We chat to Dr Amy Twigger Holroyd, the brains behind Fashion Fictions, about the brand new, one-of-a-kind exhibition taking over Sneinton Market - and how she’s hoping it will get people thinking more deeply about the clothes they wear…
Tell us a little about the upcoming Fashion Fictions exhibition…
It’s a trail around Sneinton Market Avenues and the Creative Quarter that showcases objects and images that have been created to represent life in a fictional parallel world. The task was for people to imagine that they’d travelled to this parallel world and taken a photograph or picked something up to show what life is like in that universe.
Each exhibit is from a different world, and they’re all about sharing things created in the wider Fashion Fictions project - which sits within the realms of fashion and sustainability, and which I use to bring people together to imagine, explore and enact fictional realities where people live with their clothes differently.
There are going to be two guided tours through the Market, so I can show people around and tell them extra bits about the exhibits themselves, as well as the people and the stories involved in them. I’m also running a free pop-up workshop on 15 April, where people can come along and have a go at some creative project activities for themselves. It feels really exciting to get this project out in the world and in front of people - it’s a nice culmination of a lot of hard work!
Where did the inspiration come from for Fashion Fictions?
I’ve been working in fashion and sustainability for about twenty years, and my experience is that people generally feel that how the world is now is pretty fixed. And so if you try to throw any vaguely radical idea into the mix, they say, “Well, that’s not going to happen. It’s not very realistic. It’s just not how the world is.” That feels deeply problematic to me, because it gives the idea that the way things are can never change - which I don’t believe. I think they’ll change quicker and more interestingly if people believe change is possible in the first place.
So this is quite foundational. It’s not about saying “here’s what the solutions are”, but it’s more about trying to work towards change and create a base layer of activities that are playful and imaginative, and that ignore what’s plausible or realistic, instead trying to get people thinking differently. My hope is that by imagining more outlandish things, we can widen our collective vocabulary and expand our collective sense of what might be possible. I think those are the conditions necessary for anything to actually change.
How fun was the process of putting these ideas together?
It was nice not to focus on the pragmatic element of proposals; it was all about open exploration. This led to so many great ideas, like imagining what it would be like in a world where sheep roam our cities’ streets, and every city has their own herd. There were loads of ideas that I’d just never even thought of before. Quite a lot of the exhibits have been made in workshops that I ran in Nottingham from November 2021 to Spring 2022, which brought people together to come up with ‘worlds’ like these.
In total, we’ve had around 180 ideas submitted, and we went through them and selected some that we felt were particularly ripe for further investigation in the workshops. The people taking part then developed their own versions of the world, and shifted them into prototypes that they could make into final exhibits. Everyone was so focused and there was a real atmosphere in the room when they got to work; there was so much joy in finding little jokes and playing with fashion tropes. That’s what I really like about this project: it weaves together the silly and the serious in such a unique way.
Why do you think it’s important to encourage new approaches to sustainability in fashion?
I’ve been active in this area for quite a long time, and while awareness has grown in that time, and the impact of creating an individual garment has gone down a little, the volume of clothing being produced has only increased. So I guess I have a frustration with things feeling really fixed, and with industry attitudes not progressing quickly enough. I’ve also been talking to students and they can often have a difficult time when they’re studying fashion and textile design - because they’re passionate about what they do, but they’re aware of how problematic the industry can be, and there’s sometimes a sense of resignation there.
So I think it’s good to have a field for unreasonable speculation and cut out the worries about whether ideas could happen; we have to develop a kind of collective hallucination and try to get people believing that anything is possible. I don’t think clothes themselves are going to necessarily change that much, it’s the way that we live with them and use them that we have to change. Since that’s social and cultural, we don’t need to wait for some technological breakthrough - it’s completely intangible and completely possible now. We just all have to be in on it in different ways, and I think a good way of doing that is to create a place where people can play with ideas, and move away from thinking about what won’t work to wondering, “What if it does work?”
Why was it important to get the exhibition out in the community, including in the windows of LeftLion?
That’s what was especially exciting about it all. We could have had a gallery exhibition, but then it’s only going to reach the people that go to the gallery, and we thought it was really important to reach as wide a range of people as possible. The fashion and sustainability discourse is quite narrow in its demographics, in terms of who thinks it’s their topic to talk about, but in reality it relates to everyone. We all wear clothes, and because of that we’re all engaged in fashion. So it was nice to make sure we could get the pieces in areas where they could capture everyday people in their everyday lives, and get them thinking about these issues too.
And can people still get involved in Fashion Fictions if they have their own ideas?
Absolutely. The whole project is built on openness and new suggestions; there wouldn’t be a project at all without that. So it’s an ongoing process. There are loads of resources on the website. If you want to write your own world, there’s a guide for that. If you want to create your own prototype, there’s a guide for that as well. And at the free pop-up workshop event on Saturday 15 April at Nonsuch Studios, ‘Try It Out, Try It On’, we’re inviting people of all ages to step into a few different worlds themselves. That’s an opportunity for people to get involved, including by writing their own ‘Fiction’ too. Everybody has their own ideas, and everybody approaches things in their own way, and it’s that diversity that the project really thrives on.
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