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Designing a Different Future through Inclusive Practices

TLDR (too long, didn't read); basically, it's super important to do your research and educate yourself on ways to incorporate more inclusive practices.

Inclusive design may sound like buzzword terminology to some, but it is truly the way of the future. It is the only way forward that makes sense from societal and environmental perspectives. The term inclusion generally acts as the antonym to exclusion. When we think of inclusion in regards to fashion, terms like body, age, gender, sexuality and race often come to mind first. These are all very important aspects to take into account and educate ourselves on, since historically the fashion industry has excluded and othered many groups of people. There are however, two specific areas that seem to be lacking in the area of inclusion within the fashion and design industries. Disability inclusion is one aspect and the other we believe to be the inclusion of mother nature. Both of these notions will be discussed in this journal entry, starting with the responsibility towards the earth.

The mass-produced and unethical world of fast fashion is one of the biggest culprits in pollution and eco-deterioration, making it extra prevalent as a designer to be thinking of how to do things differently from the root of our design practices. Framing the inclusion of the earth as mother nature, humanizes it and brings to light the living growing aspects that tend to be forgotten.

"When designers are thinking inclusion, mindfulness towards environmentally responsible efforts are a must."

The fashion industry has this bad habit of not being inclusive of the earth in its inclusive design practices. Yes, sustainable design exists but not all products that are made with sustainability in mind are inclusive, in fact many are not. The same goes for inclusively designed products, however due to the name of this design process (inclusive), we believe that it should broaden its umbrella. When designers are thinking inclusion, mindfulness towards environmentally responsible efforts are a must. There is a lot of greenwashing that goes on with companies that are body inclusive for example, yet use predominantly synthetic fabric blends and encourage over consumption due to over production but state they are eco-conscious and inclusive. Yes, in some ways they are and not everything needs to be for everyone, but if the umbrella of inclusive design more readily focused on environmental impacts things may be different, same goes for increased highlighting and true inclusion of disability.

By broadening the scope of how one defines inclusion to include eco-conscious practices, it can help define and shape what it is being conceptualized from the beginning. This will help address lifetime value and diverse use cases, like being mindful of designing for disassembly, and thinking of what may happen to a garment when it arrives at end of life. Will it return to the earth as something that is easily compostable or as a toxin? Is there a way to create a buy back program or offer recycling programs for when customers are ready to move on from a style? Are there ways consumers can re-purpose garments into something refreshing or useful in other ways?

"People living with disabilities are globally the largest minority group yet they are inherently ignored in much of the design process."

Speaking of diverse use cases, brings us to the second missing aspect in the inclusive design landscape, ability. Looking beyond one's own way of living life and learning about new perspectives is very important. Being inclusive of diverse lived experiences in terms of capabilities and incorporating the notion of disability into design processes is not only inherently more inclusive, but exceedingly practical. Disability and chronic illness is universally experienced, spanning across all ages, races, classes, sexualities, genders... the list goes on. People living with disabilities are globally the largest minority group yet they are inherently ignored in much of the design process. Disabled and chronically ill people should have equal access to fashion & style and be equally thought of when designing for inclusion. It is ableism that is responsible for much of the stereotypes and stigmas that are put on to disabled people and this must change. By not including the notion of varied abilities into design processes, it attaches an assumption of "normalcy" to a product, that in fact is a myth. Learning about different ways people move and use their bodies deepens the breadth and depth of the scope of products, therefore becoming better more useful products with longevity and shelf life.

When we purchase a high quality item to last a lifetime, the likelihood that this lifetime may include a disability or chronic illness at some point whether it be temporary or permanent is quite likely, so this in an inherent and important aspect that is not included enough in inclusive design practices that take into account responsible environmental practices as well. Imagining how long a product is to provide use to consumers makes sense from disability and sustainability view points, this is imperative to inclusive design. In the end, having constraints as a designer breeds innovation, it challenges the creative process which is a really exciting thing.

"Doing some, is better than doing none"

These are all big things to consider and they take time, hence the need for the slow design movement. All of these aspects to consider can be overwhelming too and doing everything at once isn't always possible, so it's important to remember that doing some is better than doing none. Cultivating respectful curiosity and engaging with communities beyond your own to gain authentic feedback is an excellent way to learn what is wanted/needed without being prescriptive or misguided. Remember that mistakes are normal too and having some humility goes a long way. This journal entry is exactly that, a journal entry that is not perfect, but a way of sharing thoughts and ideas, maybe a starting point for someone, a conversation starter, a way to gain feedback from a different perspective?

As always, thanks for reading!!!

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