World 170

In World 170 each person has a unique sewn signature which represents their self-assigned identity. This self-identified identity incorporates everything that is important to how they perceive and live their lives. It may include gender, disability or lack of disability, sexuality, values, occupation, beliefs etc. Therefore this unique signature changes and develops over the life-span of the person and becomes more intricate in order to communicate both past and current self-identities.

People adorn each other’s garments with these signatures and the more signatures a garment holds the more it is prized. These signatures are sewn in during annual community reciprocal embellishment sessions. These sessions are organised by the community and involve everyone, including children. Communities gradually initiate children into actively participating in this annual signature ritual. Parents are expected to develop ‘signatures’ for their babies’ garments for the first 2 years which represent their views of their child. When a child is 3 years it is recognised that they are able to begin their own signature. As part of this recognition there is a brief ritual where parents let go of the signature that they have used for their child by returning their baby’s clothes to the community-pool of baby garments which everyone uses.

Communities meet in preparation for the annual reciprocal embellishment sessions in each other’s homes where there is sharing of food and stories from the previous year. These sessions provide individuals with the space to reflect on themselves over the past year in the context of their community which enables them to decide how their signature should be developed.

This produces a culture which values longevity, both in terms of garments and in terms of life-span, creative exchanges and this both produces and supports communities.

The practice began as a way for resistance groups committed to preserving material communities to recognise each other but developed over time as a way of managing the tensions between group identity and individual identity within communities.

What if …

garments were central to sustaining communities and were living histories of people’s changing identities over the lifespan?


valuing garments – so compatible with slow fashion, high quality and therefore sustainable fashion


World 50 & remix workshop

This World was contributed by Jo Collier (located in the UK), developed from a World contributed by Matthew Crowley, using a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence which allows others to share and adapt the work in any medium and for any purpose, providing that they credit the author and share their material using the same Creative Commons licence.

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Published by Amy Twigger Holroyd

explorer of Fashion Fictions