"Politics of Patents: Re-imagining citizenship via clothing inventions 1820-2020" is a five year research project funded by an ERC Consolidator grant [2019-2024].

POP is an ambitious global investigation of 200 years of patented clothing inventions

Why Clothing?

Clothing is a fascinating barometer of socio-political change. It is easy to trivialize or overlook the value of clothing, but it is a critical socio-technology that touches every single person.

Why Citizenship?

Citizenship is a critically important topic today. It is not just solely linked to legal status, where you live or your relationship to the nation-state. It is also practiced, negotiated, claimed and struggled for on a daily basis.

Why inventors?

Inventors operate on the cutting edge of social and political change. They build on the past to make claims on the present and imagine different futures.

What can clothing inventions tell us about citizenship?

From swimsuits to spacesuits, clothing directly connects the body to social life and the political world and can be seen as ‘sites of political struggle’ (Parkins 2002).
Clothing is central to ideas around identity, participation, inclusion and exclusion. It reflects, and shapes, how we see ourselves now and imagine different futures.
Far less investigated is the fact that many socio-politically charged artefacts of clothing are patented inventions.
Patenting is a key way of studying inventions over time. Inventors describe specific problems they seek to resolve and their solutions in visual and textual detail and in doing so provide fascinating insights into radical transformations and everyday happenings.
We are also interviewing contemporary inventors engaged in designing, making, adapting and hacking clothes to fit different kinds of bodies, activities, and social, political and cultural beliefs.


POP explores how inventors create new forms of clothing that resist, subvert and disrupt social and political norms and beliefs, and in the process, bring new expressions of citizenship into being.

Our critical practice research is located in the Politics of Patents (POP) clothing invention reconstruction lab

Inventive clothing
offers another way
of getting at citizenship stories.

We aim to bring to life, in archival research, stories and costumes, lesser-known and forgotten attempts by inventors to radically re-imagine or reinforce ideas around citizenship through clothes.
Our inventive mixed-methods approach includes quantitative and in-depth visual and document analysis, interviews with inventors and garment reconstruction.
The core team of 6 will bring a range of skills, experience and training to the project and we are further supported by expert guidance of the interdisciplinary international advisory board. 

Patent illustrations from Espacenet, used with permission of the European Patent Office.