7 Properties for Creative Resilience

 
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As part of my recent MA studies in London within the MA Fashion Futures program at the London College of Fashion, I completed a thesis research project, supervised by Dr. Kate Fletcher.

The thesis explored; ‘How can a resilience framework serve in creating thriving fashion design futures?’

It addressed the potentiality for a holistic, ecological, and sustainable approach to design, through embedding creative resilience properties. Resilience has barely been explored within the fashion and textile design space, and this presented an exciting area for enquiry.

Based upon the primary and secondary research undertaken, as well as through my own experiences, I define resilience as ‘finding holistic ways to adapt and thrive to change and adversity, with grace’. Having already produced constructive outcomes within other industries, such as urban design, architecture, and psychology, resilience thinking and practice develops integrative, interdisciplinary, adaptive and transformative approaches to turbulence. As change is inevitable and this anthropocentric era presents us with incessant complexity and ambiguity, diverse new philosophies could build the capacity that we need to flourish, at an individual, community, design and systemic level.

My understanding of the resilience process, based upon extensive secondary research.

My understanding of the resilience process, based upon extensive secondary research.

I would like to propose what I deem are the emergent properties of resilience thinking and practice for the fashion and textile design domain, and their ability to still produce successful outcomes. These resilience properties suggest alternative starting points for the creation of products and garments, through foregrounding values and feelings that are usually shoved aside within the traditional design space. Here they are brought forward and explored, and yearned to be utilised in the creation of more mindful outcomes. Instead of developing a series of dogmatic indicators of resilience, which may block the deeper understanding of system dynamics needed to apply resilience thinking and navigate a turbulent world, ‘7 properties for Creative Resilience’ are presented, which are fluid, eye-opening ideas for moving forward.

Although grounded in ecological resilience, physics and systems theory, the resilience properties do not correlate directly with what has already been established within the field, yet have evolved and developed from these, with particular focus on infusing values of sustainability within the fashion and textile design space.

Through extensive primary and secondary research, the ‘7 Properties for Creative Resilience’ were formed: Ecological Ethics, Mindfulness, Context, Integrative Learning & Thinking, Rhythms, Adapting with Grit and Revolutionary Transformation.

The seven emergent properties of creative resilience.

The seven emergent properties of creative resilience.

ECOLOGICAL ETHICS

Keywords: interconnectedness, relationships, care, empathy, collaboration, synergy, commons.

Rooted in resilience thought and practice is the deep realisation and recognition of the interconnectedness between all living systems: humans, animals, and the biosphere. Our embededness with the land must be taken seriously if we are to make any efforts towards global sustainability, which requires transformations synergistic with this philosophy (Folke, 2016). This property highlights the importance of relationships, in which creative systems are unearthed that re-generate, re-seed and re-fuel the land. This ecological sensibility comprises finding ways to thrive and create in symbiosis with natural systems, operating within the sustainability parameters of the planet. Collaboration is seen as a central human expression, creating shared solutions, with empathy and care towards ourselves, one another and the land.

MINDFULNESS

Keywords: listening, humble learning, reflection, intuition, intention, vitality, presence.

Resilience is about being present through cultivating the act of profound listening to ourselves, to one another, and to the stories nature tells us. There is humility in recognising how little we actually know, and this openness allows for continual learning and development. Regular reflection generates mindful actions and creations within the world, and this reflexivity fabricates paradigms of slow knowledge. Here intuition is a highly valued decision maker. Integral are the sincere intentions we put out into the world, through our words, actions, the products and garments we create, and the systems that we construct. Substantial to resilience is the building of creative capacity at an individual level, and when nurtured, this filters into all aspects of life.

CONTEXT

Keywords: awareness of context, contingencies, grounding.

It is imperative to possess a self-awareness of the position that you are coming from, and how your fingerprints influence your work and life. It is this deep conscientiousness that can aid in creating appropriate designs for the intended audiences, and designing for diversity, as one size never fits all. Context constitutes understanding the contingences within our so- ciety, and our personal, systemically ingrained prejudices, that can unconsciously infiltrate our work.

INTEGRATIVE THINKING & PRACTICE

Keywords: responsible innovation, experi- mentation, error-friendliness, hybrid learn- ing, optimistic criticality.

Integrative thinking and practice embodies a shift towards the ecological paradigm of transformation, innovation and strategy, in the face of accelerating change, through the creation of meaningful, heart-centered experiences. Rooted in, yet moving beyond design thinking, this framework integrates a diverse range of disciplines and methods of thinking and learning to tackle complex, ambiguous and ‘wicked problems’. Through an optimistic criticality everything is consciously questioned. This all-embracing approach fosters safe-to-fail experimentations, explorations and innovations, where hybrid cross-learning and new initiatives are encouraged, and attention is brought to how communities and users can foster innovation (Gall, 2010). Here failings are experiments to be learnt from, where pas- sion, strategy and co-creation are supported.

RHYTHMS

Keywords: scales, speeds, localism.

As evident in nature, a variety of rhythms must manifest for systems to resiliently sustain them- selves. Small-and fast merged with large-and-slow are fundamental to an ecosystem’s resilience (Thorpe, 2003, p.228). These variable frequencies allow for the diversity of speeds and scales, and result in alternative fashion practices.

Entwined within notions of rhythms is localism, which flows as an experience and as a way of viewing the world, as opposed to geographical location. This local mindset but global business approach produces newfound agency, new power, and alternate behaviours within socio-ecological and cultural contexts. Localism cultivates an economy of place, fostering interaction, co-creation and self-organisation.

ADAPTING WITH GRIT

Keywords: adaptability, tenacity, flexibility, embracing uncertainty, change & complexity.

Resilience is about building capacity to bounce back from stressors and turbulence with tenacity. Embracing uncertainty, change and complexity, resilience discovers creative methods to adapt and adjust oneself, a product or a system, to ambiguous environments. Central to this adaptability is the tenacious quality, where it is this grit that constitutes the resilient spirit.

This adaptive perseverance flows into the next property of ‘revolutionary transformation’, which helps turn surprises into possibilities.

REVOLUTIONARY TRANSFORMATION

Keywords: fluid diversity, opportunism, agility, openness, modularity, active hope.

Fluid diversity moves beyond adaption, into finding ways to thrive amongst and past stressors into alternative new regimes. This property embodies crafting opportunities within ambiguity and disorder, and as a result synergistically transforming oneself, a product or system, into more robust form. This transformability is underpinned with fluid diversity, which presents a diversification of actors within the system, varied ideas, construction methods, processes, contexts, and backgrounds. Systems are created that embrace modularity, where these interconnected yet self-standing elements foster resilience through distributions of ‘assets’. Integrating cathedral thinking, this property is about generating vigorous capacity in the pres- ent so that future generations can thrive.

Here, active hope allows us to strengthen our personal capacity, to respond to change and turbulence with agility and creative power,where we can find ways to flourish within these unstable circumstances (Macy & Johnstone, 2012).