I grew up in a rural agricultural town without clean drinking water two hours outside of New York City. This made me aware of water waste, and the relationship between infrastructure and basic needs on a personal level. It was from this perspective that I started building Wearable Homes in the year 2001, and living in them to test do-it-yourself systems that could provide a modicum of survival. Almost 20 years later, the project has found increasing resonance.
The Wearable Homes were a response to the realities of living in a country where there is still not a safety net for so many people. As both a climate change prediction and an assumption that more people will lack access to basic resources, the “Wearable Homes” project bordered on an absurd dystopic commentary about what consumption could look like after most everything imaginable had been marketized and sold, and people navigated through desertified terrains.
The term ‘Voyager’ was one I used for a Wearable Home user. It was categorically broad: an environmental refugee, a wanderer, displaced worker, or nomad: anyone who was on the move. It wasn’t difficult to imagine a future in which most humans would be focused on survival, acclimation, and movement as a result of un-predictabilities surrounding climate change, and the resulting escalation of climate migration.
In designing the Wearable Homes, I examined the clothing from different cultures and groups around the world; from Inuit cultures and saris worn in India, to kimonos and workers uniforms, military attire and camouflage, to Western super-brands such as Gap, and the ubiquitous khaki overcoat. The projects ‘blanding’ of garments was intended to arrive at one generic look in an attempt to de-emphasize the self and specificity and re-emphasize ideas of survival and modularity. It was built around critique, but it was also based on a speculation that companies would eventually merge until an oligopoly for the Wearable Home would become a monopoly.