Capabilities and agency

The skills, clothing competencies or fashion-ability associated with the use of garments opens up a different set of opportunities for fashion provision to occur. They will act to refresh the language of goods, to loosen the monological view of fashion as consumerism, and to support the development of strategies that promote opportunities for flourishing and prosperity in fashion in a world of clearly defined ecological limits. To paraphrase Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen: just because you own it, doesn’t mean you know how to use it. Possession doesn’t lead directly to understanding, or to the ability and freedom to act. Instead, satisfaction flows from what we succeed in being and doing with the garments we have available to us. It is a dynamic relationship between what could be done and what we actually know how to do and be. 

The expansion in rates of production and consumption of goods like fashion without a corresponding growth in our self-knowledge, skills and competence threatens us with impoverishment of human and natural systems. A different, more reflexive understanding can be nurtured by the untaming, attentive, moderating influence and pleasure of the craft of use. Its promise is rooted in building not just a set of garments and fashion possibilities but of building receptivity in the mind to fashion that depends on what we are and do as much as what we have; to the idea that, for advantage and satisfaction, we need not continuously set new record levels of consumption.

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