Being Human in Chrisp Street Market
By Anna Fitzpatrick
Anna Fitzpatrick from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion, explains how she found herself in an empty and abandoned shoe shop on Chrisp Street Market in Poplar, east London. This post relates to the event I stood up for (bio) diversity, which took place on Monday 16 November for Being Human 2015.
Myself, colleagues and the new students on the college’s MA Fashion Futures course, had been coming down to Chrisp Street market since the beginning of the autumn term to take notice of the fashion, nature and biodiversity in this part of the city. Desk-based research about the area’s history and contemporary concerns, was done alongside these visits, and with the collated information the group created a space that celebrated the nature, skills and knowledge contained in the local community – inviting members to drop by, visit and share their insights.
At the CSF, we were interested in the way people living in and around the market interacted with and noticed nature, and whether fashion contributed to their sense of well-being. We captured this data through asking a series of questions during our I Stood Up for (bio) diversity Being Human festival event.
In exchange for their time, we offered each participant a specially designed t-shirt based on some of the biodiversity under threat in the Tower Hamlets area of London. Two examples are the black poplar tree and bees.
This work feeds directly into Habit(AT) a research project led by Professor Dilys Williams, exploring our habits of living through fashion’s actions, relationships and locations framed in the context of the city, as well as to engage fashion as a mediator to investigate our concerns while living in these locations.
The response we got was overwhelming in both insight and interest. Members of the public came by as soon as we opened the doors wanting to discover what was taking place in the old shoe shop, now emptied of shoes but filled with fashion objects, photography, posters and cookies. Residents, some of whom had lived in the area for decades and others who’d arrived there more recently, shared their stories and theories about how life in the area had changed for both humans and wildlife, as well as other related thoughts, hopes and concerns. Fashion in this context was subject, experience and method of research.
Alongside conversations around change and biodiversity, the students focused further still on fashion, reflecting back to the community. They researched what knowledge was held there as well as what fashion skills residents had, and what else they might like to know/learn in the future. This was in addition to discussions about shopping habits as well as how people cared for their clothes and what happened when items were rejected.
Being part of the Being Human festival gave us the opportunity to use fashion to understand people’s habits (both public and private), the interactions between themselves and gain a deeper understanding of the interconnections and relationships between one another and the world around us. All key aspects of being human.