2. The impact of the economic downturn on the textile and fashion designer-maker in Northern Ireland

Author: Angela Burns, Lecturer in Fashion Design Faculty of Fine Art and Design, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey

Abstract: This research has been conducted to ascertain the effects of the recent economic downturn on the designer-maker based in Northern Ireland. It will examine how periods of austerity have impacted on the fashion and textile industry from a historical perspective, analyse the situation on these sectors nowadays, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland, and establish how this has affected today's designer-maker. It will also examine local initiatives, new technologies, and changing business models to ascertain how they have helped counteract the problems faced by designer-makers during a recession..

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3. 'Kraft': Making, Austerity and Sleight of Hand

Authors: Melissa Laird (PhD), Whitehouse Institute of Design, Australia

Abstract: Textile artefacts by association with their design, craftsmanship, conceptual foundation, materiality, procurement and use, can conjure diverse responses within a viewer or user; the cloth itself can reflect a unique narrative. As the artisan crafts the textile design or sampler, the creator's labour, knowledge, skill, experience is drawn into a material narrative of the fabric's life. Former senior curator at the Powerhouse Museum Sydney Australia, Dr. Grace Cochrane looks to craft as a "process, or attitude toward one" (1997, p. 56). Based on her definition of 'kraft' as "power, strength and force, and even magic" Cochrane alludes to craft as "a calling requiring special skill or knowledge" (p. 56). These characteristics of craft, skill and knowledge may be read by the historian or material culture scholar when assessing a textile artefact. Emotive memory associated with re-use and recycling of materials is also read as a particular nuance of austerity-driven textile materiality. Through this paper I pose three textile artefacts for review; 'Embellishments I - III'. I argue that textile design and embellishment brought to bear through craft-making which is defined by austerity and re-use, provides aesthetic outcomes which might not otherwise have been perceived or achieved. Using found objects, organic materials and recycled cloth, these textile artefacts are shown to be 'krafted' by hand and forged into new entities. Kraft: Making, Austerity and the Sleight of Hand. Like Michael Taussig, "mine is an old fashioned interest in magic" (1993, p. 251).

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ISSN: 2042-0854

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