Exploring Taxonomies of Heritage and Innovation for Sustainable Textiles

Chaveeporn Sungwarn, Britta Kalkreuter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Innovation and heritage both attract much attention when we consider sustainable futures for design, and for every exciting new development in greener technologies, we might point to a heritage skill that could help achieve more sustainable innovation of making practices. In textile craft, some traditional abilities do already play a critical role in innovative development, while others might be continued either for cultural or political reasons, or as able contributors to market visibility within the broader movement away from globalized and mass-produced offerings. In most cases, the choice of retaining certain heritage practices while innovating others with regard to processes, products, materials, design, or stakeholders does not tend to be particularly systematic, but this paper proposes the use of a taxonomy of heritage and innovation features for textiles, with the aim to explore how effective a tool this might constitute for culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable textile production of the future. The research used in-depth interviews and observation of fabric makers in various cultures of Thailand and Scotland as its empirical basis for a sample taxonomy, clarifying through content analysis. The difference between traditional processes and innovative elements of fabric production in these very different cultures of making. In order to make such a taxonomy user friendly and universal, symbols were considered and established to classify relevant traits of the entire fabric production processes that may be considered traditional or innovative. Using a concise and clear model of sign design has the capacity for easy communication across stakeholders from artisan to design communities and offers the prospect of observing its use and the product outcomes that will come from it. In the first instance, the researcher, herself a Thai textile designer currently residing in Scotland, has explored the taxonomy in her own weave practice and will offer reflections on the outcomes of experimenting with combining traditional and innovative traits in a systematic manner. A preliminary discussion on the benefits and possible applications of this approach will be offered, with further analysis being expected as a result of feedback from the GFC conference community. The paper promotes symbols both as an analytical tool and as a powerful artistic communication device of traits of traditional crafts, intangible cultural heritage and innovation around these industries. The purpose of this paper then is both to analyse heritage elements and innovative aspects of making and to explore how these can be a systematic and conscious source of sustainable development. It clarifies in terms of initiation; markers, materials, and technique throughout the outcome; fabric, and the processes related to the aesthetic and the transition of cultural value crafts. The research thus seeks to contribute to the reconciliation of the twin trajectories of heritage and innovation as we seek to define preferred futures for a design that answers to cultural, marketing, economic, political and environmental concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Fashion Conference Proceedings 2022
PublisherGlobal Fashion Conference
ISBN (Electronic)9789895426331
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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