As this post is being written, people are taking to the streets in Paris and London (and in many other cities/countries around the world) to join demos ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference COP21. During the event, taking place in the French capital from tomorrow (30th November - 11th December 2015), world leaders will be gathered in a bid to create an agreement on global warming.
Finding solutions to the climate change problem through a conference and supporting such a demo are noble aims. Yet, quite often, even when we read about these topics or join a demo defending our planet, we forget about the real impact climate change is having on our lives and will have on the lives of future generations. No matter how many images of sea levels rising, floods, deforestation, natural disasters and forced migration and population shifts we may see, we indeed find it difficult to relate to scientific and ecological data and statistics.
Professor Helen Storey from the Center for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, may have found a new aesthetic to make us relate to the destruction of our planet and is presenting it to us via a project that does not contemplate selling us the umpteenth T-shirt with a vapid printed slogan that proves we care about the Earth.
Professor Storey has indeed deviced the Dress For Our Time, a Digital Dress Clock, a billowing gown-cum-cape made with a tent (no longer in a usable condition) gifted to the project by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and developed in partnership with the award winning agency Holition. The tent incorporates a digital data display that clocks the effects and consequences of climate change.
The data displayed on the piece were provided by Britain's Met weather and climate office, in association with a team of global scientists. As Storey studied the data, she shockingly realised the extent of the human and ecological cost of climate change and understood that very little of our world will be left unaffected by climate change in less than 100 years.
The lecturer and fashion designer decided therefore to create a piece that hinted at nurturing, protecting and safeguarding the planet and all human beings, but that could also help people grasping complex scientific ideas bringing to life the statistics through a sort of data coding process.
"Nobody is afraid of a frock, and you have to use the power of that," Storey states in the YouTube interview with Michael Saunby, Open Innovation Manager at the Met Office (posted at the end of this piece). "If people think they're looking at fashion, if they think they're looking at art, then they are open. If you can then - through a Trojan horse or subterfuge or whetever way you want to do it - at the same time deliver something that is more difficult than looking at a frock, you've got people in the right space, which is to be open and to be curious and in some ways to be disarmed by beauty. So, if I do my job right, it's using beauty to disarm people."
The dress will be on display until today inside London's St. Pancras International Station (next to the Sir John Betjeman statue, Euston Rd, London, N1C 4QP), a very symbolical gateway to Paris, allowing people arriving and leaving to ponder a bit more about our planet and develop further dialogues on climate change or finally join the conversation in a more active way. This is also the main aim and objective of the film accompanying the project.
In the film a mysterious woman walks along the streets of London clad in the billowing gown, but, rather than being an ominous presence, the figure walks along the streets attracting the attention of the passers-by, silently urging via her attire and solemn stride to change their habits.
The climate change gown - a project supported by London College of Fashion, UAL, Unilever, Holition, Met Office, St Pancras International, UNHCR and the Helen Storey Foundation - is the first phase of Dress For Our Time. Professor Storey will be looking for feedback on social media to define the next chapters, and you can help her share and develop the project via #Dress4ourTime and #ClimateChange on Instagram and Twitter.
So, it looks like we may all end up being the ones who will suggest Professor Storey what will the next step of the project be, in the meantime it would be great if the dress could become a "reality check" for everybody - from ordinary people to world leaders attending the climate change conference - and if it could travel across the world, becoming the symbol of a movement.
Image credits for this post: all images in this post by David Betteridge
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