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(Archive) ICOE Flood Garment

What does it mean to adapt to a changing world?

This project was part of DDW 2022
ICOE coat and waist wrap worn as statement garment — © Video Still - Matt Watson; Model - Louise Starr

Climate change is altering the world as we know it. By merging mundane objects with emergency capabilities, ICOE (In Case of Emergency) questions how to integrate elements of preparedness into our everyday lives and how to increase a sense of agency in a world where we lack control.

Everyday objects for everyday emergency.

Whether or not we incorporate a response system to risk into our daily lives will directly affect how we will be able to adapt to the imminent threats brought on by climate change. With rising sea levels and record increase in rainfall, coastal cities aren't the only high risk zones for flooding. Lacking the infrastructure necessary to feel prepared for climate emergencies, how can our existing lifestyles provide comfort in the embodied acknowledgment of disaster awareness and incorporate elements of preparedness into daily life?

If we start to consider how daily items that are already a part of our existing routines can transform into objects of support, we can begin to incorporate elements of climate disaster readiness into daily life without feeling like we are losing a sense of self. By utilizing lifestyle as a means for accessible integration of preparatory items, a mental shift is facilitated from one of dissociative tendencies to one that empowers the individual through facing the reality of the world around us.

Ready made, made ready.

The ICOE Flood Garment transforms something as mundane as a shower curtain into an inflatable outfit in the event of a sudden natural disaster, helping not only the individual feel prepared but also empowered to take action in the moment of crisis. A functioning flotation collar and tear-away panels for others in need offer elements of community resilience, embodying a shift away from an individualistic mindset. Removable paracord embedded throughout seams allows for flexibility in a scenario where an inflatable piece needs to be thrown to someone out of reach. Instructional icons on the curtain itself allow for a mental rehearsal of steps to take in an emergency scenario, adding to feelings of preparedness and easing sentiments of anxiety and despair.

In the moment that the shower curtain is torn down and the garment is removed, a state of emergency is declared by the individual. By removing the outfit on a "regular" day and choosing to wear it, the ICOE objects become a statement, using fashion and self expression as a public mode of not only sparking dialogue surrounding the climate crisis but also acting as a reminder of accountability and community resilience.

The role of the designer.

As a designer, it’s extremely important for me to continuously consider process and material choices as they relate to their effect on both the individual, the community and the environment. While creating the ICOE garment, I did not want to create excess waste in producing a material artifact. By partnering with Quiet Town, an ethical and sustainably-focused home goods brand based out of California, I was able to repurpose their shower curtain samples and create objects that encourage critical thinking and reflection.

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Garment worn in Providence, RI hurricane barrier — © Video Still - Matt Watson; Model - Louise Starr

Garment worn in Providence, RI hurricane barrier — © Video Still - Matt Watson; Model - Louise Starr

ICOE Shower Curtain and Illustrated Components — © Dara Benno

ICOE Flood Garment - Front and Back