Articles of Displacement | Denise Nicole Green
How might we unsettle approaches to design that have tended to prioritize the prosperity of corporations, and instead, design for social and climate justice? Articles of Displacement challenges some of the colonial and capitalist regimes that have fueled fashion’s role in producing the global climate crisis: industrialization of fiber production through large scale agriculture, corporate chemical engineering, synthetic dyeing and printing processes; designed and artificial obsolescence of fashion; and the exploitation of labor and environments in the mass-manufacture of clothing. By displacing some of these approaches to design, we empowered non-human actors, ecologies, and materials in a collaborative, relational, and responsive design process that centered longevity, multi-functionality, desire, delight, collectivism, and self-determination.
Articles of Displacement was designed by Denise Nicole Green, a professor of Fashion Design at Cornell University, who collaborated with plants, people, places, and undergraduate studio assistant Nadine El Nesr to co-create a responsive collection. This meant that designs responded to factors, including: the availability of dyestuffs; the size, shape, and eventual coloration of each textile; anticipated environmental conditions and bodily movements; and commitment to material longevity. De-centering and displacing profit motivation and anthropocentrism enabled shared ecologies (i.e., the habitats, natural resources, and communities around us and part of us) to guide the design and production process.
The bio-based dyestuffs used in the collection come from food waste, invasive species, plant pests, local fauna, and plants grown in small gardens. The fabrics, however, are more complex and paradoxical. Most of the textiles in this collection are made from silk or nylon. Considered “twin polyamides,” these two fibers share similar chemistry, but have a dramatically different impact on the environment. Petroleum-based nylon was the first commercially successful thermoplastic polymer and shaped the landscape of industrial manufacturing in the mid-20th century. Blending nylon with spandex accelerated the growth of activewear apparel since the 1970s. Unlike silk, which is easily weakened by ultraviolet light, heat, and abrasion, nylon is one of the most durable fibers. By using one of the culprits of climate change, Articles of Displacement addresses the inescapability of industrial capitalism’s penumbra and the products innovated under these regimes. By rebuilding connections to plants and other raw materials required for dyeing, creating inter-reliant systems of production through co-design, and employing some of the products of the plight, Articles of Displacement imagines a future where design is a collective, material, embodied, inter-species, place-making, and community-creating endeavor.
The Fashion Gallery, School of Fashion and Textiles, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University