A multi-disciplinary research team from Robert Gordon University’s fashion and computing schools are working with Shanghai academics to educate consumers about the craftsmanship, heritage and value of traditional fashion and textile products towards sustainability, both in the UK and in China.
The project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) UK-China Creative Industries Partnership Development Grant called ‘From Augmented to Authentic: Weaving the Past into the Future’ explores how immersive experience and techniques could be used to represent and preserve the history and heritage of traditional fashion and textile products.
It brings together a multi-disciplinary RGU research team: Yang Jiang, lecturer and researcher in Digital Media and Computer Animations & Gaming at the School of Computing; Karen Cross, course Leader for fashion management at the School of Creative and Cultural Business and Josie Steed, course leader for fashion and textile design at Gray’s School of Art; together with Professor Rong Zheng from the Donghua University and Shanghai International Fashion Innovation Centre, as well as UK and Chinese creative businesses and organisations within fashion and textiles.
Project lead Jiang said: “Our aim is to use modern, immersive technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) to preserve the history and heritage of traditional fashion and textile products. We’re delighted to be attracting so much interest in our project from a range of organisations and businesses both here in the UK and in Shanghai.
“The project is one of only 14 national projects funded by the AHRC and the sole funded project from Scotland and the only project focusing on Fashion & Textiles in this funding scheme, a priority area for economic and cultural development for the Chinese Government.”
Steed said: “Fashion faces many challenges – the current generation of wearers is the first to be so far removed from how their clothing is produced and the prevalence of fast fashion has seen clothing reduced to transient items, worn for a short period of time, then discarded.”
“Fast fashion has pushed price downwards, moving textile and clothing production to low cost labour countries and decimating the traditional Scottish textile economy,” she added. “The surviving Scottish textile companies find it difficult to attract young people to work with them, leading to a skills shortage within the industry.
“Fast fashion also drives consumer need for newness, uses resources that are finite and damaging to the environment and creates much landfill waste.
“In 2018, the pressure to move towards a more sustainable fashion and textile industry has grown and this project seeks to explore ways to educate the consumer to the sustainability, craftsmanship, heritage and value of traditional fashion and textile products, using the growing medium of fashion film and immersive technologies.”
The project brings together a collaboration between RGU and Donghua University with the aim of building long-term and sustainable research and industry partnerships.
Steed said: “China and the UK both have long histories and cultural traditions related to textiles and clothing. Scotland’s tradition of tweed and tartan, cashmere and woollens continues to survive today through SMEs producing luxury products.
“A parallel can be drawn with China’s rich history of cultivating and producing beautiful silk products such as the Qi Pao, Han Fu and Song Jin, and to their position as one of the world’s largest textile and clothing producers. Fashion has embraced computer technology, with online sales continuing to grow and fashion film increasingly being used to market creative designs.”
Together they will research immersive techniques which could be used to represent and preserve the history and heritage of traditional fashion and textile products, and transfer them into modern design to meet the current and future fashion trends.
So far an academic and industry team has visited Shanghai during Shanghai Fashion Festival in April and an academic visit to further the collaboration with their Chinese partners is planned shortly.
The team have just launched a website documenting their on-going research at a recent 2-day workshop hosted at RGU and co-funded by the AHRC and The Scottish Informatics & Computer Science Alliance (SICSA). It brought together academics across architecture, computing and the creative industries across Scotland together with textile businesses and organisations including Harris Tweed Hebrides, Montrose Rope & Sail and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to explore the opportunities and research and industrial challenges that exist in the areas of fashion/textiles and technology with the overall aim of creating a multidisciplinary team for building a consortium for a larger project later this year.