10 Mar 2021

The biggest innovation is philosophical

Geraldine Wharry
The biggest innovation is philosophical

If one had told me in the late 90s when I graduated from design school I would be leading a global community, teaching and focused on long term futures, I would not have believed it. But today I am more emboldened than ever to focus on making trend forecasting more accessible to help others conceive, design and implement planet and people positive growth. This is why in 2020 I set out the 10 000 mission and created the Trend Atelier Community, in a bid to merge future insights with education.

As a futurist I will say one thing: the future is unpredictable. This may sound like a paradox but it isn’t. The trend signals are all here, and point to the near future but the farther we go, the more we have to speculate on possible and wild card scenarios. However what is definitely within reach is creating a preferable future if we realise that we all have influence. We are currently seeking solutions with a number of challenges the fashion industry is facing. But the biggest mistake today would be underestimating the following: THE BIGGEST INNOVATION IS PHILOSOPHICAL.

There are limits to technological innovation and our biggest challenge is behavioural and cultural. We have been using the same philosophies for thousands of years but today, with AI, Bio tech and climate change, we need new ways of navigating society and our resources. Culturally we are more than ever growing conscious of social justice, our wellness, our communities locally and globally, our living spaces and what makes being human, which is not only our technological prowess, but also our ability to have empathy, experience awe and the fact we are deeply social animals.

Emphasizing on systems change requires a willingness to unlearn and slow down which is challenging. But as 2020 marked the crossover point where the anthropomass surpassed the biomass (meaning the sum of what is manmade now outweighs what is natural on our planet), I believe this is a crucial moment we all must turn our attention to. In a bid to constantly innovate and produce, what have we done to our planet?

As part of unlearning, the first point of call would be to be in the now and accept the discomfort of uncertainty. Our current Eurocentric society glorifies certainty, perhaps a symptom of how anxious we have become as collective. In Nomos of the Earth, a 6-step call to action proposes as a first measure to “Begin from the Real”, face reality, in order to take immediate actions (which is step 6) and inhabit the world. Philosopher Bruno Latour states in his “Fictional planetarium” that we are disorientated and divided due to 7 planetary principles  circling all at once.

To “un-confuse” ourselves and unpack our overwhelm of “where do I even go or begin?”, we must humbly put ourselves in a learning mindset and implement collaboration with partners outside of fashion: social scientists, philosophers, farmers, biologists, engineers, children, conservationists, anthropologists, speculative designers and artists to name a few examples. The solutions are possibly outside of our fashion bubble due to the scale of the change needed. Yet it is essential to be fuelled by how important a role fashion plays in society. From various points of view and a broad scan of society’s challenges, we can create the playbook of the future, and envision the possibilities in design, manufacturing, business, social contracts and lifestyle. With great times of change come tremendous potential to create and flourish in new spaces.

By 2100 our planet will hold 11 billion people. Simple maths show we can’t pursue the consumerist way of life we built over the course of the 20th century. In the next 10 years new economic models are expected to emerge, along with technological singularity, climate change displacement, which will trigger new forms of business and human interaction. This includes our supply chains which are already changing, where we work and how we relate to clothing, its utility and its dream. The designer of the future requires different types of skillsets, from animation, data science to biology, craft, social sciences and futurism and as part of this shift, equity based educational curriculums are emerging.

As part of the changes happening as we speak, for which we have not fully formed vocabularies and methodologies, it is essential to internalise research and systems change in our strategies. The magnitude is difficult for fashion businesses to face in an industry slow to adopt change because of its complex structure and broad reach. But the possibility of an enlightened age of fashion is here for the taking and represents great opportunities at the convergence of philosophy, wellness and purpose, for the greater good of the people and our planet. Climate change, much like fighting a virus, requires a united and collective approach. The scale of what is at stake puts a priority on new systems creation that are not trends; they are fundamental changes in paradigm.

 

THE TREND ATELIER COMMUNITY FUTURE FORECASTING WORKSHOP

 

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