“Fit But You Know It” is a collaborative practice research project to decolonise fashion industry norms around fit. It brings together design practitioners, educators and STS researchers.

Through hands-on workshops we address the challenge of decolonising art school education by exploring a core concept in industrially-produced clothing: fit.

The standardisation and simplification of fit is critical to fashion’s ability to sell, ship and scale products globally.  The legacy of Enlightenment values of universalism underpinning global trade also sees to the erasure of our tacit understanding of how to fit fabric to our own bodies.

Industrially-produced clothing has fit ‘built-in’ using pattern-cutting techniques of darts and seam shaping. By contrast, pre-industrial or contemporary examples of non-western garments, such as a West African wrapper dress, rely on fitting techniques deployed by the wearer’s hands in wrapping, knotting, or rolling. 

If deeply embedded industrial-colonial practices are to be challenged, art schools and universities are the places to start an urgently needed shift in epistemic power relations.  The project aims to reconfigure understandings of fit to allow for pluriversal design approaches by future fashion practitioners.

In the sessions, participants will experiment with everyday materials, and their hands and bodies.  In foregrounding experimental methods, we allow for diverse perspectives and include the valuable contributions that designers, makers and creative thinkers can make to any academic discourse concerned with progressive social change.

UPDATE: “Fit But You Know It” will run a workshop at the Making and Doing section of the annual Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) conference in 2022. This is the main global gathering of STS scholars.

Author Biographies:

Olivia Hegarty is a Lecturer and Unit Leader at UAL London College of Fashion BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear.  Her areas of specialism in education are patterncutting, 3D experimentation, sustainability and values-led design. She has experience teaching internationally and advising on curriculum design in HE.  She is also a design practitioner and consultant in industry across menswear and womenswear.

Luke Stevens is a design lecturer and Unit Leader at UAL London College of Fashion BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear. He is the co-founder and designer of London/Rekjavik based Menswear label Arnar Mar Jonsson, and a lead “design troll” at Knowledge Exchange platform EXT_, where he explores frameworks for non-hierarchical methods of collaboration and exchange between academia and industry. 

Cian O’Donovan is a Senior Research Fellow at UCL’s Department of Science and Technology Studies. He is an expert on the politics of technology and in particular the impacts of digital transformation on public services like long term care. He uses this research to study who benefits from innovation more broadly, who pays for it, and who decides.