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New‐old jeans or old‐new jeans? Contradictory aesthetics and sustainability paradoxes in young people’s clothing consumption

Collins, Rebecca

FG Transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in der Elektronik

This paper reports on an ongoing research project exploring the role of aesthetics – particularly aesthetics related to the multiple meanings of ageing – in young people’s interventions in the material lives of their clothes. Provoked by the trend for ‘pre-aged’ jeans, this study interrogates how material manifestations of the passing of time shape young consumers’ relationships with their clothes. Specifically, this enquiry focuses on the multiple, intersecting and sometimes contradictory aesthetics of aged garments. It examines the extent to which – and circumstances in which – young consumers view the visible lived history of their garments as positive, and the role played by personal manual interventions (e.g. acts of repair, customization, upcycling or repurposing) in transforming an un(der)loved and un(der)used item into one with heightened forms of value. Drawing on practice-based workshop-interviews with twelve 18-24 year olds, plus peer-led research with a further sixteen participants (and four ‘peer researchers’), this research seeks to contribute to emerging debates around sustainability, consumer agency and the aesthetics that shape product lifetimes in specific relation to the consumption of fashion.