Almond, Kevin (2011) Suffering in fashion: the links that expose issues for the future production of garments and their appropriation as fashionable items. International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 4 (3). pp. 153-160. ISSN 1754-3266

The paper highlights how distress, pain, misery and ultimately suffering in the wearing and production of fashionable clothes are essential components for initiating change. Suffering in fashion could compare with the religious analogies of suffering, redemption and spiritual enrichment, suffering being a motivating factor for change so the fashion production cycle can seasonally re-invigorate. Suffering in the ways clothes are worn is examined by investigating the design and manufacture of undergraduate fashion student’s collections. This provides a visual analysis of fashion designer’s responses to suffering and the changes it initiates in the skills of production and ultimately the wearing of fashion.

Suffering through pain, anguish or distress is an extreme affliction. Pushing something to its limits of endurance, making it suffer, can undermine order and to survive, it is often reassembled in a new and challenging way. This concept is somewhat akin to Darwin’s ideas about the evolution of the species through a process of random mutation and selective retention known as natural selection (Darwin 1859). His work coined the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ (Peel, 1992, p.143), which introduced the idea that survival of a species is a struggle against climate and environmental change in nature. In fashion suffering can be instrumental in enforcing the re-invigoration of the product when clothing styles are pushed to the limits of consumer endurance. The ‘fittest’ styles survive through their re-assemblance each season, sustaining the commercial cycle. In the struggle of clothes against clothes, some styles remain, due to their response to change, others are discarded.

Suffering is evident in fashion production. For instance Skillset (formally Skillfast), the UK Government sponsored initiative to develop skills in trade, industry and education have recently met with educationalists on fashion courses (, 2011). Concerned with preserving skills in industry, (as described in Brown’s (2011) comments: ‘’A lack of skilled workers is strangling growth opportunities’’, p.1), their intention was to investigate ways of working together in order to develop fashion curricula that incorporate more traditional technical skills. The idea evolved through the loss of UK manufacture to overseas production. The increased use of computerized technology has enhanced communication in global manufacturing, yet has distanced the physical connection with the product. This has led to problems in manufacturing as UK retailers and overseas manufacturers suffer through miscommunication. It also exposes the redundancy of skills the UK manufacturing industry has suffered, through which the positive Government sponsored survival strategy of Skillset has evolved. As their website explains; “Skillset manages a range of training funds contributed to by industry and public sources. The aim of these funds is to help ensure that UK creative industries (including fashion) have a workforce with the right level of skills. The funds broaden access to training opportunities, career development and support” (,2011).

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