Hacktivism and Engaged Fashion Design - Otto von Busch defends his thesis

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Hacktivism and Engaged Fashion Design - Otto von Busch defends his thesis

Shoe stone, fromOtto von Busch's thesis Pooto Bent Rene Synenvåg

What happens if a designer within the world of fashion encourages political activism? Otto von Busch describes a designer role that experiments with how fashion can be reverse engineered, hacked, tuned and shared among many participants as a form of social activism. On Friday October 24th 2008 he defends his thesis at the School of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg.

Otto von Busch’s thesis, with the title ”Fashion-able: Hacktivism and Engaged Fashion Design”, consists of a series of extensive projects from fashion which aim to explore a new designer role for fashion. A role that experiments with how fashion can be reverse engineered, hacked, tuned and shared among many participants as a form of social activism.

This social design practice can be called “the hacktivism of fashion”, an engaged and collective process of enablement, creative resistance and DIY practice, where a community share methods and experiences on how to expand action spaces and develop new forms of craftsmanship.


Otto’s research takes the practice of hands-on exploration in the DIY upcycling of clothes through open source fashion “cookbooks”. By means of hands-on processes, the projects endeavour to create a complementary understanding of the modes of production within the field of fashion design. The artistic research projects have ranged from DIY-kits released at an international fashion week, fashion experiments in galleries, collaborative “hacking” at a shoe factory in Norway, engaged design at a rehabilitation centre in Estonia as well as combined efforts with established fashion brands.
To better understand this practice Otto uses parallels from hacking, heresy, fan fiction, small change and professional-amateurs, and examines how these examples can help widen the understanding of the design practice in fashion.

- These different fields may seem separated but they are characterized by a common approach towards practice, something which is examined in my own projects, says Otto von Busch.


The thesis has many possible points of entry and builds a non-linear framework by which the reader can draw diagonal interpretations through the artistic research projects presented.

- This approach is not about subverting fashion as much as hacking and tuning it, and making its’ sub-routines run in new ways, or in other words, bending the current while still keeping the power on, says Otto von Busch.

He continues:

- The special skill of the designer is to understand how to bend the energies of fashion into modes of wider engagement – to help participants become fashion-able.

Friday October 24th Otto von Busch defends his thesis at the School of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg.  Examiner is professor John Wood, Goldsmiths, University of London. Committe of grades: docent Lisbeth Svengren, institutionen för designvetenskaper, Lunds University, phil dr Ylva Gislén, Dramatiska institutet, Stockholm and professor Ole Lützow Holm, Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg.

Download pdf of web version of the thesis

Read more at Otto von Busch’s website