Textiles as a catalyst in the co-creative design process

Katherine Townsend, Ania Sadkowska, Juliana Sissons, Karen Harrigan, Katherine West

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This paper presents findings relating to the crucial role of textiles in the Emotional Fit (Townsend et al. 2016) collaborative research project, which is investigating a person- centred, sustainable approach to fashion for an ageing demographic. Working with a group of Nottingham women (aged 55+) the team have accrued and responded to data drawn from in-depth interviews, wardrobe inventories and body measurements, to develop a collection of co-designed fashion prototypes that aim to meet the physical and emotional needs of their participants. By integrating geometric cutting with carefully selected and bespoke printed textiles, the resulting minimal waste garments enable wearers to express themselves via universal silhouettes incorporating multiple styling options, in support of personal agency and product longevity.
Textiles act as the catalyst for the design and project development process by: providing a starting point for shape making through draping on the body and mannequin; as sensorial substrates to elicit tactile responses and interactions; as the surface for photographic imagery, engineered patterns and contrasting volumes, to be enacted by the human form.
The project demonstrates how such a co-creative or hacking approach necessitates a shift away from the established hierarchical fashion system (Busch 2009) that often undervalues its consumers. Here, by contrast, we actively explore the potential customer’s lived experience of the relationship between body, cloth and dress to inform a more holistic fashion design philosophy. The methodology challenges the generally accepted view of the textiles as subordinate to the practice of fashion, by documenting normally unspoken exchanges with the semantics of fabric through handling, manipulation, testing, printing, toiling and constructing. By reflecting on the aesthetics of cloth in relation to the emotional fit of clothing, we illustrate how it is intrinsic within the creative decision-making process, whereby embodied associations with the past point towards newly imagined wearable futures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationINTERSECTIONS // Collaborations in Textile Design Research
PublisherLoughborough University
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017
EventIntersections: Collaborations in Textile Design Research - Loughborough University London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 13 Sept 201713 Sept 2017


Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Townsend, K., Sadkowska, A., Sissons, J., Harrigan, K. & West, K. (2017) Textiles as a catalyst in the co - creative design process. In Proceedings of Intersections: Collaborations in Textile Design Research Conference, 13 September 2017, Loughborough University London, U.K. Available from www.lboro.ac.uk/textile-research/intersections


  • Emotional fit
  • co - creation
  • body - cloth interaction
  • fashioning textiles
  • in - between garments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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