Local Wisdom is an international fashion research project that collects stories about and photographs of peoples' favourite garments. It explores all the different uses for clothing and what they mean to people. The project has travelled to the UK, the US, Canada, Denmark, Australia, and New Zealand. They looks for stories about garments that are any of the following, or more:
- easily repairable
- shared between people
- enjoying a third, fourth, or fifth life
- surprising each time you wear it
- shows the story of how it has been used
- worn in ways that defy the producer's values
- worn regularly and never been washed
- connects you to others
- worn in response to changing economic or environmental concerns
- adapted to meet changing needs
The project aims to sustain attention to tending to and using garments rather than simply creating them, using them for a short period of time, and then throwing them away. Reading the profiles from people all over the world talking about how they use their clothing and what it means to them got me thinking about my own clothing in this way. A long corduroy skirt lent to me by a friend that has never made its way back, a patched pair of blue jeans, a woollen Norwegian sweater passed on to me by my dad.
An article of clothing can be so much more interesting than something you buy simply to cover yourself. I find that the garments that are most meaningful to me are those that I have made or repaired myself, those that have been given or lent to me by others, those that were a particularly good find in a thrift store, or those that have stuck with me for years.
Next time you slip into your favourite article of clothing, take a minute to think about why it's your favourite. Where did it come from? Who made it? Did you buy it yourself or was it given to you? Is it comfortable or classy or both? Clothing is wearable art that can carry all sorts of meaning. Maybe if we all tried thinking about our clothing in this way, fashion would become something less disposable and more meaningful.