It is my contention that fashion as a discipline needs to extend and expand its influence, to counter the traditional stereotype of fashion as a lightweight subject, which is not quite worthy of real research and instead, to clearly make the case and set the pace for developing areas of research that extend fashion’s influence.
I want to take up the challenge that in a way Sandy Black has started to set out through her Interrogating Fashion Series (2005) about the fashion paradox: that the inherent transience of fashion is at odds with the need for being environmentally responsible. Finding a way through this paradox has to be a key part of our future. I also want to extend it into the areas of health where the paradox is that fashion is directed towards the young and not our ageing population, and into the social and cultural where the paradox is that fashion is a powerful cultural force that doesn’t fully exploit its capacity to be both elitist and inclusive. These paradoxes are already generating questions that are having an impact on how we teach fashion, and research it. We need to mainstream some of these arguments into our research activities and our courses in a concerted and coherent way.
Together with research colleagues (historians, theorists, sociologists, psychologists, scientists, designers and artists), a discussion forum has been created called Better Lives, which is designed to extend the influence of fashion economically, socially and politically, looking at how fashion can play a central role in our health, environment and wider social context and exploring ways that these agendas can be incorporated into the mainstream of fashion education and research.