ReGo means to put aside our ego, and go again and again through a continuous process of change, both in oneself and in society. Blending transformational mindset coaching with fashion training, ReGo explores how design activism can lead to positive social change through a bespoke fashion collection made out of repurposed metal from knives
Living at a critical time, when it feels there are so many things going wrong – from climate anxiety, wellbeing and mental health challenges, violence (to self and others), drug / alcohol abuse, gangs, unemployment, homelessness – young people are struggling to live healthy, productive and happy lives, and are even often blamed for all of society’s ills. All these issues are very real and affect our collective and individual well-being. We must find solutions to those issues, but it is also important to reframe them, and change our perspective.
ReGo was born out of a partnership between Dr Francesco Mazzarella, Senior Lecturer at London College of Fashion (LCF), and Robin Lockhart Director of Catalyst in Communities (CIC), and is led by a collective of young East Londoners. It connects creatives across disciplines, illustrating how young people can control the direction of their lives by leveraging the power of fashion actvism, collective making, and storytelling. The aim is to shift the prevailing narrative around youth violence, and to provide access to creative industry skills development, mindset coaching and a range of educational and employment opportunities in fashion.
CIC’s ‘Inside – Out’ model of learning, which Robin calls ‘The Art of Perception’, introduces project participants to the realities of where emotions truly come from, generating the awareness that well-being is an ‘inside job’, and a true sense of autonomy develops. People become the solution to their own challenges. In fact, the way we see ourselves and our world directly influences our emotional state. All change begins in the mind. This is the paradigm on which ReGo’s transformational mindset coaching is grounded, as Robin explains:
“People are not their problems; we face our problems. Young people are not the problem, rather, they are the only true source of the solution to knife crime and the other issues that we face globally.”
Overall, ReGo intends to demonstrate how fashion activism can be used to shape better lives and address social justice, nurturing sustainability and prosperity for all. Francesco says:
“Project ReGo has enabled a multidisciplinary team to come together and work collaboratively to prevent and tackle the systemic issue of youth violence, including young people in local activities and community life in order to redesign their own future. As a result, they have strengthened their voice and gained agency, learning of new – soft and technical – skills that will hopefully have a long-lasting impact in their lives.”
Fashion training, student project briefs, 1:1 and group coaching sessions, brand collaborations, and mentoring opportunities have all supported the young participants to co-create a bespoke fashion collection, transforming – through water jet and laser engraving – metal from knives, received from KnifeSafe.
In collaboration with project participants Oliver Selic and Molly Preson, sustainable accessories designer Michelle Lowe-Holder designed and made the ‘Wasted’ collection which transforms humble materials associated with anti-social and violent behaviour, into beautiful jewellery. In collaboration with project participant Joyce Zale, sustainable fashion brand FibreLab created a collection of three tote bags, using recycled shredded fibres and embellished with metal tags and loops which were waterjet cut from knives taken off the streets. Regenerative fashion studio CQ Studio collaborated with project participant Maria Isabel to design and make ‘Excessories Capsule’, an evening top embellished with the brand’s ‘Inflaxuation’ vegan fur and ‘excessories’ sequins which are made by using food waste and metal from knife blades. Sustainable fashion brand The Reclaimery collaborated with project participant Fiyin Olayide to redesign and repurpose a dress by combining it with an array of different deadstock fabrics, such as lace, and embellished with metal waterjet cut from knives taken off the streets.
The ReGo products are all now available to rent through LOANHOOD, an innovative rental platform providing sustainable and accessible ways to unique high-end fashion items. All proceeds raised will go towards supporting on-going educational and employment opportunities for young people in fashion.
Project ReGo is a finalist for the Green Gown Awards 2022 ‘Benefitting Society’ category. Such a project can be considered as a micro-site of activism, but it also contributes to fostering macro-changes in society and in people’s perceptions of the fashion system. ReGo illustrates the power of fashion to shape better lives, and shows how culture, creativity and collaboration play a crucial part in tackling some of the most challenging issues facing society. The project uses creative, group-work interventions enabling participants to improve their perceptions in order to be able to deal with life in a positive and productive manner. As one ReGo participant put it:
“ReGo is impactful as the people involved have come together to tackle an issue that doesn’t get nearly enough media coverage. It warms my heart to see the sense of community that working together created and how the message spread. Personally, the biggest take-away has been the sense of hope that I was left with. Horrible things happen in the world, but activism is alive and strong.”
ReGo is now calling out for additional participants (young people under 30 and from East London) and partners (designers, fashion brands, manufacturing companies, investors, etc.) to further develop the programme. In this next phase of the project, the ReGo participants are being trained to become workshop facilitators delivering creative activities in schools, and youth centres to amplify the impacts of the project. The long-term goal of the project is to register ReGo as a social enterprise, involving young people in running it, and collaborating with more brands – small and large – towards a wider fashion activism campaign, gradually expanding at national or even international level.