Fashion Talks at AUP: “I Make Because I Am Human”


On Thursday, September 16, 2021, the Fashion Talks at AUP lecture series hosted its first lecture of the academic year, which saw designer and arborist Zoe Jo Rae present on the subject of “Resourcefulness – And Other Quiet Forms of Activism.” The latest edition of the series, titled “Between Consumption, Criticism and Activism,” was organized by Renate Stauss and Sophie Kurkdjian, both of whom are fashion studies professors in the Department of Communication, Media and Culture.

Zoe Jo Rae’s talk was an important and inspiring reminder to process the world not only through consumption, but also through multisensory engagement, which in turn creates empowerment and a sense of community. The multidisciplinary designer talked about two of her works, “Hunter-Gatherer in the Anthropocene” and “Harvest,” with a focus on the first of these, a project that Zoe embarked on while still at university. The project has continued to evolve and has become, in many ways, a manifesto for her professional practice.  

Zoe discussed how rewilding the design process, becoming a qualified arborist and learning to embrace an interdisciplinary approach has allowed her to have a physical engagement with nature. This in turn encouraged her to step back from the design practice and be more critical. The result is a methodology that keeps her practice grounded while employing narrative and animism to challenge the way we consume and ultimately live. In a passionate manner, Zoe illustrated her form of critical practice, which uses theoretical writing to interrogate material processes. Community engagement and community building are at the heart of her work: “Sometimes the most powerful use of our skills is in the sharing of them,” she explained. As such, the talk considered resourcefulness as a quiet form of activism that we can all engage in every day.

About Zoe Jo Rae

Zoe is an multidisciplinary designer and qualified arborist, originally from the UK and currently based in Oslo, Norway. She studied at Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Brighton, graduating with a degree in sustainable design. Her work uses design and making to explore the human condition and trigger conversations and actions around social and environmental challenges. This has led to engagement with community-based projects, where she has contributed both conceptually and practically to the development of multidisciplinary spaces and cultural hubs in Oslo. She is currently collaborating with a small group of individuals to establish a space dedicated to regenerative practices in the city. The aim is to reconnect Oslo and its inhabitants with the Oslo Fjord and its biodiversity (or lack thereof). Her work has been nominated for and won design awards both locally and internationally.