Care is everything that is done to maintain, continue, repair, “the world” so that all can live in it as well as possible. 3
That world includes our bodies, our selves and our environment, all of which we seek, to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web. 4
maria puig de la bellacasa’s5 notion of care alludes to care being a relational practice which takes place within complex systems. This notion of care also points directly to the sustainability of our world. Environmental sustainability in relation to fashion has been my primary context of care, although this interplays with social, cultural and economic dimensions of sustainability. Design thinker John Thackara once wrote that there are three possible responses to the accusation that designers are trashing the planet: denial, (paralysing) guilt, or becoming part of the solution.6 From my experience rather than options, they are steps in a process of coming to care. Denial is a phase: “it can’t be true”, “I didn’t do nuffink”. Guilt is a phase: “I feel so bad about being part of this, I just want to hide”, “I can’t see a way out”. Action can be a long phase and a process of discovery of new ways of being and relating in the world. Coming to care in fashion means being able to take in “what’s wrong”, our own role in this, and then being able to find ways to do something about it. In my PhD research I found that these present vicious or virtuous cycles.7 An experience of agency, being able to do something, increases our openness to learning, to seeing our own role in problems and solutions, perceiving fashion and sustainability as compatible, and wanting to do more to change and to influence others. Conversely, without an experience of agency, we shut ourselves to information, we regard fashion and sustainability as incompatible and so forth. We could say that the experience of agency determines whether we are in a fashion bubble or in the world. This letter therefore goes on to explore agency in fashion.