Finding a client

My journey in finding a client

 

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Description
  3. Feelings
  4. Evaluation
  5. Analysis
  6. Conclusion
  7. Action plan

Introduction

After overcoming my writer’s slump, I want to make a short and final post to talk about my experience in looking for a partner for my exhibition. I found the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (GBC) framework especially fitting for this experience as it allows me to talk about it in a structured but meaningful way. I will go over each stage of the experience by using the GBC headings, from description of the situation to my action plan.

Description

In the beginning of my outreach project journey, I knew I wanted to approach a client that is a player in the sustainable fashion industry to ensure my project gets to my intended audience. I hoped to create a link with Sustainable Fashion Scotland or Fashion Revolution Scotland, both of which play a significant role in communicating the environmental and social damage of the fashion industry to Scottish communities. But after contacting both through multiple communication channels, not only I wasn’t successful at securing the link with any of them, they didn’t even reply to any of my messages or follow-ups. I ended up asking Pivot Earth, a small sustainable fashion business that I was already in contact with, to be my client.

Feelings

This has left me feeling as if my messages weren’t well-written, even though I was sure of their conciseness and catchiness, but most importantly, I was worried that my project won’t make a significant difference and it will be another school project with no real-world application. It was a failure to use an existing link (how stupid!!!) and not being able to appeal to people outside of my reach.

Evaluation

What I needed to realize is that this didn’t mean I couldn’t still make a link with another important client in the industry, or that the success of my project isn’t connected to their presence in it. It wasn’t ideal, but there were many other options for me to choose from. But I was still feeling like I wouldn’t get the support from other bodies as I would from these two organizations.

Analysis

Later, with help of my client Jack from Pivot Earth, I realized the fact that the experience didn’t go well wasn’t my fault and it’s due to the closedness of the sustainable fashion industry (paradoxically mirroring conventional fashion systems).  What was important was that I tried my luck. I didn’t fail, and using a contact that I already didn’t mean it couldn’t be a useful experience. Looking back, the contact I had with Pivot Earth is something I established myself, only a little bit earlier than the start of this academic year, and using it meant we could strengthen our bond.

Conclusions

I learned that it’s pointless to dwell on details, and especially to dwell on negative – or missing – feedback.  This could have been a way more enjoyable situation if I didn’t put pressure on myself for writing compelling messages and insisting on specific actors. At the time, I could have been more flexible and less critical of things that are not in my control. Focusing more on my mental wellbeing is key and will help me navigate between failure and personal development.

Action plan

Next time when I am faced with something that feels like a personal failure, I will try to understand where is this feeling coming from. Being more flexible will help me see other options as positive additions to my development rather than substitutes for something that could have been perfect.  I cannot make sure I will not feel demotivated by small failures, but understanding why I feel that way will help me have more compassion and appreciation for everything life has in store for me.

Overcoming a writer’s slump

The quest for a meaningful project and a user-friendly experience

 

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Needing help?
  3. Admitting a mistake
  4. Struggle leads to change
  5. Learnings

Introduction

After finally embarking on a journey in a single definite direction, it was natural to have doubts about the decision. As an overthinker, I expected doubts and embraced them, because I know they can lead to thoughtful refining and fresh ideas. But I did not expect a complete crisis and an elusion of all will to continue on a project that I designed. This was my academic baby, and a project I have thought about since May last year. Why did this come? Why couldn’t I even open the website editor without feeling nauseous? In this blog I will lead you through the struggle I experienced and what helped me get over the writer’s (or creator’s) slump.

Needing help?

Between February and March 2022, everything started going wrong. A war has broken out in Ukraine, just 90 kilometers from where my grandma lives in Košice, Slovakia. The chaos of a war in Europe spread like a plague, while we struggled to recover from a global pandemic. Of course, I am not here to talk about a war, but events in the outside world have a significant impact on how we think on the inside as well. A lot of feelings arose that I tried to repress and instead focus on my dissertation and my last project at this university. I was lucky enough to choose and design both myself and I was looking forward to the best part of my academic career. So why was everything going wrong?

I had no motivation left from last year and I felt like I am not strong enough to finish this – apply to my dream masters degrees, complete my dissertation, curate an exhibition, continue work to afford rent, not let down the small business where I’m a negligible unpaid intern and be a good daughter and support my parents in a tough time. Half way through March it all culminated when I had to take what I call a “compulsory break” while in isolation with Covid-19. This didn’t only mean I had to take a break from work (scary) but I also allowed myself to rest completely, despite the approaching deadlines. Spending time with myself was the best way to reconnect with what my body and mind needed and I was feeling balanced again (leaving out of course the current political situation).

Towards the end of my isolation, an involuntary but necessary call with my supervisor, Dylan, helped me feel better about the project. I was ready to focus again. I was ready to leave the past behind and concentrate on the necessary tasks to get me to graduation. But somehow, sketching the exhibition to a final version still didn’t feel right and I still wasn’t able to open and work in Carrd, the slightly underwhelming website builder I prepaid. I already reached out for help. What more did I need? It was then when I noted down in my notebook: “Who can help me?”. I picked my brain to see if I have any graphic designer friends or anyone who is art focused or good at “curating” to help me with the website and gain some new motivation. But as a 4th year, most of my friends are all equally stressed as me, working hard on their dissertation projects and other commitments. Surely no one has time for me at this moment?

Admitting a mistake

While I haven’t asked anybody, somehow I got what I needed. In a very tense call with a dear friend (who is a Computer Science student), I finally admitted that I have no idea what I’m doing and that the outlook for my exhibition is very bleak. He was the last person I would expect to help me, but he suggested I try Wix as it has more interactive features. I immediately argued that Wix is too expensive, because I have done my research on website builders, digital exhibition tools and web apps. However, it turns out Wix has a free plan that offers a lot more functionality than a paid Carrd plan. I couldn’t stop thinking how could this have happened! How could I have missed this! Why didn’t I spot this earlier, before I purchased the paid plan? Am I this stupid?

The next day I tried Wix, just because I was so desperate for a solution. I was overwhelmed by how much more I can do there without even embedding my own code that I instantly felt a new spark of motivation. Tiny, but it was there. I still felt like creatively the task is too big for me and I will never be proud of my work. A new existential crisis arose, due to thinking I might be too stupid for this school, but no Edinburgh University student probably graduates without a little bit of imposter syndrome. Admitting I made a mistake released a lot of hidden pressure and allowed me to start fresh. Recognizing the mistake – or the fact that the blame was on the website builder and not on my creativity – sooner would have saved me a lot of trouble later on. But, in the process, I learnt to look at where I am now and where I can go from there, instead of focusing on the mistakes in the past.

Struggle leads to change

Something I am including in my exhibition is a phrase “Struggle leads to change”. It is supposed to apply to the fight against conventional and harmful  preconceptions in our society and parallel the fashion industry, but it is something I thought of after overcoming my writer’s slump. As I said in the introduction, I tend to be quite introspective and I knew I would have doubts to overcome in the process. The fact that there was a whole crisis wasn’t pleasant and it makes me want to avoid it in the future. And while not all mistakes can be avoided, I can try to be kinder to myself and allow myself to admit mistakes as they happen. Correcting the mistakes as they resurface might sound like a more turbulent approach but ultimately they will always be there and ignoring them will only make the process more painful. Sometimes, the hardest part is knowing the requirements and being aware of how my flaws will make it difficult to achieve the end result. But being calmly aware of it is what makes me overcome it.

After closing the crisis chapter (while keeping in mind the learnings), I have dedicated myself to provide what I wanted from the beginning. A meaningful resource to motivate positive change in people. While finally working on the digital version in Wix, I realized how excited I am to share my scientific perspective on the issue and even more so to provide engagement, interest and enjoyment. As opposed to Carrd, Wix has very flexible interactive features, and although it cannot do everything I wanted, the most important function – user interaction – is perfect. What is now left to do is make sure the content is meaningful to the audience and they feel comfortable engaging with the content. In the next blog, I will (re)answer some important questions about the project, learning and community needs, to make sure I am on track to create a useful and engaging digital exhibition.

Learnings

This chapter contains so many more learnings that I could have contained in the blog post. What stems from my story is that:

  • I cannot provide motivation to other people when I lack it myself.
  • To feel motivated, I need to take time for myself but also reach out to other people. Not always I need to ask for help, but sharing my struggle is a healthy way to get a different perspective.
  • The only thing that matters is the situation I’m in now.
  • All people make mistakes. Not all of them are avoidable, but working past them is important to stay sane.

Refining the project

Different methods to create engagement

Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. The thrill of a fashion show
  3. Sharing the know-how in a sewing workshop
  4. A showcase of local talent

Introduction

As you know from the last post, the crucial part of my sustainable fashion project is the encouragement to make the right steps. It is very important to me that the project does not shame any mindless, wasteful, or toxic behavior. We are all trying to cope with life with whatever means we have at hand. But I want to highlight how easy it might be to change our relationship with our clothes and the tremendous positive impact it can have on the local economy and the whole planet, including us as individuals.

I have had several ideas to reach this goal and I will walk you through the main ones as they logically developed.

The thrill of a fashion show

Fashion shows were historically always the place where people found inspiration, connections, and decided on their purchases. Typically, back when fashion had four seasons instead of 24, customers placed orders directly at the fashion shows, so that brands would always make only as many as was needed. Logically, organizing a fashion show seemed to me like the perfect opportunity that would attract attention from students and maybe even non-students that were interested in sustainable fashion options. It could be a perfect platform to exchange contacts and make valuable connections between customers and businesses but also between businesses themselves and strengthen the links in a small but growing industry. But as I started planning the event, I had to think back on the assignment and on the limits of my abilities.

The sound of the fashion show was so promising. Yet, I needed to make myself realize that especially during the global pandemic, an outreach project would be better designed for people to go through in their own time, on their own terms, not to marginalize any people who prefer to, or need to, stay safe at home. There were other drawbacks such as getting models and businesses to come in person and also creating a resource that would have a lasting impact. I realized that there is a pattern for me to go headless into projects and only think about the details along the way, when it may be a little too late. A fashion show was definitely one of those projects. It helped me to talk about it with my supervisors (over my friends, who were similarly enchanted), to become more grounded, and think about the boxes I need to check for the assignment.

Overcoming the heart over head element will be challenging for me because it is a thread that runs throughout all my projects, assignments, and personal life. It helps me to be excited and motivated about what I do and gives me the energy to commit and create. But I can find a way to come back to the roots of why am I making this project and who is it for to guide me to a solution that not only I enjoy, but that shares my joy and engages other people as well. Later, inspiration came not far from my choice of topic: in my sewing projects, I had to learn patience and modesty to produce clothes that I am proud of. It took a lot of wasted projects to learn that success comes when I am patient and make logical decisions. In other words, it does not take away my creativity to focus on the boring parts of the process!

Sharing the know-how in a sewing workshop

It felt heartbreaking to abandon my initial idea, but I got over it quickly. I was now determined to give back to the community that allowed me to flourish in the past 4 years and make sure I pass on my skills and knowledge in sustainable fashion. A sewing workshop felt like a natural choice. To me, a workshop is worth a thousand lessons, because I learn with my hands and can explain and guide through practical processes better than I do with words. It would be a great opportunity to bring sewing, altering, and upcycling just that bit closer to our normal, and put fast fashion in a positive conversation of transformation.

However, I questioned the level of skill I can share with the world and the level of authority I would have over a group of people. Looking back, I know that I have doubted myself because there can be a teacher for any level of skill. This might have been because I have always had a strong sense of authority to my teachers and adults in my life and haven’t yet come to a place where I feel like I have the knowledge to share. But, if nothing else, sewing and sustainable fashion is the one area where I can give and not take. And besides, the workshop should be a safe space to share skills across any boundaries of our own thinking, no matter our knowledge or skill level. On my life journey, I need to start realizing that I have a right to be just as active and valuable as anyone else in the shaping of our society.

There are other reasons not to organize a sewing workshop. As I outlined above, I want to make sure the event is safe for all and accessible to as many people as possible. A workshop can be done online, but because people rarely have sewing machines, we would be very limited with what I can teach practically and even more so with the material. But after writing these lines, I truly feel a lot more comfortable taking on the next challenge with teaching and engaging more directly with the community.

A showcase of local talent

After abandoning all my previous ideas, I resorted to another project that I felt very excited about, but that was more applicable to Geoscience Outreach and the structure of the course. I first planned to make a physical exhibition of all the small businesses in and around Edinburgh that focus on reimagining waste and inspiring visitors by making better choices more accessible. To go with the mindset I kept throughout my ideation, I then moved the exhibition from physical space to digital, to create a lasting resource accessible to everyone. And, after reviewing an insane amount of tools to make a digital exhibition, I decided that an immersive website will be the best option to appeal to and inspire.

This option is quite similar to my first idea – the fashion show – but allows me to show more stories and information about small businesses. It excites me that there is a lot of flexibility with the website, to create something beautiful but functional. Moreover, it is lovely to reimagine how exhibitions work and what new functions I can bring to the experience. Although most platforms to create visually engaging websites require paid memberships, after a lot of research I found Carrd, which offers a one-page website for only a small yearly fee. With a bit of luck, my website will:

  • offer an immersive experience to the visitor, with functions to click on and learn more
  • display a count-down before I launch the exhibition
  • simulate a tour guide experience with a chat room
  • run the exhibition in 1-3 sessions and then become a permanent website

These functions will allow me to engage with the visitors but also provide a resource that they can come back to. It will not be easy to craft a beautiful immersive website, but today I find it necessary to engage people visually to capture their attention and keep them interested in the topic. I am hopeful I can include everything that I initially sketched out but I am ready to be flexible and patient to get a different but adapted result.

Thank you for reading up to here! Next time I will tell you how I found a client and how we negotiated.

Welcome to my new blog

Fashion – a science issue?

Outline

  1. What has fashion become?
  2. The damaging effects of fashion
  3. My intentions for the outreach project

I am excited to welcome you on my website (yes, my website) on my outreach project on sustainable fashion.

Sitting in front of your computer, sipping your late afternoon tea (we’re in Britain), and having stumbled upon my website, you might be surprised: why should this be necessary? Isn’t fashion already the translation of tradition and culture, and hence, one big outreach project on its own?
Well, fashion might be a little more complicated than it appears…

What has fashion become?

From satisfying our basic needs with warmth and functionality, fashion has gained many other functions in our lives such as the communication of social status, and, in particular, a sense of individuality and the creation of a persona. Fashion allowed a kind of quick communication of who we are, which will immediately be understood (or misunderstood) by other people around us, whether we desire it or not.

Because of this, and the various aspects of a capitalist economy, fashion production has doubled since early 20001 and is continuing to create more profit2. Clothes are so well marketed that we subconsciously accept that buying more clothes is not only better but necessary to keep up with society. And by dropping the prices to the absolute minimum (or lower than that if you consider the moral and environmental issues described below), the industry is able to provide runway looks for the smallest budget, making the whole thing even more appealing to even more people. Luxe, or what is marketed as such, is now affordable and available to everyone, provided that you frequently dispose of clothes that can’t last you long enough, because of the reduced quality of material and pattern.

But why should we outreach about this? What is there to communicate from a scientific point of view?

The damaging effects of fashion

You might have noticed that fashion is getting more and more critique in the last decade. In fact, it is one of the most important drivers of climate change, yet still appears innocent in the eyes of consumers thanks to its aesthetically pleasing and inviting outlook. But there are so many things that went horribly wrong.

The fashion and textile industry contributes between 4 to 8% of global CO2 emissions1,3,4, are a major source of microplastic pollution of surface waters5, are extremely wasteful of water, and produce over 90 million tons of waste per year6. It is the business models that allowed to scale fashion brands globally at cheap prices that cause the most harm to people and the environment. The active exploitation of land and water for cotton, fossil fuels for polyester, energy for production and transport, coupled with overexploitation of human labor is a threat to climate change, biodiversity, and human rights, and only slowly and reluctantly are they being translated to positive action by the businesses themselves.
As a matter of fact, policy and legislation can rarely be implemented in the fashion industry because of the global nature of the supply chain and the general ignorance of transparency and reporting.

In a nutshell, fashion is, just like climate change, an issue of both social and environmental justice, and should be approached and communicated as one. As you will see in my outreach project, I want to demonstrate the positive initiatives that are transforming fashion as I am writing this blog and highlight the various options and possibilities to contribute to a better climate in fashion and on the planet. In other words, we need to understand the issue but what is even more important is to be motivated by the knowledge to take steps in the right direction and eventually maybe even change how fashion is perceived by society and how it interacts with the world around us.

My intentions for the outreach project

Now that you know what was my motivation to participate in this course, let’s look at what are my intentions for the project.

Looking back at the beginning of this course, I didn’t have a project figured out, unlike some of my classmates. As I have undoubtedly revealed above, I was sure that I want to make it on communicate the damage the fashion industry is causing to the environment and the ways in which society can understand these issues. It is important to me because I didn’t grow up in a consumerist family and unnecessary spending and careless shopping sprees have always been utterly wrong and also completely out of question for me growing up. As I became an adult and started to make my own money while living in a notably capitalist country, it was harder and harder to resist witty marketing and the little serotonin that each purchase brings. I understood that people need help understanding why this seemingly innocent behavior is so harmful to many other people in the local economy but also around the world. But understanding isn’t enough. Just like every student on their academic journey, just like anyone trying to achieve anything, people need motivation and positive encouragement. Especially in times of irreversible climate change, an overshadowing pandemic, and countless ethical issues, people need reassurement that there is hope and that indeed their action matters in the grand scheme of things.

This is why I wanted to create a resource for people to find small local sustainable businesses, preferably from Scotland, who have enough hope to share it by making unique garments in line with the sustainability goals. I wanted to show that people don’t have to wait until sustainable options are easily accessible because they already are. I wanted to bring their attention to the miracles happening in Scotland despite all the recent and long-term environmental and social disasters that today’s generations are facing. I wanted to connect people and businesses and make sustainable fashion the logical option (as it rightly is). I am not yet sure how exactly will this happen but I am excited for this journey of growth for me and for the hope of a better fashion.

References
1Changing Markets Foundation. (2021). Synthetics Anonymous Fashion brands’ addiction to fossil fuelswww.changingmarkets.org
2McKinsey & Company. (2021). The State of Fashion 2021https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/state-of-fashion
3Quantis (2018) Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries. Available at: https://quantis-intl.com/report/measuring-fashion-report/ (Accessed: 25 March 2021).
4UNFCC (2018) UN Helps Fashion Industry Shift to Low Carbon. Available at: https://unfccc.int/news/un-helps-fashion-industry-shift-to-low-carbon (Accessed: November 1, 2021).
5Henry, B., Laitala, K., & Klepp, I. G. (2019). Microfibres from apparel and home textiles: Prospects for including microplastics in environmental sustainability assessment. Science of The Total Environment, 652, 483–494. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.SCITOTENV.2018.10.166
6Niinimäki, K., Peters, G., Dahlbo, H., Perry, P., Rissanen, T., & Gwilt, A. (2020). The environmental price of fast fashion. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 2020 1:41(4), 189–200. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43017-020-0039-9