Research Summary

Current activities

  • My book, Folk Fashion: Understanding Homemade Clothes, will be published by I.B.Tauris in March 2017.
  • I'm working towards a solo exhibition, Units of Possibility: The Reknit Revolution, which will take place at Rugby Art Gallery from 24 June to 2 September 2017.
  • I remain involved with Design Routes, a research project exploring the role of design in revitalising culturally significant designs, products and practices, which I worked on at the University of Leeds. A major output from this research is our co-edited book, Design Roots: Local Products and Practices in a Globalized World, which will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2017.
  • And - of course - in my role as Senior Lecturer in Design, Culture and Context at Nottingham Trent University, I'm currently hatching plans for future research. 

Research interests

I use design and making to explore new ways of thinking about fashion. 

With experience spanning enterprise, teaching and research, I have been active in the sphere of fashion and sustainability since 2002. I aim to question the seemingly inextricable link between fashion and consumption and contribute to the development of alternative, more open models of fashion activity.

I’m interested in the potential benefits of bringing making closer to use: through, for example, more direct relationships between designer, maker and wearer; the revitalisation of traditional and local products; and especially people designing, making and repairing things for themselves. I aim to understand people’s lived experiences of these activities, discover ways of supporting amateur and small-scale practice, and challenge ingrained perceptions of what is possible and desirable. I’m interested in the role of the designer in facilitating amateur creativity, and have a particular focus on the use (as well as creation) of homemade items.

In all of this work I draw on social theory, which offers valuable insights and perspectives on human experiences. While connecting with other disciplines, my research is distinctively design-led: I’m particularly interested in contributing to the development of research through design and making with others as dynamic and creative approaches to research.

Research biography

My journey into research started with my MA in 2002, when I discovered the emergent field of design for sustainability. After graduating I launched Keep & Share, aiming to test and develop my design philosophy in the real world. I have always seen my practice as a type of research, generating new knowledge and setting an example which can be shared with others.

As I had originally hoped, Keep & Share has been used by researchers as an example of innovative practice, which addresses consumption rather than merely 'greening' current systems. You can find full details of the publications discussing my work here, and information about exhibitions, presentations and case studies here. In 2014, to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Keep & Share, I captured the story of the label in my own words.

As my practice evolved I developed an interest in supporting amateur making, and the fascinating conversations I had with knitters about their experiences inspired me to undertake further academic research. Between 2010 and 2013 I studied for a PhD, exploring amateur fashion making – which I describe as ‘folk fashion’ – as a strategy for sustainability. More specifically, I investigated reknitting: the use of knitting techniques to rework existing knitted garments.

In 2014 I joined the School of Design at the University of Leeds as a postdoctoral Research Fellow, and in 2016 moved to my current post at Nottingham Trent University.