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The art of fashion hacktivism -

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The art of fashion hacktivism

The World Today - Thursday, 23 April , 2009 12:54:00

Reporter: Barbara Miller

PETER CAVE: A Swedish fashionista now in Australia says that consumers need to learn from the world
of computers and start hacking their clothes. Otto von Busch says they need to snap out of their
passivity and to start updating and modifying what they wear.

The man who describes himself as an 'haute couture heretic' uses the internet to try and teach
people the basics of fashion hacktivism.

He spoke to our reporter Barbara Miller about his theories.

OTTO VON BUSCH: I recycle a lot of clothes and I think that's really interesting to do, to try to
save the garments that are dying in the back of your wardrobe. And every time I do this I
photograph step by step and I create a small kind of cookbook or an assembly instruction.

If someone else would like to do the same, because sometimes you get some comments. Oh, oh, how did
you do that? And then of course I explain but now I also have downloadable, open-source manuals or
small cookbooks on my website.

BARBARA MILLER: But what if you want to keep up with current trends? You're not going to do that by
putting a few rips in an old pair of jeans are you?

OTTO VON BUSCH: Well it's a little bit, it's a little more than rips. So it's a little bit more
than a kind of punkish, anti-fashion statement or something. So it is more trying to make
something, update them somehow.

If it means slim jeans, now it's the slim fit trousers that are lately, it's about somehow how can
I make these pants slimmer but perhaps without too complicated moves? So just an easy thing is to
put a long zipper on the side, but not cutting in the fabric but you sew the zipper directly onto
the fabric on the outside and as you zip up, or actually you zip down of course, it fold itself in,
the fabric.

So it's a very simple trick because it's really, as soon as you engage with your clothes and don't
feel passive in front of them, it's really a new world opens and a new attention. You see things
differently.

BARBARA MILLER: So where's the hacktivism or the activism in this? I mean forgive me for saying I
might read such tips in maybe a women's magazine. What's new about this?

OTTO VON BUSCH: It's not necessarily new but I think usually when we think about design, design and
being the active part is kept to the designers, it's kept preserved within the walls of the fashion
industry. They are the ones making the decisions. They are the ones producing for us. And as
consumers we are left with only choosing.

So how can designers think more about creating something that is more open source, more kind if
Wikipedia, more open for engagement by consumers? And let's say if we talk about sustainability and
so on I mean do we need to have new pret-a-porter, I mean ready-to-wear, fashion that people buy
constantly, constantly and then throw out, or can you as a designer send out updates or kind of new
patches or something like that for people to update their clothes? Or would there be other ways for
engagement...

BARBARA MILLER: But what if I'm just not that creative? What if I don't mind being a consumer?

OTTO VON BUSCH: Oh! Well please (laughs). I don't mind. I mean please do. And of course I'm also a
consumer. I'm not doing this with everything. The beauty of it is that it somehow opens a little
part for engagement.

And I think, I mean most people were not writers before there were blogs, for example, but then
suddenly people started to make blogs and most people never published a photo in their life but
Flickr offered them some form of chance to upload some images and suddenly they got some comments
from someone from the other side of the planet saying oh great photo, or something like that.

So I think I mean we see more and more of this kind of encouragement where we feel that, well I can
somehow also contribute. I am not only someone that is passive in front of different systems.

BARBARA MILLER: Do you think fashion is alone in being an industry that we somehow have to become
more engaged with or do you think this is a whole new trend, engaging many aspects of your life?

OTTO VON BUSCH: I think we see it a lot all over and perhaps fashion is just very slow because I
think fashion has this image of being constantly innovative and constantly at the front of things.
But perhaps there is nothing more conservative than fashion in the sense that it's, every second
season, every season there is a new collection. It's presented on the catwalk and then it comes to
the shops.

It's very, the format of fashion is extremely conservative. That's why interesting to think about
how can fashion think outside of the box. I mean now if it's happened to computers and all kind of
other fields, we see it more and more, but not so much yet in fashion and that's what I try to push
a little for.

PETER CAVE: And I thought they were moths coming out of my clothes. They were little hacktivistas.
Otto von Busch speaking to Barbara Miller.