Habit(at) – I Stood Up For (Bio)diversity at Chrisp Street

Dilys Williams and Renee Cuoco

Habit(AT) is a research project led by Professor Dilys Williams, which seeks to explore our habits of living through fashion’s actions, relationships and locations, framed in the context of the city. Invited to take part in the 2015 Being Human Festival, we explored ideas from Habit(AT) through a pop up exhibition in a disused shoe shop at Chrisp Street Market in Poplar, East London – I Stood Up for (Bio)diversity. The area surrounding Chrisp Street is one of the most densely populated in the UK, and it is classed as deficient in providing access to nature for its citizens. With this as a starting point we set out to explore the local community’s thoughts and ideas about nature and biodiversity, using fashion as a means to facilitate a dialogue.

Leading up to the event we took time to walk the local streets, noticing places where nature is conceived, made, acquired, cared for or retired. Photographing and mapping our journey, these findings became the foundation for our event. Working with the MA Fashion Futures course at London College of Fashion, we invited students to follow a similar process, to observe and capture how fashion is conceived, made, acquired, cared for and retired within the local community. We shared our noticing findings through an exhibition of work and a series of participatory design activities, developed from earlier work on the project (Corby, Williams et al 2015) with 140 people that came through the empty shoe store in the course of a day. We invited participants to talk about nature in their local community in exchange for an I Stood Up t-shirt, especially designed for the Chrisp Street locale, and we then took photographs of each participant wearing the t-shirt as a visual representation of the personal conversations captured throughout the day. Once collated, these images begin to weave together to form a spectacle of the community; chiming, diversifying, identifying them in time and place.