Socks – the most neglected of all garments

Maria Kupen With’s Master thesis is entitled A new narrative of Neglected Socks. An exploration of new value creation and narratives for materials through creative fashion practice.  She recently delivered her Masters at the Department of Art, Design and Drama – Fashion and Society – at OsloMet.

Inspired by the preliminary results from Anna Schytte Sigaard’s PhD in Wasted Textiles, Maria Kupen With decided to work with socks – the item discarded in the largest quantities and the worst condition. Socks are so intimate and used socks are not sold in second-hand shops, maybe not even shared for fear of contamination. If these could be upcycled, then what could not be?

Her practice-led approach included collecting socks from friends and family and a local charity, analyses of the socks’ condition, their disposal reasons etc., and creative exploration of the material and its potential.  She created prototypes and a pre-exhibition to confront viewers with the transformed material – in the form of a jacket-tent, sweaters and textured pieces – and registered their potential to elicit emotional responses and challenge current attitudes and perceptions of discarded and worn-out materials.

The thesis touches upon our relationship with nature through cleanliness, bacteria, bodily fluids, as well as pilling and other signs of wear, and how this can change when engaging with the objects, as Maria herself experienced in the practice of making from worn socks, going from thinking they are “icky” to deciding to wear her own pieces. The visitor of her pre-exhibition also reflected on their relationships with second-hand clothing usage more broadly.  The thesis hence uses design to create both value and discussions around value, a much needed perspective in a throw-away consumer culture.

Maria Kupen With was supervised by Lisbeth Løvbak Berg at SIFO and also Siv So Hee Steinaa. In the photo we see the three of them at the Master’s exhibition, enveloped in Maria Kupen With’s work.