Our RMIT PlaceLab Brunswick Research Studio on Union Street, near Jewell Station. Photo: Suzanne Phoenix.

PlaceLab Brunswick Cycle 02 – The Wrap Up!

This month we’re celebrating the conclusion of our second Research Cycle at RMIT PlaceLab’s Brunswick Research Studio, as we wrap up our Cycle 02 Research Projects, ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ and ‘Wear & Care’.

We’ve been on a research-focused and community-engaged journey to collect, consolidate and cultivate a shared understanding of what gives Brunswick its unique character, and to also explore methods of fashion “rewilding” in Brunswick.

We wish to extend a huge thank you to each and every one of our community collaborators, participants, partnered organisations, collaborating RMIT academics, RMIT students, and our place-making partners, Merri-bek City Council and Brunswick Design District (BDD), for supporting our project activities along the way!

Visitors enjoying the RMIT PlaceLab Brunswick Exhibition. Photo: Suzanne Phoenix.


‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ Research Project

Where We Started

Our team set out on the ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ Research Project with a seemingly simple objective: to understand what makes Brunswick, Brunswick. Our hope was to gather rich, personal, and shared insights into both local space-making and cultural practices, and stories (past, present, and emerging) that exist within the Brunswick community. In doing so, we aspired to make tangible the somewhat elusive and intangible notion of ‘Brunswick’s unique urban character’.

Our motivation to do this research was to provide a snapshot of Brunswick community reflections that might be of use as they confront transformative changes: many associated with major infrastructure projects, the climate emergency, and urban gentrification.

Academic research tells us that given the social, economic, and environmental consequences of urban changes, the participation of communities in transparent and rigorous processes of community engagement is a critical determinant in achieving outcomes that are not just economically successful, but also socially — and environmentally — just. However, it is equally recognised that the implementation of effective processes and practices around community engagement remains a problematic fault-line.

In this context, we imagined that, by contributing to understandings of Brunswick’s unique urban character, we might offer the community a useful mechanism to protect, preserve, or enable things that are essential to the fabric of the area. It is to be seen whether we have achieved even small steps toward this goal.

What We Explored

Focusing on the Brunswick Design District (BDD), ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ gathered local perspectives on the sounds, images, words, stories, and imaginings that make Brunswick, Brunswick. Community insights and materials collected became part of a compendium that aims to enable conversations about Brunswick’s future.


What We Did

‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ engaged with community members, RMIT students, and local stakeholders, through a range of research activities, including a community survey, walking interviews, photographer trails, a collage workshop, and finally, a ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ Exhibition.


Outputs We Released

We have created a collection of outputs and resources that have emerged out of RMIT PlaceLab’s ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ Research Project. Two key outputs include:

‘My Brunswick, Our Brunswick’, a printed book consolidating community insights and materials collected, as well as ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision Data Visualisations’, which can be accessed via the RMIT PlaceLab website. These are rich and practical research outputs that enable and encourage conversations about Brunswick now and in the future.

‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ as part of the RMIT PlaceLab Brunswick Cycle 02 Exhibition. Photo: Suzanne Phoenix.

‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ Project Activities

‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’ Research Survey

We conducted an online Research Survey with the community, across July and August 2023, where 237 people participated in helping us explore what makes Brunswick, Brunswick. While not limited to Brunswick residents, the Research Survey was undertaken by 151 people who live in Brunswick, and another 38 who have previously lived or worked in Brunswick. The Survey was principally promoted via Instagram, which means that most respondents fell within the age group of 18-29 years. In line with common trends within qualitative research, 146 of the respondents identified as female, 48 identified as male, with 11 identifying as gender diverse and 32 preferring not to say. You can explore what people had to say in our interactive data visualisations.


Walking Interviews

We undertook walking interviews with eight local community members. Each person was invited to nominate an area within the Upfield Corridor / Brunswick Design District (BDD) and walk together with our PlaceLab Brunswick team. We allowed our community members to lead the way and talk about their feelings towards Brunswick.


Photographer Trails

Here we commissioned eight Brunswick-based photographers (four professional, four RMIT photography students) to undertake photography trails to gather images. We invited the photographers to explore a ‘block’ in Brunswick, focused on the area bounded by Sydney Road and the Upfield Rail Line. They were encouraged to capture what resonates when they think of Brunswick’s unique character, from buildings and textures to history, signage, and atmospheres.

Photographs available to access soon – stay tuned!


Collaging Brunswick

On November 1st 2023, we held a collaging workshop at Brunswick Town Hall to visualise what makes Brunswick — Brunswick! In collaboration with ‘that paper joint’ and RMIT researcher Georgie Nolan, we created an experimental evening combining creativity, community and collaging. It was a fun, interactive and hands-on workshop to collage the community thoughts on a collective vision of what makes Brunswick so special.

Max from ‘that paper joint’ leading the Collaging Brunswick workshop at Brunswick Town Hall. Photo: Suzanne Phoenix.

‘Wear & Care’ Research Project

Where We Started

In Australia, the clothing and textile waste stream has been recognised as a significant focus area by the Australian Fashion Council (AFC) and Sustainability Victoria. Despite the creative and economic value of fashion to our society, clothing waste is causing detrimental effects on our environment globally. Therefore, there is an urgency to establish effective end-of-life solutions for garments to “tame” the excesses of the fashion industry. However, there are also opportunities to support different ways of participating in and experiencing fashion that challenges the dominant growth-focused model of the fashion system.

Other modes of fashion engagement do exist in communities where “rewilding” actions, like sharing and mending clothes, are embraced. There was limited information detailing Brunswick community engagement with “rewilding” practices in the home and in neighbourhoods, yet Brunswick has an historically rich connection to Australia’s textile and garment manufacturing industries. It is home to the Brunswick Design District (BDD), which advocates Brunswick’s positioning as a national hub for creative industries and supports its flourishing creative community and economy. Sydney Road, one of the main channels through the suburb, is renowned for its second-hand clothing stores.

Despite this lively ecosystem, there were also limited opportunities for the broader Brunswick community to engage with RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles, which also calls Brunswick home. Therefore, we sought to encourage and assist in making humble practices that “rewild” fashion more accessible to the wider community here in Brunswick, by collaborating with RMIT fashion and textiles researchers. We set out to offer opportunities to learn skills, develop shared knowledge and cultivate community conversations.

What We Explored

‘Wear & Care’ considered Brunswick’s future as a creative fashion district by exploring methods of fashion “rewilding” accessible to the community. The changing fashion landscape depends on shifting values and approaches to transform how we produce and consume to consider new positive ways of experiencing fashion that aligns people and planet. Local fashion “rewilding” supports new cultures in how we better use, make and recreate clothing.

What We Did

The ‘Wear & Care’ Research Project included a series of Community Repair Workshops, a Research Survey on “rewilding” fashion for the community, a student second-hand clothing re-design display, a Research Survey for Brunswick-based second-hand clothing retailers, several garment-led group conversations, a Community Forum in collaboration with RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles, and finally our ‘Wear & Care’ Exhibition.

Outputs we released

We have created a collection of outputs and resources that emerged out of the ‘Wear & Care’ Research Project. Two of our key outputs include:

‘Stories of Wear & Care: The Lives of Garments and the Stories They Hold’. This is a printed book with a collection of 24 garment-led stories gathered across six semi-structured, in-person group conversations with people from our Brunswick, Merri-bek and wider Melbourne community. It offers a glimpse into the humble practices embedded in the clothes that support a “rewilding” of fashion. In reading this collection, we hope to generate a deeper consideration of your own wear and care practices, captured amongst the garments living in your wardrobe.

The ‘Wear & Care’ Activation Kit is a collection of insights, ideas and inspirations from the ‘Wear & Care’ Research Project to activate fashion “rewilding” practices within your home or local community. The Kit features shareable resources, including a guide to building community repair workshops, a ‘decision tree’ for engaging in clothing repair and a series of activation cards and flyers to inspire individual and community initiatives.

‘Wear & Care’ as part of the RMIT PlaceLab Brunswick Exhibition. Photo: Suzanne Phoenix.

‘Wear & Care’ Project Activities

‘Wear & Care’ Community Repair Series

Across May and June 2023, we held our ‘Wear & Care’ Community Repair Series, with six weekly, hands-on mending workshops in collaboration with RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles. The community was invited to bring along their garments in need of mending, alteration, or embellishment to learn hand and machine techniques across different themes each week. Attending menders could also choose to have their repairs documented by the ‘Repair Cafe at RMIT’ as part of research into garment longevity and durability.

‘Wear &
Care’ Research Survey

We conducted an online Research Survey with the community, across July and August 2023, where 428 people participated in helping us explore local clothing wear and care practices, and how these actions intersect with “rewilding” or “taming” concepts in fashion. Predominantly promoted via Instagram, the ‘Wear & Care’ Research Survey was mostly undertaken by female identifying participants, while we also had an overwhelming uptake from a predominantly younger age group (between 20-29 years of age).

Explore Research Survey results soon – stay tuned!

Student Second-hand Clothing Redesign Display

From 3rd to 26th July 2023, our Brunswick Research Studio was home to an RMIT student display exploring concepts of reuse and redesign through a showcase of redesigned second-hand clothing pieces. Our PlaceLab Brunswick team collaborated with RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles to feature a selection of garments redesigned and produced by students undertaking the course Fashion Design Reuse, led by Course Coordinator and our collaborating researcher, Dr. Georgia McCorkill.

Brunswick-based Second-hand Clothing Retailer Survey

We reached out to 16 Brunswick-based retailers to participate in a survey of second-hand clothing retailers that call Brunswick home. Across Charity, Not-For-Profit, Consignment and For-Profit second-hand clothing retailers, six retailer representatives participated in an online survey, while five other retailer representatives joined in conversations to help us learn about retail business practices around repair, alterations, or redesign of second-hand clothing in Brunswick.

Explore what we learnt from Brunswick-based second-hand clothing retailers soon – stay tuned!


‘Wear & Care’s A Garment’s Life: Conversation Series’

We conducted a series of six small, semi-structured in-person group conversations with 23 people from our Brunswick, Merri-bek and wider Melbourne community. The Series was created to cultivate discussions about how we wear and care for our clothing in ways that support a “rewilding” of fashion. Our Community Collaborators were invited to bring along a garment from their wardrobe that had been mended, repaired or shared, or a special garment with a story behind it. Each person generously shared their garment-led story. Local contemporary artist Jody Haines joined each session to document the clothing through photographs and to create a garment-centred portrait with each of our Community Collaborators.

‘Wear & Care’ Community Forum

We held a Forum to discover and share methods of fashion “rewilding” and “taming” in our local community. We brought together RMIT fashion and textiles researchers with community, industry, and local council representatives to share knowledge and experiences in garment mending, second-hand clothing, upcycling, remanufacturing, redesign practices and more. It was an opportunity to hear from a collection of knowledge experts in conversation, exploring the evolving local response to new and shifting systems of fashion, and how these actions align with exciting research emerging out of RMIT’s School of Fashion & Textiles.

Attendees and speakers at our ‘Wear & Care’ Community Forum at The Hanger, on RMIT’s Brunswick campus. Photo: Vanessa Duque.

We wrapped up our Cycle 02 Research Projects with a final RMIT PlaceLab Brunswick Exhibition.

As part of RMIT PlaceLab’s Cycle 02 Research Projects, from 6th to 20th December 2023 we presented an Exhibition of outputs for our two Brunswick Research Projects — ‘Wear & Care’ and ‘Voice, Vibe & Vision’. Visitors discovered how we delved into fashion rewilding systems from a community perspective, as well as better understanding what makes Brunswick — Brunswick.

Thank you to Crowd Productions for supporting the build of our Exhibition with their modular framing system http://crowd.com.au.

Visitors and collaborators at our RMIT PlaceLab Brunswick Exhibition opening. Photos: Suzanne Phoenix and RMIT PlaceLab.