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 increasing record 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?
The ICOE (In Case of Emergency) Flood Garment, merges everyday objects with emergency capabilities, questioning how to integrate elements of preparedness into daily life and how to increase a sense of agency in a world where we lack control. ICOE transforms something as mundane as a shower curtain into an inflatable flood garment 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. Tear-away panels that convert into flotation bands and tubes for others in need offer elements of community resilience, embodying a shift away from an individualistic mindset. Instructional icons on the curtain itself allow for a mental rehearsal of steps to take in an emergency flood scenario, adding to feelings of preparedness and easing sentiments of anxiety and despair. Facing the common threats brought on by the climate crisis, the ICOE Flood Garment rejects a dissociative attitude and seeks to shift exceptionalist feelings of entitlement to a focus on building resilience for the future.
Everyday objects for everyday emergency.
The social, economic and environmental issues we face today can be very overwhelming to consider, especially when people feel helpless in the matter. In thinking about disaster preparedness, one might assume large investment, major life change, seclusion and hoarding of resources. But what about the examples we are familiar with and already have integrated into our existing lifestyles - like first aid kits and fire extinguishers? These normalized "prepper" items help people to feel safe not only because of how they function, but also through the cognitive element of being more prepared through an accepted awareness of risk.
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.
What we choose to put in our homes or wear on our bodies makes a statement, whether we are aware of it or not, highlighting matters that may need immediate attention through product materiality, form or intended use. Fashion, in particular, is powerful in that it occupies both the private and public space, allowing the wearer to not only express their sense of self but also put their beliefs and commitments on display to those around them.
The ICOE Flood Garment recognizes how what we choose to put on our bodies can be an effective agent for change. As a garment embedded into an everyday object (a shower curtain), it can either be removed and worn in the moment of a flood scenario or exist as a statement garment. This example of incorporating "just in case" items into our everyday lives helps to not only provide a sense of security in knowing that there is a form of aid available at all times but also allows for a considered rehearsal of emergency scenario actions, promoting open conversation with others regarding shared fears and uncertainties. By choosing to wear the coat and waist wrap on a "regular" day, the wearer is declaring a state of climate emergency and acting as a walking reminder of accountability and community resilience while continuing to encourage conversation about coming together to implement lasting change.
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 Flood 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 work that encourages critical thinking and reflection.