The Service Shirt

Textile designers have a long tradition for being resourceful with materials – think of the history of patchwork quilt-making or ‘boro boro’ mending – but the emergence of the circular economy design discourse (Charter 2018) and the highlighting of future opportunities for textiles (EMF 2017) has enabled a differentiation between linear and circular design practice. This considers the end-of-life of the material/product first, and makes all design decisions based on this, around its whole lifecycle (production, use and disposal) (Fletcher 2008). Yet there remains a distinct lack of exploration through academic practice-led textile design research within an applied industry context.

By reflecting on previous practice work - including two AHRC projects in which textile design practice approaches extended the life of fashion garments through craft-level over-printing and super-slow 100-year textile design (www.upcyclingtextiles.net, 2003 - 2015) – this new shirt concept demonstrates a textile design practice approach developed to create extreme extended-lifecycles for circular fashion textile products.

In the Service Shirt concept, a brand provides many of the material state changes, enabling users to experience a variety of different ownership, rental and updating services, across a 50-year period. It was developed within a scientific research consortium and during a design-researchers in residence programme at a fashion brand. Earley created the shirt prototypes to reflect the state changes that the brand would need to operate: these include digital dye sublimation over-printing three times during a 15 year period, gradually building a light coloured print up to a solid black. Further transformations are achieved through using the shirt to line a jacket (Laetitia Forst) and jewellery-making (Katherine Wardropper).

This exhibit explores design for ultra-longevity approaches and demonstrates opportunities for textile design practitioners in using the framework of lifecycle speeds (Goldsworthy et al2016) as well as circular business model innovation, to inform and guide future responsible and sustainable practice. The concept enables us to understand how we can revalue textile design practice for its ability to open up industry-level opportunities.


Futurescan 4: Valuing Practice Exhibit

University of Bolton

23-24 January 2019


Photographs by Tony Radcliffe and Di Downs.