Refashioning a system. How Open Source has influenced Fashion Design

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Refashioning a system: How Open Source has influenced Fashion Design

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt Diplom Mode-Design Kunsthochschule Berlin WeiĂ&#x;ensee Hochschule fĂźr Gestaltung WS 2011 Tutor: Knut Ebeling

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of The Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component, which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”

—Paul Valery (1871-1945), Pieces sur L’art, Le Conquête de l’ubiquité

INDEX Preface Introduction

page 7


Chapter 1 Ripping seams The internet and the fashion industry

13 17

Chapter 2 Open source and fashion


Chapter 3 Access to patterns


Chapter 4 Common works, common words


Conclusions Weaving values with fashion







The introduction of the Internet in the last quarter of the 21st century changed life as we knew it. Communication, social participation, access to information, tools and their use towards democracy are some of its most important assets. In the field of fashion design it has not only served to launch spirited attacks against the superficial aspects of capitalism, but also provided with empowering information made available to its users for free.

Besides being a communication system, fashion also serves as a metaphor for capitalism. Using creativity, revolutionary demands can be articulated from fashion design that alter ways of production and our relation to clothing in everyday life. Furthermore, these demands are placed from within the heart of a movement that uses the Internet as a platform for social and economic change.

Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Introduction “In the name of “progress” our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old.” Marshall McLuhan

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

The use of the Internet towards a shift in fashion design (mirrored into other areas of economic and cultural interest) is the main topic of this research. Open source in fashion design has introduced a whole new array of terms and procedures that react to the current economic functioning of the fashion industry. There is an increasing number of Internet based projects evidencing this emerging trend. Thus numerous questions arise:

- What is open source in fashion? - Is fashion being influenced by open source practices? - Do open source concepts carry aesthetic changes or rather conceptual? - Is open source an underground movement or does it influence the mainstream? - How does open source modify the fashion industry? - What is the future of open-source? How will it grow further? Phrase printed on the back of the Whole Earth Catalog.


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Cover of the 1968 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog. In it’s contents, Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome constructions.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Though no official history of the Internet has been written, a 1968 publication created by USbiologist Stewart Brand titled “The Whole Earth Catalog (WEC)” is seen as an early version of it. This counterculture catalog was published between 1968 and 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. The introduction to the catalog reads:

“We are as gods and might as well get good at it. So far, remotely done power and glory—as via government, big business, formal education, church—has succeeded to the point where gross defects obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.”

In this manner, WEC served as a magazine with content divided into the chapters Understanding Whole Systems / Shelter and Land Use / Industry and Craft / Communications / Community / Nomadics and Learning. Each chapter listed all sorts of products for sale (clothing, books, tools, machines, seeds – things useful for a creative or self-sustainable lifestyle) and also articles and instructions on how to do things from an igloo, to hydroponics, to making your own clothes. The publication was groundbreaking, enlightening, and spawned a group of later publications. Brands philosophy was “You own your own words, unless they contain information, in which case they belong to no one.”

Stepping up to a current setting, online access to information has changed world economics and reshaped politics regarding intellectual ownership. This new scenario has introduced fresh concepts regarding our economy and values and has highlighted the importance of design as part of a new agenda. The spirit behind Brands’ project carries much of the philosophy of the open source generation. In this first chapter a mixture of concepts will be introduced. These trace the ground where the exchange dynamics of fashion design and open source take place.



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt


Chapter 1: Ripping seams “You never change things by fighting existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”. Buckminster Fuller

The uprising movement related to free software, free culture and Open Education Resources is also known as Open Culture. Hailing from a wide range of political and philosophical statements, the movement calls for an open and free approach to knowledge and content, seing both as common values. Open Cultures promote the use of property licenses as a means for social innovation and sustainability. The term Open Source is considered a philosophy as much as a pragmatic methodology. “Source” means the code with which the Internet is written. Thus “Open Source” was born to describe the environment that the new copyright, licensing, domain, and consumer issues created. The term describes practices in production and development that promote access to the end product’s source materials. Before the term became widely adopted, developers and producers used a variety of phrases to describe the concept; open source gained hold with the rise of the Internet, and the need for massive retooling of the computing source code . Opening the source code enabled a self-enhancing diversity of production models, communication paths, and interactive communities. Eric S. Raymond: The Revenge of the Hackers. 2000., accessed December 12th, 2011


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

A network of nodes: P2P computing

The main practice in Open Source philosophy is to collaborate with peers by placing source material, instructions and documentation for free in the form of data, ranging from computer code to the mechanics for improving a product, a technique, or medical advancement. In Open Source people are active and progress toward a collective goal, while sharing work and benefits simultaneously. The movement flows from the small actions of creative individuals.

Most of the initiatives in the Open Culture movement are based on P2P computing or networking (Peer-to-peer) which is “a network of nodes, in which tasks or workloads among peers are shared. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application while making a portion of their resources, such as processing power, disk storage or network bandwidth, directly available to other network participants, without the need for central coordination by servers or hosts� . P2P processes are non-institutional, in the sense that it is the collective itself which validates the knowledge.

This type of structure was popularized by file sharing systems like Napster, a pioneering peer to peer file sharing Internet service that allowed for sharing audio files encoded in MP3 format.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web (www) intended for his project to function as a P2P network, an meant for each user to become an active editor and contributor, creating and linking content to form an interlinked “web” of links, such as Wikipedia. Linux is the most popular application used by the community.

A project can be described as open source if it complies with the following criteria defined by the Open Source Initiative :

• it must be of free redistribution. • the program must include source code. • the license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software. • the integrity of the author’s source code must be respected. • the license must not discriminate against persons, groups or fields of endeavor. • license distribution applies to all work derived from the program, though it must not be specific to a product or restrict other software. • the license must be technology neutral.

Formerly only the option for Copyright existed to protect intellectual work. Due to these circumstances the non-profit organization Creative Commons was created to expand the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share further, also known with the term Copyleft. If a work is not clearly labeled under Creative Commons it falls into Copyright be default. That’s why Creative Commons allows for an agile and low cost copyright management regime, profiting both copyright owners and licensees . The original set of licenses all grant the “baseline rights”, such as the right to distribute the copyrighted work worldwide, without changes, at no charge. There are several versions of the licenses depending on the type of work the copyright will be used for., accesed December 14th, 2011, accesed December 14th, 2011



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Chanel’s presence online includes social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, additional to the house’s own website,

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The Internet and the fashion industry “You taught me language,

and my profit on t’ is I know how to curse”. Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2

It is impossible to talk about Open Source fashion without addressing how the Internet has modified the industry in general. We can say that the Internet has changed the logic of fashion. In one hand, the Internet has made the design process much faster as well as more competitive, while at the same time it has broadened consumer bases and allowing for consumers to become more astute. Updated designers do not leave their desk now. They are reading blogs for their design information, sources and inspiration references. Naturally, marketing and advertising have been changed too., for example, was launched on the Internet in January 1995, making it the first commercial fashion site online. As Nick Knight— perhaps the first fashion photographer to embrace the Internet phenomenon — concisely put it, the new platform showed greater potential over “yet another glossy picture in a magazine” . Knight later on co-founded the website which is an online broadcasting company that transmits live fashion media twenty-four hours a day to a global audience, including photoshoots, videos, and behind-the-scenes documentation. Launched in November 2000, the website confounds performance, spectacle, self-presentation, together with innovative collaborative projects.

The most signifying change that the Internet introduced is in giving the audience a voice. Any person can give their opinion, criticize, and participate actively. The elitist circuit in which fashion had locked itself in was forced to open up due to the demands social networks imposed. The industry had to respond to these demands and react to information at an unknown speed.

Formerly, the audience of a fashion house was anonymous. To this audience a fashion house was aspirational. The house and its designers established relationships with people with different, accessed December 12th, 2011

Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


interests and needs. Online content must be developed parallel to a collection, not only for the official website, but also for the social media networks. An added challenge for a fashion house or independent designer nowadays is to combine talent and creativity with the newest technology and social networks, to achieve direct communication with these new audiences.

Bloggers have made a clear statement of their importance for the industry. Through their online presence and opinions they have become the representatives of this anonymous audience and are now reporting from the front row of every fashion show, taking pictures with their cell phones. It was better for fashion houses to put them on their lists and recognize them as style leaders.

In an interview held by during Dolce and Gabanna’s Spring Summer 2010 show in Milan, blogger Bryanboy comments on his presence in the season’s shows, on how fashion houses have changed in their attitude towards him and also on what he was wearing. Not only was his answer Dolce and Gabanna, but the interviewer’s microphone also had the house logo clearly printed on it.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Tavi Gevinson first started her blog in May of 2008, at the age of 11. The entire fashion industry started praising her clever thoughts and soon she became a sensation, now collaborating with other famous bloggers (’s Diane Pernet), cojudging an online fashion film competition for Italian Vogue and gracing the cover of international fashion magazines. Fashion labels have placed courteous attention in receiving validation from the child genius through positive critiques posted on her blog, and send her complementary clothes as reward.

The development of a new language is the natural answer of those who were born in the Internet era. A person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technology who has a greater understanding of its concepts through interacting with it from an early age, is called a “digital native” . Other popular discourse identifies a digital native as a person who understands the value of digital technology and uses this to seek out opportunities for implementing it.

The use of language is also modified with technology. Fashion houses have updated their look and feel by adopting these new Internet actors, regardless of their age or professional experience.

Tavi Gevinson on the covers of british magazines Love and Pop, and parisian L’Officiel.

Mark Prensky, On the Horizon. MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt


Chapter 2: Open source and fashion “Fashion is not a game of illusions, but another reality, and this other reality of fashion can be used as a tool for addressing change in our physical and social world”. Otto von Busch

In her book Sustainable Fashion & Textiles, Kate Fletcher points to the conflict between fashion and consumption with the goals of sustainability . Work-force exploitation, fuel resource use, waste levels and environmental impact are hand-in-hand with fashion cycles and trends. One of the ways to achieve a visible change is to introduce new philosophy and working methods that use new technology. In this context, joining Open Source concepts and fashion design seems like a promising advance.

A common point of interest for most of the functioning projects analyzed for this research, is questioning the need for clothing in a sociological way, and the challenge fueling most of them is to build a new vision for fashion that satisfies needs and reduces poverties. This requires a shift from a system where “life is placed at the service of artifacts… to one where artifacts are at the service of life” . Kate Fletcher: Sustainable Fashion & Textiles, Earthscan, London, 2008, p117. Manfred Max-Neef. Development and human needs in Real-Life Economics, London, Routledge, p202.

final garment. Use the and turn off steam. 22 rom the iron-on transfer.

Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design 2

Sew the buttons onto the spots marked with blue crosses. Make the button holes on the spots marked with blue dots. Stitch both zippers onto the blue lines. Sew one half of a zipper onto each line. The top of the zipper should be turned downwards.

ep by step




Zip up both zippers to make a sleeve. Wrap the fabric around your body and put your arms through the holes sleeves. Button the jacket in the front and back.

Sew the invisible zipper between both front parts. Start 1.5 cm from the top.

openwear/ collaborative clothing


Stitch one half of the inner pocket (n6) on both sides of the front center (n1) between the marked lines. Cut a short line (approx. 1cm) till the seam on the top and bottom of the pocket. Turn the pocket so that it is placed on the outer side if the pattern, iron and stitch again on top. 8 Pin the front left + right (n2) patterns on the front center (n1) and stitch along the seam line as seen in the illustration.



Pieces from Openwear’s collaborative collection. Top: Multisquare is a skirt, dress and cape in one Bottom: Jackretro, a piece that can be a skirt or a jacket Pin the back and right back patterns on the back center pattern and stitch as seen in the illustration.

Stitch the other half of the inner pocket (n6) on to both sides of the front left + right (n2) between the marked lines. Turn the pocket so that it is placed on the outer side of the pattern and iron.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Most of the projects working in the field of Open Source and fashion design are based on the principle of P2P networking. The actors within are a mixture of fashion professionals searching for alternative positions within the field, creative workers that are not professionally involved in fashion or crafting and craftivists. In other terms, this process can be seen as a re-appropriation of the relationship among creativity, subjectivity, produced object and production process .

One of the main projects in this field is The project began in October 2009 and it is part of edufashion and supported by the Lifelong Learning Program of the European Union and sponsored by the European Commission. It was born out of the collaboration of the Ljubljana based communication studio Poper, Ethical Economy (a London based company providing web tools to build ethically significant relations), the University of Milan, the University of Slovenia and the Copenhagen Business School.

The project’s main goal “is to promote an alternative approach to fashion through a learning environment that reconciles two social trends: the rising demand for no-sweatshop, ecologically sustainable, locally produced, fairly traded apparel, and the growing relevance of a self-managed workforce focused on independent, socially engaged, critical and multitasking creative production” . Therefore, openwear is a collective trademark that encourages coproduction, redistributes produced value and seeks organizational solutions that empower coproducers in the governance of the brand. The project functions as a practical experiment in institutionalizing mechanisms of revenue sharing through which co-creating consumers benefit from the value that they produce. User input is in this way at the heart of the creative process. It also involves consumers in determining the overall social values to which the brand should contribute with.

In spring 2010 openwear invited 8 designers of different nationalities to co-create “Forward to basics” their first collective collection. Each member of the community can download the source code for each garment and can then produce the piece, customize it, label it with the Bertram Niessen, Open Source, p2p, social innovation and clothing, 2010, downloadable from Openwear%20e-book%20final.pdf A two-year research project for the development of a collaborative platform for fashion creation and continuous education emphasizing skill-sharing and ethical branding., accessed December 7th, 2011



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Openwear logo, and sell it on and offline. The website also posts a blog, in which political issues towards sustainability are expressed as well as links to other projects and websites, mostly concerned with open source values and resources. The project abides for ethical economy and the redistribution of value. In his book Ethical Economy, Adam Arvidsson introduces ethical economics and interprets the beginning of a new, radically different economic system in which production is mainly collaborative and social, and in which value is based on the quality of social interactions and relationships rather than on the quantity of productive time. Simultaneously, there are virtual and local currencies and peer-2-peer rating systems that make the creation more real, which redistributes value in globalized social communities.

In an interview for Internet based Digicultmagazine, Arvidsson highlighted the importance of reputation as “the only way to ensure the trust and quality of such open systems”. Openwear offers the additional value of ethical capital, which serves to attract engaged designers. “In addition, measuring the peer-based reputation also enables Openwear to reallocate its profits to its own community, calculated on the base of the level of value that every individual contributed to make” .

A project working in a similar line is Open Garments ( The increasing demand for individual/customized goods of fashion (garments and accessories) and the opportunities of the digital world as far as communities, sophisticated knowledge management and communication methods with supporting tools, technologies for 3D-garment design and virtual prototyping, and for 2D-digital fabric printing and Rapid Manufacturing (3D-printing) are the reasons and opportunities behind the project. As a difference to openwear, this project is not thought of as a collaborative collection, but focuses on production connected to a broader database regarding local materials and resources., accessed November 18th, 2011, accessed November 25th, 2011

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Eyewear prototyping from DesignSmash

Another example of Open Source and fashion design is DesignSmash ( com), a company that was started with the belief that creativity and innovation are based on the exchange of ideas, and for designers, producers and people who support Open Source creative collaboration. The website has a web-store where you can purchase objects and find out about the designers who made them, with additional access to an Open Source file-sharing platform. Their intention coincides with the other projects, and their purpose is to build a more connected community that has the ability to evolve design collaboratively. Each object has a lineage that can be traced to its originator and has the ability to grow and evolve into many things. Local manufacturers are sought after, in an attempt to replace larger manufacturers, with many small ones. The idea that every locality should have its own producer means that the manufacturing profits stay local and the products themselves are more sustainable. Through their design events, online community development and investments into open design they foster a more effective and enjoyable process by supporting collaborations, investing in skills development and stimulating action. At it’s current state, the platform can be used mostly for accesories design. In 2005 the fictive Anglo Japanese fashion designer Serpica Naro was accepted to the official calendar of Milan Fashion Week. Minutes before the show, the organizers and press found out that the designer’s identity had been a publicity stunt to launch the work of, and that Serpica Naro is an anagram for San Precario, ”the term functions as a rhetorical device to move into the public arena a critical awareness of the changes in conditions and forms of work, of the shift from permanent positions to casual (in Italian precario/a) modes of employment” ., accessed December 17th, 2011, accessed December 19th, 2011.


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Serpica Naro’s laser looms made with a laser cutter, and upcycled dress made out of two old men’s shirts.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Their work is in an activist line following their statement: “Serpica Naro is a Metabrand, a method to share, a public code opening, liberation and networking of skills and minds. Serpica Naro as Metabrand for self-production is the answer through which we declare the fashion week is over and the season of precarious conspiracy has started”10. Zoe Romano, one of the collective brand’s co-founders started the association with several events and initiatives. The collective mixes theory, practice, craftivism and info graphics during events, workshops, exhibitions in various institutions and social spaces, in Italy and abroad. She is currently one of the online editors at and organizes, a yearly event held in Milan composed of a series of workshops and conferences on Open Source fashion subjects. Yoad David Luxembourg is another designer working in collaboration with Openwear. His design concept is flat geometrical pieces that can be connected to each other through eyelets and strings to form a wide array of garments, such as trousers, a coat, a vest, and so on. Details such as collars, pockets, and bags, can all be connected additionally to the garments.

10, accessed December 19th, 2011.

Yoav David Luxembourg’s garments allow for multiple combinations that are unisex and modular.



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Open Source fashion practice clearly relates to activism while setting new ambitions for design. In its many manifestations, a common goal within the projects studied is finding ways in which design can catalyze positive impacts to address sustainability issues. By combining concepts, this activism has a dual aim - to make positive impacts towards more sustainable ways of living and working; and to challenge and reinvigorate design praxis. Activism reveals the power of design for positive, social and environmental change, and grants design with a central activist role in the sustainability challenge. Design activism can be from individual/collective action to the infrastructure that supports it. This generates powerful participatory design approaches, allowing for a diverse toolbox and inspirational outcomes. This is design as a political and social act enabling adaptive societal capacity for co-futuring. The European Commission recently unveiled a new package of policies related to open data and public sector information. Vice-president Neelie Kroes encouraged business to open their data in order to generate new services ending with her speech entitled “Data is the new gold”11. Calling for emancipation from design houses and empowering local consumption and crafting, designer and philosopher Otto von Busch created the term Hacktivism. The term hacking originates from the early programming culture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and has usually been connected to the world of computers and software. The launch of the free software movement is one of their most important contributions12. Hacking means opening a system, accessing it and learning to master it’s construction and structure. This action allows for redirecting the system into one’s desired goals. Once dissected, the methods, techniques and tools used are exposed and shared. The term’s evil twin is the cracker, and as programming guru Eric Raymond simply puts the main difference: “hackers build things, crackers break them”13. According to media theorist McKenzie Wark, hacking is “at once an aesthetic and an ethic (concept)”14. Von Busch proposes multiple experiments in which reverse engineering and exposed parts of the process allow for a hands-on approach to design. The fusion of hacking and activism is a philosophy practiced by von Busch through the numerous projects posted 11 Neelie Kroes, Data Strategy Conference, Brussels, 12th December 2011. 12, accessed December 15th, 2011. 13 Eric Raymond: How to become a Hacker., accessed December 13th, 2011. 14 McKenzie Wark: A Hackers Manifesto. Harvard Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

“The sewing machine is an instrument for liberation and skills are a path to freedom!“ Otto von Busch

Von Busch’s logo for his site

Von Busch’s project Fashion Fianchettos“reprograms” the operations of clothes with simple changes in the execution of code. Using an oversized t-shirt as the basic “hardware” of fashion the workshop participants experimented with creating draping codes, or “software”, with which to easily update clothes through simple instructions. By connecting various parts of the garment with bandage clips new draping could be made and its coordinates written as a set of code instructions.


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


on his website, his publications and his worldwide lecturing on the subject. Hacktivism is best described as a practice that demands access to technology in fashion design and the decentralization of control, which results in empowering users allowing for the creation of “beauty exceeding limitations”. Von Busch’s Reform project distributes a series of D.I.Y. methods for remaking new pieces from old garments. He describes the instructions as cookbooks and produces collections of methods (not garments) with the aim to teach basic kills to reduce shopping and develop clothing competence. His aim is to elevate cutting, sewing and clothes making skills into micropolitical acts that subvert current power structures in the fashion sector and are ‘an insurrection against a state of resignation”15. Here, fashion becomes participative through the practice of transformative actions, on a physical, semantic and spiritual level. It is a critical approach and a form of constructive attention to the world, stressing the assembly, the interface and the forms in-between. In dialogue with this concept, multimedia designer Giana Gonzales introduced the project Hacking Couture in 2007. Through her work, she explores the different ways in which fashion and space can be altered, fused and/or enhanced with technology and alternative ways of construction - from concept to production. She uses the methods of trend forecasting for the fashion industry and dissects the language of fashion houses into handbooks. The project explores the merging of interactivity and fashion by applying the concept of Open Source to the process. The design elements or DNA of an established brand, like Chanel, are revealed to be part of a system that invites participation. She organizes workshops at galleries and universities where the “hacking” practice takes place.

Hacking Couture plays with contemporary cultural discourse by applying the language of new media and technology to textiles. By decoding and redesigning, the notion of clothing competence is cultivated among the participants. Designer/brand clothing serves as a specific example that points to a general cultural condition that criticizes the acceptance of the mainstream into everyday life.

15 Otto von Busch: Re-forming Appearance: Subversive Strategies in the Fashion System-Reflections on Complementary Modes of Production, 2005,, accessed December 10th, 2011.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt


Giana Gonzalez mapping the “source code” of Chanel for one of her Hacking Couture Workshops


Stephanie Syjuco is a visual artist who created The Counterfeit Crochet Project, which carries a political statement through the use of crafting techniques. A designerknitter herself, Syjuco works on the themes of counterfeits, black markets, and bootlegging industries as a part of her artistic practice. Knitted patterns for several signature bags are downloadable from her website


A WORD ON MAKING: The following instructions assume a basic knowledge of CROCHET and a healthy sense of experimentation on the maker’s part. There is no formal pattern for this bag. I encourage makers to "freeform" it on every counterfeit handbag, and be inventive on how to interpret the textures and parts. I found it helpful to rummage around a few crochet books to choose from basic stitch patterns, and got inspiration from a few vintage 70s ones as well. There are great online tutorials on how to crochet, and it’s a fast and fun way to build up shapes. I'm hoping that folks try out their own techniques and ideas in making their bags. These instructions are to provide a launching point to help you get your creative counterfeiting juices flowing! —Stephanie S. organizer


COMPONENTS: The body is made of worsted-weight brown and mustard cheap acrylic yarn. I really like the chunky look and it's faster to work with a thicker yarn. Also, I make no bones about this being a "fancy" purse made out of nice or expensive yarn—for me it's all about both "debasing" the original and using common materials to interpret the couture. The purse has a front flap (where the logo is) that buttons down. Four little gold "grommets" (hand crocheted) are at the top corners, and a long handle is run through them to make an adjustable single long strap or two shorter double straps, depending on how you like to wear it. center

The main body is made in four separate pieces: � FRONT: a rectangle measuring about 11” wide x 6” high � SIDES/BOTTOM: one long piece measuring about an 1” wide and 23” long, or the length that it takes to wrap around the sides and bottom of the FRONT � BACK PANEL/FRONT FLAP: a square measuring 11” wide x 11” high. It creates the back of the purse as well as a small flap that folds over the top.


� LOGO PANEL: a smaller square measuring 6” wide x 6” high. This will eventually have the logo appliqued to it is whipstitched to the BACK/FLAP.

crochet, which made it look kind of like raised piping-an added visual bonus. You could technically crochet the body of the bag "in the round" as one piece, but I liked the more structured look of having separate pieces joined together. This faux "quilted" effect is just one way of how to achieve a grid pattern. It's very textured and based on a vintage crochet bedspread I picked up from a thriftstore a few years ago. You could just as easily use an untextured stitch for good effect. The squarish LOGO PANEL was made more plain, using a simple single crochet (sc) and then a double crochet (dc) border on the sides and bottom. I wanted something more plain so the logo stood out better.

Chanel logo


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

From Maison Martin Margiela’s Artisanal Line, clockwise from top, jacket made with recycled elastic band, faux-fur coat made with plastic gun tags, vest made of old gloves, and coat made of discarded Christmas tree tin foil decorations.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

Do-it-yourself practice and the reuse of old materials has always been a part of clothing. A specific form or reuse entered the grounds of haute couture in the late 1980s. The term Deconstruction16 was coined in philosophy, and insisted upon the disjointed nature of texts, their fissures of meaning and their incongruities, interruptions, and breaks. Once introduced into fashion, what this concept allowed for aesthetically and conceptually was groundbreaking.

A group of Japanese and Belgian designers pioneered the revolution. Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo started making clothes that endlessly challenged the relationship between memory and modernity, enduring and ephemeral. Using appropriation, transformation, juxtaposition and sampling from culture through fashion design, they introduced a new vision and aesthetic, which challenged the existing mode. These designers were seen as intellectual and thought provoking and through their work, questioned the relationship between memory and modernity, the enduring and ephemeral. The disruptive force of their works resided not only in their undoing the structure of a specific garment, in unwillingly finishing it, in working through subtractions or displacements, but also, and most of all, in rethinking the function and the meaning of the garment itself. They nurtured a fertile reflection that questioned the relationship between the body and the garment, as well as the concept of “body” itself.17

The haute couture techniques used in the Artisanal line by Maison Martin Margiela18 cannot be simply called “reuse” or “recycling”. In the design process, jackets, vests, pants and all possible garment types are created out of tinsel decoration, baseball gloves or old fur coats. Through upcycling, these pieces serve as a powerful visual reminder of the volumes of clutter in our lives. Deconstruction hence allowed for a recreation of the old into the new and infused discarded garments with new life. The pieces were re-plugged into high fashion by developing their craftsmanship. This is where the major difference between hacking and haute couture deconstruction lies. While in haute couture the practice remains in-house, the hacker avoids secrecy and encourages the participation of users and the diffusion of knowledge and methods. 16 Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) coined the term in 1971 as a way of criticizing not only both literary and philosophical texts but also political institutions. It can be applied in philosophy, in literary criticism and theory, in art, in architectural and political theory.. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, online version at 17 James Laver: Costume and fashion, a concise history. Thames and Hudson, London, 2002. 18



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Issey Miyake’s is a precursor in participatory design with his famous line A-POC, a marriage between craftmanship and technology.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt


Chapter 3: Access to patterns “Fashion is born by small facts, trends, or even politics, never by trying to make little pleats and furbelows, by trinkets, by clothes easy to copy, or by the shortening or lengthening of a skirt.” Elsa Schiaparelli

In the production of fashion design, the pattern is the hub around which everything is based on. The ability to take a sketch and engineer the pattern, with which the fabric will be later cut and will represent the style in proportion, silhouette and size, requires a long training in theory and in practice. In the industry, there are two types of designers: the sample room pattern cutter, and the final production pattern cutter. At a small scale, the same person, if not even the designer himself may do this job. The process of the pattern design can be done with CAD software. The first knowhow approaches to pattern cutting where flat pattern cutting, and modeling. In the first method, a geometric pattern based on body measurements is drawn on paper. The second method is a 3D approach called draping, where fabric is taken and pinned directly on a dress form.

The initial concept of flat pattern cutting has been updated with the introduction of new techniques. In 1999 Issey Miyake introduced his line “A-POC”, named after an acronym for “A Piece of Cloth” that also refers to the idea of “epoch” . It is a manufacturing method that Laurence Bénaïm, Issey Miyake. Ediciones Polígrafa, 2001, Madrid.


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Lagerfeld’s Spring 2010 look featured in Burda Magazine, including pattern for both skirt and blazer. Below, a 1989 Vogue Pattern featuring Calvin Klein, and a McCall’s 1940’s day-dress pattern

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uses computer technology to create clothing from a entire piece of fabric in a single process. Apparel companies have used computers since the early 1980’s. Pattern Design Systems (PDS) have become invaluable tools for the patternmaker, assisting in much of the repetitive tasks associated with patternmaking. These systems are capable of storing an incredible amount of data that can be quickly retrieved, tweaked and re-filed. The benefits of software usage are speed, accuracy and ease of data management. Miyake is one amongst many designers using technology to create fashion. His project is one step short into being Open Source in that it misses the main element: sharing. The 21st century has seen the expansion of patternmaking techniques, including substraction cutting, zero-waste cutting, bias cutting and engineered graphics .

A predecessor to open source design in patternmaking is Burda Magazine. First published in January 1950, it was conceived as a women’s fashion revue that included sheer paper patterns with the instruction to make the clothes featured in the issue, as an early example of a D.I.Y. practice. Patternmaking books, such as Butterick, McCall’s, Simplicity and Vogue Patterns, had existed in America since the late 1800’s in the shape of catalogues, from which flat patterns could be ordered and home delivered. Each pattern was contained in an envelope with an illustration on the cover and instructions in the inside on how to ensemble the garment.

In 2010, Karl Lagerfeld collaborated with Burda and published the pattern of a jacket and a mini skirt of his design that can be made to fit a variety of sizes. The magazine and patterns can be bought online , but the magazine also has a series of free downloadable patterns. Earlier collaborations in the field include Hedi Slimane (then head designer of men’s wear at Dior), whom in 2002 published a pattern for a men’s blazer size 46 in Die Zeit Magazine in Germany .

The resurgence of vintage styles and nostalgia meant commercial opportunities. Several websites, even Ebay offer vintage patterns, accessories, fabrics, and materials. The resurgence of the D.I.Y. movement brought back not only craft fairs and designer markets but also, accessed December 9th, 2011


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


Margiela’s pattern and desginer Hussein Chalayan’s interpretation of the dress. Photos by

numerous publications which cater the community. CUT magazine is a german D.I.Y publication that focuses on fashion projects ranging from accessories to knitwear and includes removable pattern sheets, additional to free online downloads of most of the projects contained in the print version.

The D.I.Y. movement allowed for the consumer to become a producer. Open-source practice has invited professionals and academics as much as home crafters. The knowledge behind patternmaking still requires formal training, but since ready-made patterns are available, anyone can download data, follow the instructions and have a designer piece in their closet or even relabeled on a rack for sale. Visionary web-based projects such as Showstudio have collaborated with mainstream designers such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Yohji Yamamoto, Martin Margiela and Junya Watanabe. With the invitation to download their patterns, users where also encouraged to upload images of their finished garments into a photo gallery. The project by Margiela, for example, is an unfinished garment that the user is invited to complete. “Margiela wished to offer an opportunity to engage them in a two-way exchange,

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a dialogue of mutation and innovation with the esteemed design house. The simple shift dress pattern, without sleeves and with no hemming, is the basis to make a design by augmentation and addition” . Though it allows for a “democratic” access into the world of couture, global networking also blends together knowledge and traditions beyond recognition and might be a threat to local customs. With famous fashion designers hailing mostly from First World countries, those “outside” the mainstream might replace their local expressions unconsciously. However, what these virtual spaces allow for is the testing of new ideas. Beyond access to free patterns, a major advance is the availability of online software. Susan Spencer, a computer networker from the U.S., founder of, first presented her initial idea for open source patternmaking software at the Libre Graphics Meeting 2010 in Montreal, Canada. Her presentation engaged a group of programmers with whom she developed the software Tau Meta Tau Physica . This software is based on open file formats, which allows for the automation of the on demand custom pattern production. It simplifies patternmaking by creating a block pattern using individual measurements, which can be modified to match a design. Spencer’s intention is that the software should more easily translate a drawing into pattern pieces, enabling clients to search and select the designs they like, and exporting the pattern as a PDF file to their sewist or manufacturer for completion, assuring client satisfaction and perfect fit. The retooling of the economy that has happened around digitizing and computing has allowed for a liberation from fashion trends into new fields of action. Linked to sustainability, the need to fight blind consumption is a shared goal behind most projects. Access to software also defines the line of work from The T-Shirt Issue, another collective that combines fashion, design and technology into unique basic apparel, ranging from daily wearable pieces to conceptual installations. The core of the project is polygonal shaping using 3D software. This software allows digitally dissecting and reduction of clothing design to its, accesed December 12th, 2011



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

The T-Shirt Issue’s restructured t-shirt seams.

basic building blocks and opens a dimension in which clothing can be rebuilt and customized into any imaginable shape. Seams can be placed freely over the entire surface of the fabric and can be altered to any position and degree of complexity. This geometric approach enables the optimization of the use of fabric to a zero-waste level. A conceptual variation in pattern design in it’s own, Zero Waste Design requires a very different approach in relation to the cutting of fabric to create a garment. The main principle to be respected is to use all of the fabric in order to avoid waste. The total amount of clothing and textile waste per year in the UK alone is approximately 2.35 million tons , which end up in landfill, and standard clothing production creates 15% of textile waste . Finnish designer Timo Rissanen is one of Zero Waste’s representatives explains: “In this method, the designer creates a garment through the pattern cutting process, working within the space of the fabric width. This approach directly influences the design of the final garment, as the pattern cutting process is a primary design step. It is difficult to design a zero-waste garment solely through sketching, Kate Fletcher: Sustainable Fashion & Textiles. Earthscan, London, 2008. Frederick H. Abernathy, John T. Dunlop, Janice H. Hammond and David Weil: A stitch in time. Lean retailing and the transformation of manufacturing - Lessons from the apparel and textile industries, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999.

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Timo Rissanen’s zero waste pattern layouts.

although sketching can be a useful speculative tool. Zero-waste manufacture, of which zerowaste design is a component, is an approach that can eliminate textile waste without modifying the garment patterns” . The Zero Waste design process uses the positive and negative space to make all pieces usable. The designers working within these parameters show the process of their work in exhibitions and on their blogs and websites. The patterns are placed on a single continuous piece of cloth and the instructions on how to place the pieces required are drawn as a puzzle. Holly McQuillan is another designer working in the method and her technique is called “The Cutting Circle.10 In her approach to zero-waste three garments (trousers, top and dress) are cut from one piece of cloth. Recently graduated New Zealand designer Julia Lumsden also works within the confines of Zero Waste. Her technique begins by eliminating/straightening all the curved lines in classic tailoring using techniques she identifies as Piecing, Blending, Nesting, Merging and Creating - helpfully giving names to the techniques that many zero waste Alison Gwilt and Timo Rissanen: Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Earthscan Publications, London, 2011. 10



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

This page, Julian Robert’s work using his Substraction Cutting method. Opossite, Holly McQuillan’s zero waste patternmaking approach.

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designers use everyday. Identifying and naming these techniques was a key part of her masters project and gives other zero waste designers a language to use and add to11.

Tara St James is the founder of Study NY, a design studio and incubator for creative individuals with a concern for the environmental and human aspects of the fashion industry. As part of Study NY, St James established Study Hall, a program that supports her studio interns to develop, produce and sell their own capsule collections. A believer in Open Source and sharing information, St James publishes her sources and contacts on her blog (4equalsides. com). By doing so she supports her suppliers, often smaller, fair-trade textile mills and fashion manufacturers.

Another version similar to zero waste cutting is Substraction Cutting, a method developed by british designer and professor Julian Roberts, concerned in designing with patterns, rather than creating patterns for designs, its basic premise being that the patterns cut do not represent 11 Timo Rissanen: Yield. Exhibition catalogue, Textile Arts Center, New York, 2011



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Pieces from Tara St. Jame’s Study NY line. The pieces are unisex and can be worn in a variety of ways

the garments outward shape, but rather the negative spaces within the garment that make them hollow. His approach becomes Open Source by exposing his methods and showing the garments insides and its manufacture history, and can supposedly be carried out even if untrained in fashion or sewing. With the introduction of personal manufacturing machines, sometimes called “fabbers� the possibilities of a home-size scaled production seems possible. These manufacturing machines use the same fabrication methods as their larger, industrial ancestors, but are smaller, cheaper, and easier to use. Home-scale machines, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and programmable sewing machines, combined with the right electronic design blueprint, enable people to manufacture functioning products at home, on demand, at the press of a button. Personal manufacturing technologies will profoundly impact how we design, make, transport, and consume physical products and will enable consumers, schools and businesses to work and experiment in new ways. This combination of know-how, technology, experimentation and tools, are promising signs of upcoming novelty.

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Clockwise from top: “The TuTa “ an overall design created by italian futuris Thayaht in 1919, is an early example of zero waste design. Bottom: two designs by Julia Lumsdem’s spring summer 2012 collection. Top left, a wrap around draped rectangle by designer Yeohlee Teng.



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt


Chapter 4: Common works, common words “I go looking, researching, questioning, reacting to information, jumping from one thing to another, writing notes and bookmarking a road, starting something that I make my own. I don’t wait. I don’t have to wait. I react to ideas instead of just thinking of them”. Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired Magazine

Since authorship and intellectual property issues are at the heart of the discussion in Open Source culture, an interesting parallel can be drawn back to Roland Barthes’ announcement of the death of the author in his 1967 essay of the same name, where literature is compared to textiles. “To give a text an Author” and assign a single, corresponding interpretation to it “is to impose a limit on that text”. He made an analogy between text and textiles, declaring that a “text is a tissue [or fabric] of quotations,” drawn from “innumerable centers of culture,” rather than from one, individual experience . This example can be compared to the creative side of the fashion industry.

In fashion, although there is no Intellectual Property (IP) protection, competition, innovation, and investment, remain vibrant. The Federal Trade Commission of the United States tried

Roland Barthes: The Death of the Author; In Image - Music - Text. Hill and Wang. New York, 1977, pages 142-148.

Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


implementing a law to prevent “style piracy”, but concluded that the law offered no remedy : “What passes in the trade for an original design of a hat or a dress cannot be patented or copyrighted. An “original” creation is too slight a modification of a known idea to justify the grant by the government of a monopoly to the creator; yet such are the whims and cycles of fashion that the slight modification is of great commercial value. The creator who maintains a large staff of highly paid designers can recoup his investment only by selling the hats they design. He suffers a real loss when the design is copied as soon as it appears; the imitator in turn reaps a substantial gain by appropriating for himself the style innovations produced by the creator’s investment. Yet the imitator may copy with impunity, and the law grants no remedy to the creator” .

This being the current setting we see that Open Production models start from a different assumption as to how intellectual works are created: “They do not see the creation of new works as the end result of the labour of relatively isolated authors, but as the end result of processing and altering already existing works”, explains Felix Stadler of method explanation is heavily based on appropriation as an artistic right, but also on the new ethics introduced by the Open Culture communities. As seen in hacker and D.I.Y. ethics, this remixing involves manipulating or subverting technologies and media to create a new message and meaning. The general premise behind D.I.Y. practices is that if you do not like the way things are done, then you should do it yourself.

According to Bollier and Racine’s analysis of the fashion industry , despite usual belief, copyright protection can only be claimed to fabric designs, specific ornamental features and manmade fabrics and the logo, since it’s the part of the brand that produces commercial trade value in the fashion system. According to their study, sampling, citation and other forms of bricolage are not only tolerated, but they are at the core of the production process. Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman: The piracy paradox: innovation and intellectual property in fashion design. Virginia Law Review, Volume 92, December 2006 Number 8, p1698. Idem, p1968., accessed December 7th, 2011. David Bollier & Laurie Racine: Ready to share: creativity in fashion & digital culture. 2005. doi/10.1111/j.1467-6435.2008.00407.x/abstract, accessed December 20th, 2011, p137.

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Moreover, the “piracy paradox” as explained by Raustiala and Sprigman , suggests that weak intellectual-property rules, far from damaging the fashion industry, have instead been fundamental to its success. Their argument is that copying fails to harm innovation in the fashion industry because it is not very harmful to it’s originators and that it actually promotes innovation and induces benefits. In an environment of constant emulation, it can be difficult to separate “originality” from “imitation.”

“Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence” was an essay written by Bernard London in the United States in 1932, and it’s main proposal was to chart the obsolesce of capital and consumption goods at the time of their production. Designers in turn would respond to this obsolescence with new designs. In short, piracy paradoxically benefits designers by inducing more rapid earnings and additional sales, allowing for the “aesthetic nausea” to exist within the design cycle.

Open source stomps on the myth of the genius designer, who synthesizes trends and concepts and turns fabric into untouchable pieces. In turn it invites deskilled and inactive shoppers to be makers and not just wearers. Von Busch emphasizes on the invitation of hacking into a “process of constant altering the existing work and previous statements and thus pulling an idea and story further between two actors” . He believes that such dialogic creativity cannot run out but that instead, it multiplies with use through modifications and re-edits. This dialogue between “old” and “new” allows the same rights of expression to both speakers. In this sense, open source begins at a different stage where authorship issues are assumed as part of a need for change, and focuses on inviting others to join in.

Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman: The piracy paradox: innovation and intellectual property in fashion design. Virginia Law Review, Volume 92, December 2006 Number 8, p1717. Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Pennsylvania State University, 2003, lib/.../theory-leisure-class.pdf, accessed December 20th, 2011 Otto von Busch: Hacking as Dialogue. University of Göteborg, 2006, HACKINGasDIALOGUE_sketch.pdf



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

Otto von Busch’s sketch of an Abstract Machine of Hacktivism

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Conclusion: Weaving values with fashion “The world is big enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, but it will always be too small to serve the greed of a few”. Gandhi

In his essay Ornament and Crime (1908), Adolf Loos said that the evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects. His critique was heavily held against Art Nouveau and to the viewing of the world as a Gesamtkunstwerk . Now that the aesthetic and the utilitarian are inseparable and everything from jeans to genes seems to be regarded as design, what we come across with is the questioning of the way we dress, live and the things we need. Ornament, color, shape, functionality, comfort, but also our basic needs in regard to consumption and the production that fulfills this created need are some of the main points being remodeled in society. The open source movement is helping foster these changes. Through the studied projects we have seen how Open Source methods rethink intellectual property, how digital manufacturing challenges distribution and production, while ecological sustainability places questions to unconcious consumption. The movement as a whole is an alternative to the state of the industry. Slogan of the project, accessed December 7th, 2011 Total work of art, associated with Richard Wagner’s aesthetic ideals,

Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


Nevertheless some of the barriers I see in joining the Open Source practice are access to the internet, language limitations (since most of the information is in english), and availabiltiy of materials. One of the main problems to solve is the precarious infrastructure unable to put to practice the abundant information. Zoe Romano (of openwear and Serpica Naro) optimistically believes that even poor infrastructure can be solved through collaborative work. While access to information is one of the most important factors for empowerment, I think its online availability is not connected to real access to resources at a local level. Access to the platforms beyond cultural backgrounds, disciplines and educational levels requires individuals from multidisciplinary fields willing to share and build together further. In that way, cooperation becomes much more easier. My own experience is that the community is accesible in terms of feedback. I contacted some of the project leaders and designers via e-mail and received warm replies, so I would say that the community is both accesible and inviting. Fletcher (2008) notices the distance between user/buyer and the creative practice surrounding their clothes, but thinks clothesmaking is an opportunity to learn how to make things and become better skilled. Otto von Busch believes in participatory design, which is built on the thought that the users of a product should have an opinion as to how the object should work and look like. This approach is characterized by being respondent to user input and by placing interest in the potential of the user for social change. The aesthetics of the product might change and may not conform to visual norms in design and complement other types of production where products are locally made and nurtured. In the long run, this will lead to a reduction in what we buy and discard. Transparency in production is necessary to understand the process, while participatory design is an important component of sustainable fashion and textiles activity. The influence of open source in fashion design is evident in the many examples exposed, but it clearly isn’t targeted to changing the industry at it’s core, rather about broadening tools and inspiration sources. What matters is to engage others to make the Open Source movement grow. See interview in the Apendix.

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Otto von Busch also sees developing clothing competence as a way of nurturing not only handwork skills but a better criteria for becoming a conscious consumer. If more people become aware of the amount of work and the skills needed for making a garment, this may modify handwork in the industry in the sense that better quality might be sought after, resulting in less purchasing and less pollution. The restless process of craftsmanship does not have the same goal as consumption, and while developing skills this might become clearer.

We see how both aesthetically and conceptualy many viable solutions for our needs for clothing and social involvement can be solved. Though the movement started rather “underground”, the debate is not between staying underground or becoming mainstream, but rather finding other ways to produce experiences through fashion practice, that may also be sustainable and open. Most importantly, and following Marx’s theses, what the movement has allowed for is creative participation in fashion. Whether or not this movement will affect the industry is impossible to answer at this point, what matters is being able to react to status quo and power structures and having the tools and communal support for it. In Lappé’s vision, creative communities form relational power by building relationships of trust, analyse power and self-interest, mobilize knowledge and public actions with discipline, persistence and humour .

The other issue I see is in the debate of intellectual property vrs creative collaboration. In an interview with Michel Bauwens held by Bertram Niessen and Zoe Romano of edufashion , Bauwens says that “the myth of individual creativity and the aura of authorship is mostly generational. Established designers from previous generations have been habituated to a mode of gaining success and recognition that is based on this myth of individual creativity”. Bauwens noted that one of the main differences between collaborating in material and immaterial production is the great importance of local, face-to-face connections. He also cited that “the need for embodiment is greater for shared design than shared code”. I think more changes need to happen in the tangible world than online. Open Source requires substantial physical and immaterial cooperation in order to create the kind of culture that will allow for Frances Moore Lappé: Getting a grip 2: clarity, creativity and courage for the world we really want. Cambridge: Small Planet Media, 2010, p122ff. Michel Bauwens: P2P, clothing and material production. Interview by Bertram Niessen and Zoe Romano data/files/Openwear%20e-book%20final.pdf, accessed December 11th, 2011



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

creative and collaborative communities.

Cultural sustainability in relation to local craft traditions is another aspect of the Open Source movement. While the knowledge for fashion production is related to crafts, such knowledge skills are difficult to share through technological means. A challenge for technology is being able to translate this knowledge digitally to make it live on. The revival of crafts and craftivism happens locally but uses Internet as a tool and source library. Open Source is an excellent development model for local tools and knowledge to be used by creative communities because functionality can be added as the user base grows and changes. Not only is artistic research what creates cultural value from within a community, but it’s linkage and connection to world issues is what makes solutions seem possible.

There could be many viable solutions, not only one. Yet, the broader impacts of the Open Source movement, and the extent of its role in the development of new information sharing procedures, remain to be seen.

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Apendix A conversation with Katharina Thiel (designer of Another Frame) , Zoe Romano (of Openwear and Serpica Naro) and Otto von Busch ( and Giana González (Hacking Couture) Oscar Ruiz Schmidt: From where I stand geographically, one of the problems (in the Open Source movement) I see is that while access to the information is possible, insufficient education, language barriers, material resources, even being able to print information or patterns is difficult. While I see an advance in being able to access this information, what to I do with it if the infrastructure does not allow for me to put it into practice? Shouldn’t open source information be translated to reach a larger audience?

ZR: Information has become an abundant resource while infrastructures for new models are mostly all to be built. We are in a transition era in which a lot of experimentation is going on. We shouldn’t be afraid to start with precarious infrastructures, and that’s why it becomes really important to collaborate and to share: people and ideas are the main ingredients to cook new recipes.

GG: Being from the same part of the world, Central America, specifically Panama, I have also experienced a need to connect through design with the rest of the world and access more content. From our part of the world there has not truly being a true fashion culture. We have been talked to by larger markets, and we have been listening for a while about “High” fashion and design, so it is time to speak back, and Open Source is a stepping stone to engage in new ways to experience and speak fashion. Design is our common global language, so we can use it for our “design” agendas. Regarding how you can change the infrastructure, my approach is that when you can’t change the system... you hack it! When you come from the outside, you still have to follow the stablished protocols. By using the protocols and codes your changes and interventions will have context to others within the system. Regarding mainstreaming Open Another Frame is a fashion line designed only with zero waste patterns:


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


Source Fashion, yes that is my hope partly... because once it hits the tipping point, it won’t be as unique, and it could loose its core. Open Source Fashion is a practice not a trend, but at the end the system always self-regulates. Fashion is about tension, the old and the new, the top and the bottom, the rebel and the followers, so we need them all within the ecosystem, so not all should agree, just evolve their roles. There are sustainable practices that we should all embrace because it should be our baseline, and establishing those basic rules to the larger game is critical, and a space that Open Source Fashion can serve as model of collaboration and exchange.

ORS: Do you think that designers resign to authorship by making their work methodology open?

KT: I think intellectual property is a very complex issue. On the one hand giving away information for others to use is a very forward-thinking approach in this globalized world. On the other hand, one really has to consider very carefully what information and methodology would actually be beneficial for people who don’t do this thing for a living. To liberate everything would maybe leave us with a society that is even more unstable, and there’s a thin line between copying ideas and democratizing basic information. So I think, a designer really has to make a precise decision whether he wants to give away information and how much of it if he does.

ZR: That’s one of the main things we need to make clear: Open Source doesn’t mean to resign to authorship. It’s more about opening up the codes to creating collaboration. The more you involve people transparently in a process the clearer it becomes who started the process, who’s collaborating and who’s doing what. Exactly the opposite of what happens in the fashion system where it’s functional to have a single entity getting all the attention, being it the brand or the fashion designer, while hiding the complex work behind each product and the various skills behind innovation (which is always a collective process). We are finally realizing that open innovation is able to revitalize stale innovation processes happening in established enterprises.

OvB: Designers are still authors of their method; other hands have always done the production anyhow. What are basically replaced in Open Source are the sweatshops. What Open Source can do is delegate skills, capabilities and agencies, things usually reserved to the industry.

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GG: Absolutely not! What is unique about new designers across disciplines nowadays is not their design “recipes� but how they develop and execute their methods and practice. That said, I provide an emphasis into citing and crediting work. We have to cite inspiration and methodology from others, otherwise our inclination to share will be terminated. Citation keeps the sharing cycle going, because ideas and methods are our products.

ORS: If a designer places all of his methods online, can he still make a living from selling his clothes?

KT: Difficult question, and again a thin and precarious line. There would be a great chance of devaluating the body of work, when placed openly online. And creating value is one of the key facts that have to be taken into account very carefully. To sell means to create a longing for a product. If the product is still desirable, even when all its secrets are laid bare, then the designer may still make a living. But in my opinion, there’s need for an elaborate selling strategy to combine an Open Source service with the selling of a product.

ZR: Actually, I think in the last 20 years most of the small-scale designers have been having problems in making a living from selling their clothes even without sharing a single thing. The market has become too polarized; big brand conglomerates and fast fashion take it all. At Openwear we believe that networking could be a possible solution. We are experimenting networking based on sharing and collaboration, and also on the creation of a consistent brand expressing the framework in which many small firms and individuals produce value and can benefit from an economy of reputation.

OvB: The designer is still the expert, but the expert in participation. Look at all Linux companies. They give away the code, but survive on giving support and updates and customizations. What fashion needs is a new thinking about how to make business. We need to experiment with more models and look elsewhere for inspiration.



Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design

GG: This is a very specific question that could be only answered in context to a specific business case and designer. Your questions relates to a deeper issue which is the fact that there is not a strong emphasis on business, strategy and innovation within the academic formation of a designer. As designers we are the driving force within many industries: fashion, technology, advertising, product design to mention some. There is a lack in our design practice of the socio-economic context impact of what we do. Having a strong business, strategy and innovation sense will help us shape our practices to explore the ideas, and support the creative agendas that are relevant to us. In conclusion, yes it is certainly possible if there is a business case for it, with the right strategy and business plan.

ORS: If clothing competence is developed to the extent where everybody starts sewing, will the fashion business die?

KT: No, I don’t think so. This would suggest that everybody will want to invest rare spare time to start sewing. To fashion a garment is a sophisticated process and to be good at it takes time, which most people don’t have. Also brands are important to create images, so I don’t think that people will be satisfied with wearing their very own creations only. The same with fashion designers, they hardly wear their self-made clothes.

ZR: Joe Kraus, founder of Excite and partner at Google Venture said: “The 20th-century massproduction world was about dozens of markets of millions of people. The 21st century is all about millions of markets of dozens of people”, so as home-cooking is not killing restaurants and home-taping didn’t kill the music industry, home-sewing won’t kill the fashion business but it is very likely to go through changes. We shouldn’t forget that we live in a world facing the problem of sustainability and goods won’t be able to travel as much as they used to be.

OvB: Not everyone will sew, just like not everyone fixes their own bicycle, even if they know how. But skills give freedom to engage and that can produce new commitments and relations to our material culture and fashion. We can seek empowerment in many ways, instead of only having to buy it. But if I have skills I also see quality and can make better choices. Knowing

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how to sew will make me a better consumer, perhaps choosing quality over fast-fashion, and services, like repair, instead of quick disposal. I can seek out local repairmen and tailors, build new forms of authenticity, based on human relations and material engagement, instead of what the advertisement or celebrities tell us.

GG: No way! Weren’t computers suppose to replace humans?! They didn’t, they allowed us to be more creative and do less of the things we didn’t want to. If everyone sews what a better world! New experiences will be created... and then the cycle will re-shift!

ORS: Do you think that the fashion industry will remain as it is, or do you think that Open Source fashion will rise to a point where the industry will be modified by it? If yes, how?

KT: I truly believe that the industry has to change and become smaller and less polluting. But I don’t know whether this will be achieved by Open Source.

ZR: I partly answered above. There are different trends that are challenging the industry from different perspectives: Open Source movements are rethinking intellectual property, digital manufacturing is rethinking distribution and production, the emergency of ecological sustainability attacks the concept of programmed obsolescence and long supply chains… There could be many viable solutions, not only one.

OvB: Parts of the industry might change, but not all of them. Look at the world of computers. But other things may also happen, just like in the music industry after MP3s and MySpace. Instead of buying the stuff (cds or files) most bands and companies make their money on the experience (concert) or other merchandising - what would that mean for fashion? What other experiences can fashion produce - that may also be sustainable and open?

GG: Open Source Fashion potentially has a couple of routes for existing fashion brands: R&D, new business opportunities and/or a strong marketing tool. I hope the two former are the first one put to practice. It might become the next “green movement” and what we are saying is


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


so much more rooted in a shift in fashion culture, new ways of approaching collaboration, and design literacy. Eventually, if there is enough of us, making meaningful work, they will care! There will also be new brands founded in the premise of Open Source Fashion... and that’s very exciting!

ORS: Karl Lagerfeld collaborated in 2010 with Burda magazine by publishing two of his patterns. Hedi Slimane had done the same for Die Zeit Magazine in Germany. Do you see this as Open Source or rather as a commercial opportunity? Does this compel the open source movement?

KT: I’d say both. It would be interesting to know how many people actually started sewing the ‘designer clothes’ on their own, and how do they felt in them. Is it like wearing a real Slimane/ Lagerfeld piece? What does the self-made garment stand for? It’s interesting to question the values of garments when they’re self-made.

ZR: Most of the patterns that you can find online are freely available for personal use but rarely for commercial use. I’m not talking about the possibility of re-selling the digital pattern itself but to be able to produce and sell garments starting from those shared codes. This is what we are doing with Openwear Collaborative Collection and this is what we think could bring collective benefit. The Open Source movement is not only about sharing items, it’s more about creating a different ecosystem of relations, especially to avoid exploitation and abuse of rent.

OvB: It may scare off some of the “subversive” elements of Open Source fashion; there are some who want it to be more punk - but as long as it produces lasting skills among the users, and these don’t feel exploited, I don’t mind. If Lagerfeld produces a true Open Source collection and uses Chanel to try out new generous methods of participation and user-engagement that’s fine - but we have to be critical too and look at what is happening back-stage.

GG: Open Source Fashion is seen as a trend these days and fashion is a business, those two things go hand in hand. We can’t separate marketing from the fashion equation either. It is really exciting that the cathedral is looking at the baazar, and borrowing from it: this is what we want:

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

meaningful dialogue for the furthering of innovation in fashion. We are exploring what Open Source Fashion is and means, but we all agree that the premise is sharing. As many people explore with the idea of Open Source Fashion, the more learnings we will have and the more advancements we will do.

ORS: How do you believe your own actions have modified the fashion industry?

KT: I don’t think ‘the industry’ knows much of my existence. All I do is look beyond existing structures and I try to subvert them a little, to hopefully create something that is visually appealing as well as sustainably produced.

ZR: In 2005 with Serpica Naro we challenged the Chamber of Fashion of Milan, who accepted our fictitious fashion designer in the official calendar of the fashion week. In that event a group of precarious workers demonstrated that coordination, collaboration and focused skills can beat the gatekeepers with the same weapons, giving voice to all the workers through a real collective brand. Now, the ideas born in that context are taking shape and strength in a bigger project like Openwear. Our main aim is not really to modify the fashion system but to support and inspire people who are imagining new ways of producing fashion, with more respect for the workers, the environment, through personal development and the social sphere.

OvB: Not really. I know the “Dale Sko Hack” project has inspired some designers and I hope more of my projects can do that. Designers need more inspiration and ideas on how fashion can work - and the schools and magazines offer little new thinking - so far. So we will have to keep on working.

GG: My only hope is that any of the work I have shared inspired someone to take action.


Refashioning a system: How open source has influenced fashion design


Bibliography Literature Ambrose, Gavin and Harris, Paul: The Visual Dictionary of Fashion Design. Ava Publishing, London, 2007. Barthes, Roland: The Death of the Author; In Image - Music - Text. Hill and Wang. New York, 1977. Bénaïm, Laurence: Issey Miyake. Ediciones Polígrafa, 2001, Madrid. Benjamin, Walter: The work of art in the age of its technological reproducibility, and other writings on media. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 2008. Fletcher, Kate: Sustainable Fashion & Textiles, Earthscan, London, 2008. Foster, Hal: Design and crime and other diatribes. Verso Books, New York, 2003. Franke, Gisela: Künstler ziehen an. Avantgarde- Mode in Europa 1910 bis 1939. Umschau Buchverlag, München, 1999. Fuad-Luke, Alastair: Design activism: beautiful strangeness for a sustainable world, Earthscan, London, 2009 Frederick H. Abernathy, John T. Dunlop, Janice H. Hammond and David Weil: A stitch in time. Lean retailing and the transformation of manufacturing - Lessons from the apparel and textile industries, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999. Gwilt, Alison and Rissanen, Timo: Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Earthscan Publications, London, 2011. Laver, James: Costume and fashion, a concise history.Thames and Hudson, London, 2002. Max-Neef, Manfred: Development and human needs in Real-Life Economics, Routledge, London, 1989. Miller, Daniel and Slater, Don: The Internet, an ethnographic approach. Berg Publishers, New York, 2000. Moore Lappé, Frances: Getting a grip 2: clarity, creativity and courage for the world we really want. Small Planet Media, Cambridge, 2010. Raustiala, Kal and Sprigman, Christopher: The piracy paradox: innovation and intellectual property in fashion design. Virginia Law Review, Volume 92, December 2006 Number 8. Rissanen, Timo: Yield. Exhibition catalogue, Textile Arts Center, New York, 2011 Valery, Paul: Le Conquête de l’ubiquité, Oeuvres, tome II, Pièces sur l’art, Nrf, Gallimard, Editions de la Pléiade, 1960. Wark, McKenzie: A Hackers Manifesto. Harvard Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004.

Oscar Ruiz Schmidt

e-books Bauwens, Michel: P2P, clothing and material production. Interview by Bertram Niessen and Zoe Romano Bollier, Davide and Racine, Laurie: Ready to share: creativity in fashion & digital culture. 2005. Niessen, Bertram: Open Source, p2p, social innovation and clothing, 2010, http://openwear. org/data/files/Openwear%20e-book%20final.pdf Prensky, Mark: On the Horizon. MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001,%20digital%20immi grants%20-%20part1.pdf Raymond, Eric: How to become a Hacker., accessed December 13th, 2011 Raymond, Eric: The Revenge of the Hackers. 2000. html Veblen, Thorstein: The Theory of the Leisure Class, Pennsylvania State University, 2003, www., accessed December 20th, 2011 von Busch, Otto: Hacking as Dialogue. University of Gรถteborg, 2006, HACKINGasDIALOGUE_sketch.pdf von Busch, Otto: Re-forming Appearance: Subversive Strategies in the Fashion System-Reflections on Complementary Modes of Production, 2005, at



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