The Slow Textiles Group is a Sustainable Design thinktank.
“Slow Textiles Group members are cultural meaning creators,” says CEO Dr Emma Neuberg. “Each one imbues fabric, clothing, images, systems, techniques and relationships with cultural meaning. This creates value and edge by being symbolic, insightful and eloquent and grounds people in a language that can be felt, talked about, shared, understood and owned. The importance of this cannot be overestimated as it leads to liberation, waste reduction and happiness…do you know how significant this is for planet, people, social capital, health capital and resource capital?”
“Clothing, apparel, fabrics and design exist in a cognisant, collective space, based upon survivalist principles, not some place of innocent coincidence. For those who see only the Zeitgeist this seems radical.”
The aim of the Slow Textiles Group is to push the boundaries of sustainable textiles design and related industries, including Agriculture, Waste, Chemical Engineering, Behavioural Science, Oceanic Sciences and Social Care, and record the resulting innovations, concepts, installations, garments and projects through publication, exhibition and a professional programme of events.
The enterprise originates from Dr Neuberg’s research into sustainable design systems whilst a doctoral candidate in 1999 at the Royal College of Art (her research focus was Extended Life Techniques for Polymers), an awardee of the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts Creative Pioneer Programme and a consultant at Textiles Environment Design at the University of the Arts, London.
The Slow Textiles Group’s ethos is founded upon a sustainable development model where investment in social, cultural, health and resource capital takes priority. The group’s theoretical approach is based upon the National Population Approach, Ecocide as Fifth Crime Against Peace and the Industrial Ecology model. Neuberg adds,
“By understanding textiles manufacture, design, cultural relevance, environmental footprint and semiotic meaning, more complex relationships arise and render textiles and their lifecycle systems less throwaway.”
Slow Textiles Group workshops, tutorials, books, seminars, film showings and symposia based on these themes are a constant source of business inspiration for the group, its members and associates.
Dr Neuberg founded the Slow Textiles Group in 2009 in response to a demand for more reflective, theoretical and collaborative frameworks for creative design and textiles practice, professional development, educational and industry support, lifelong learning and community. Her vision for the future is progressive, integrative and global.
During a time of mounting university costs, cuts to student funding, textiles as a subject no longer taught in schools and Fast Fashion as global therapy, the Slow Textiles Group represents an enterprise that inspires, shares and teaches Textiles Design, Making and Systems that stimulate in-depth material and immaterial relationships, meaning and value.
From 1960s’ BIBA seamstresses to digital company directors, members of the Slow Textiles Group enjoy textiles and tactile materials for haptic exploration, social and cultural experience, quality of life and a sustainable wardrobe. They know the complexities of resource depletion, monoculture pressures, toxic externalities and social injustices and take a localized, grassroots approach to indicate and carve out diversified routes and alternatives.
Neuberg believes that fabric created to a maker’s design is an extension of that maker’s psyche, cultural context and epistemology. As a designer herself running her own commercial practice, she knows this to be true with “every fibre of her being” and, in applying this as a foundational stone, all fabrics, structures and patterns made and discussed by the Slow Textiles Group are placed in a fresh and meaningful cultural context and conversation.
The role of crafted practice is enormously important in integrating this value knowledge with respect to materials and product values, effects and affects at each stage of the material and immaterial lifecycle. Examples of ‘immaterial’ may range from falling out of love with a coat to invisible carcinogenic emissions such as phthalates emitted from a vinyl handbag left in a car on a hot day.
One public space for the group’s work is Textiles Hub London, the textiles maker-space and franchise conducive to textile designing, making, sharing and dialogue that Neuberg set up in 2014, and online during events broadcast live via Google Hangout, Any Meeting and Facebook Live.
Slow Textiles Group events at Textiles Hub London offer an open space for conversations to air and blossom and for research and knowledge to embed and disseminate. Public events range from The Sustainable Design Tools Masterclass to My Nature.