An evaluation of the types and levels of intervention used to sustain global artisanship in the fashion sector

Brown, Sass (2021) An evaluation of the types and levels of intervention used to sustain global artisanship in the fashion sector. (PhD thesis), Manchester Metropolitan University, .


The aim of this research is to evaluate the range and types of sustainable development models that work with textile artisanship from the around the world, with a view of building a taxonomy of model types. The intent is to identify and classify the various operational models, assess the modes and levels of intervention, and the best practices that support the retention of craft and the people and communities that produce them. This research compares motivations and practices, identifying the connections between the levels and types of intervention and the tier of market distribution. Analysing the methodologies utilised for the sustainment, recovery, reinvention, reinterpretation and replacement of traditional craft, the thesis highlights the ethical considerations of working with traditional craftsmanship and its insertion into fashion related businesses. Seventeen case studies were undertaken as part of a multi-case study approach, the research is qualitative in nature and based on grounded theory methods. Interviews and observations were the dominant means of primary data collection, supplemented with secondary sources of archival records, website content, product outcomes, annual and impact reports, and any existing research and articles available, leading to a broad diversity of data for analysis. A wide range of mission-driven for-profits, not-for-profit’s, NGO’s, governmental agencies and faith-based missions were evaluated ranging in scale, geography and craft, with a focus on those bridging the gap between craft and fashion business. The case studies compared and contrasted enterprises that have managed to retain, reintroduce, reinvent or replace textile traditions, as a means of sustainable development. There are many agencies that use craft skills as a means of job creation and poverty alleviation, as well as businesses that seek to leverage tradition as means of product differentiation. Some honour the traditions of the material culture they work with, while others simply seek to insert artisan traditions into the existing fashion supply chain. Working with traditional material culture, with its embedded meanings, codes and values, whether retaining, replacing or reinterpreting it, inherently creates ethical dilemmas that need to be addressed and evaluated. In a time when the fashion industry is grappling with a series of ethical challenges from climate change to diversity and inclusion it is important that we evaluate and reframe our relationship with global craft, as a possible route towards greater social and environmental sustainability. Envisioning new models plays an important role in context setting, with the intent of reframing and revaluing global artisanship through its recontextualization in fashion business. The outcome of this research is a taxonomy of models that incorporate the motivations, impacts and ethics of entities that work with craft, and expressed through a constellation mapping of internal and external viability criteria that identifies best practice, providing insight into the analysis of the different models.

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