On Monday Fashion Interactions will open at Parsons, followed by an opening reception on Friday November 15, 6-9pm. Fashion Interactions is a multidisciplinary exhibition that explores fashion culture by means of contemporary art, design and media. The exhibited works comment on the unsustainability of the fashion industry, analyze the relationship of fashion and corporeality, and investigate how people use clothes as tools for building their identities. Curated by Annamari Vänskä, a post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Fashion Studies at the University of Stockholm, and Hazel Clark, Research Chair of Fashion at Parsons, the exhibition features work by Federico Cabrera, Heidi Lunabba, Jasmin Mishima, Anna Mustonen, Nutty Tarts, Salla Salin, Heidi Soidinsalo, Saara Töyrylä and Timo Wright. I’m collaborating on 15% with Salla Salin again. Janelle Abbott is performing in 15%.
15% is an assembly line around which a factory worker individually cuts, sews and presses ordinary white t-shirts, which accumulate in the gallery during the course of the exhibition. The work comments on the unsustainability of the garment industry, making visible its different facets like labour and waste.
un fit brings together artists Federico Cabrera, Jasmin Mishima, Anna Mustonen, Heidi Soidinsalo, Saara Töyrylä, and Timo Wright to create a live performance and installation that brings together dance, fashion, sound and video art. Dresscode is a community-based art project that deals with style as an indicator of social class.
Artists Katriina Haikala and Vilma Metteri of Nutty Tarts and Heidi Lunabba photographed people on the streets of New York City in three different locations—Madison Avenue, 161st Street in the Bronx and Greenpoint in Brooklyn—in August 2013.
Fashion Interactions is produced by Parsons The New School for Design, the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at Parsons, and the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York, in collaboration with the Centre for Fashion Studies (Stockholm University). The exhibition and symposium are supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, and Frame Visual Art Finland. 15% is supported by School of Fashion at Parsons, and City Sewing in New York.
About the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
The Sheila C. Johnson Design Center is an award-winning campus center for Parsons The New School for Design that combines learning and public spaces with exhibition galleries to provide an important new downtown destination for art and design programming. The mission of the Center is to generate an active dialogue on the role of innovative art and design in responding to the contemporary world. Its programming encourages an interdisciplinary examination of possibility and process, linking the university to local and global debates. The center is named in honor of its primary benefactor, New School Trustee and Parsons Board of Governor’s Member Sheila C. Johnson. The design by Rice+Lipka Architects is the recipient of numerous awards, including an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. For more information please visit http://www.newschool.edu/sjdc.
About Parsons The New School for Design
Parsons The New School for Design is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, please visit http://www.newschool.edu/parsons.
Finnish Cultural Institute in New York
The Finnish Cultural Institute in New York aims to promote Finnish art, design and architecture in New York and in North America at large. The Institute runs an artist-in-residency program in New York and produces, curates and presents exhibitions and other events in collaboration with local galleries and museums. Its goal is to develop active collaboration networks with professionals and organizations within the field of visual arts. The Finnish Cultural Institute in New York is one of the 17 Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes abroad. It is a member of the EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture) cluster in New York.
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center General Information
Location: 66 Fifth Avenue, New York
Gallery hours: Open daily 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 8:00 p.m. Closed all major holidays and holiday eves.
Info: Please contact 212.229.8919 or visit http://www.newschool.edu/sjdc
My zero-waste students get some version of the above at the start of the course, with the homework of documenting moments, verbally and visually, from the past 12 months where they have truly been inspired. Like truly, madly, deeply inspired; I describe inspiration as a physical sensation that keeps you up at night. Over the past few years I have overused the jellyfish example, mainly because it comes up almost every semester, along with the seven deadly sins, ancient Egypt and a building or buildings by Zaha Hadid – these things students tell me their collection will be inspired by. Jellyfish tops the list. Mostly the students’ understanding of inspiration is a cause and effect kind of process: “I’m inspired by an elephant, therefore this lapel looks like this.” Often students will design something and then make a racket of Google Images to find images to justify whatever they designed. Even when the images come first, I would not call looking at a bunch of images and then designing something as a result ‘inspiration’. And I do not call the use of Google ‘research’.
In Australian fashion education, at least at UTS, cultural appropriation has been addressed for at least ten years as I can recall it. For example, I can recall Alison Gwilt asking pertinent questions about John Galliano’s liberal use of ‘ethnic’ references in a lecture in 2004, (I should note Alison acknowledged Galliano when acknowledgment was due) and Vicki Karaminas assigning parts of Edward Said’s Orientalism as readings to second year fashion students at the same time. There’s also a brilliant paper by Peter Shand that students would read.
Then I moved to America and discovered a very different fashion landscape. Sure, I saw Unzipped way back when, with Isaac Mizrahi complaining about Jean Paul Gaultier also using Inuits as ‘inspiration’ in the same season. Quelle horreur. In fact in that film Mizrahi manages a number of insensitive statements as far as cultural appropriation is concerned, but I presumed that because it was filmed in 1994, it was ancient history. I presumed that we had evolved as an industry and as humanity. That was until Urban Outfitters went all out to make a big mess of things with the Navajo. A number of other mishaps followed. For example, Victoria’s Secret decorated Karlie Kloss (‘s breasts) with a feather headdress. And I was having conversations with students intending to design collections ‘inspired by’ the ‘Wild West’. Or Muslims. You get the picture.
Cultural studies is not my forte and my point of view here is designerly. After all that I’ve read and seen over the years, however, I think delving into another culture’s dress, adornment, art and customs to be ‘inspired by’ in order to produce some things in this massive waste-making machine that is fashion is simply unnecessary. The immediate world around us is filled with inspiring people and things, hence the rationale for the simple homework project in zero-waste. The research that students come back with is always mind-blowing.
My post today is prompted by a defensive article by the art director of Inukt, a Canadian brand ‘inspired by’ First Nations cultures. Or put another way, a brand that is using First Nations cultures as a marketing and branding tool. And there’s a whole lot of ways one could look at it. Fashion is an industry deeply embedded with racism, sexism, sizeism and agism; I get to deal with all regularly. An equally troubling aspect is its insidious cultural imperialism, which manifests in a myriad of ways. The use of ‘ethnic inspiration’ is but one. That somehow the ‘other’ is there ripe for our picking, and we in Fashion with a capital F know what to do with it tastefully. The same could be argued about some of the collaborative projects between western designers and artisan communities in developing nations; these seem to be on the increase. I acknowledge that this is far from a black and white conversation, and that the benefits to various communities need to be acknowledged. Nonetheless there are questions to be asked about wedding communities economically to the dominant waste-making system by commodifying some aspect of their cultural expression through the ‘tasteful’ input of a western designer. Here are two resources for the American context, by way of intelligently written blogs on the topic, that I want to leave you with: Native Appropriations and Beyond Buckskin. Or if your time is pressed, read this primer on Jezebel, from a year ago. This is a long-overdue conversation in fashion education as well as the industry.
First, I want to acknowledge you for your interest in fashion and sustainability, and thank you for thinking of me as someone capable of making a difference for you in relation to that. This post is an attempt at not only humour; it’s also an attempt at managing my time as well as your expectations.
Here are responses to the three most common questions I get asked:
Q: What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion?
A: Chocolate (and sex)
Q: What are your thoughts on zero-waste fashion?
A: Chocolate (and sex)
Q: Have you got time for a chat about sustainable fashion/zero-waste fashion/what you’re doing/what you’re thinking about doing?
A: No. I ask that you read this article first. Then ask, are you asking me to consult? Then ask, are you willing to pay for that service? If the answers are yes, no, I ask that you do not email me and keep googling.
I will be posting an update here soon on how to contact me for consulting.
If you’re a student, please do not email me questions unless you have read at least one of the following books (and I will tell you that you will need to read all of them):
Gwilt, A. & Rissanen, T. 2011, Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes
Fletcher, K. 2008, Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys
Fletcher, K. & Grose, L. 2012, Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change
Thank you for your cooperation and understanding in this. I did not ask permission from my friend Greg in posting the above picture. Therefore I ask you commission a quilt or something else from him. He’s amazing.
The photo is a phone photo of a screen from a very special photo shoot that took place in Finland today (I most definitely was firmly in New York). Monokini 2.0 is a project that gives a voice to women who have had a mastectomy due to breast cancer, and who have opted not to have a reconstruction. The models volunteer through the project’s Facebook page and the project moves me to tears time and time again. ‘My’ model was confirmed fairly late (less than two weeks ago), which made things exciting, as I didn’t feel I could start before I knew a little about her. Based on our email exchange, she’s an absolute treasure, and as you can see, bombshell gorgeous. Despite the odds the suit arrived in Finland yesterday and was released by customs today – kiitos tulli. The project – both its initiators and subjects – inspire me to no end. Thank you Katriina and Vilma for inviting me to be a part.
Monokini 2.0 team: Artistic directors Tärähtäneet ämmät / Nutty Tarts (Katriina Haikala ja Vilma Metteri), producer Laura Porola, photographer Pinja Valja, graphic designer Johanna Hörkkö. The original idea is by Elina Halttunen (PhD), the woman with one tit.
It’s been a year since I submitted my PhD for examination. I completed the requested revisions in May and in June the doctorate was conferred. And since about then my thesis has been available for downloading through UTS. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE PAGE FOR DOWNLOADING. Two people I left out of my thanks that I absolutely want to thank: Julia Raath, who instilled an interest in sustainability in me more than 15 years ago (she was at UTS then), and Fiona Buckingham of Kyotap, who’s a like-minded soul and friend.
Couple of corrections:
On page 148 I state I taught the first zero-waste course at Parsons in 2011. It was in 2010.
The following text, which I cite in the thesis, is missing from the list of references:
Celant, G. (1997) “To cut is to think”, in G. Celant (ed.) Art/Fashion, New York: Guggenheim Museum, pp. 21-27.
On October 10th, 2013, Boutique opens at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. and 15% is part of it. For those that can’t make it, here is one of the three films Salla Salin and I made for the exhibition. The other two document Janelle Abbott’s 70-day performance.