by Francesca Granata
For those who missed the panel, you can view a recording of it here or below:
April 22nd, 2012
by Francesca Granata
For those who missed the panel, you can view a recording of it here or below:
April 15th, 2012
by Francesca Granata
Tuesday April 17th, I am chairing a panel on curation at Parsons the New School for Design. I hope you will be able to attend!
Focusing on curatorial practices that do not fit neatly within discreet categories of fashion, art, and design, the roundtable discusses the process of curation across a variety of platforms and disciplines, from the three-dimensional spaces of museums to the pages of magazines and from the public sphere to online platforms. The panel investigates how the meaning of curation has drastically changed: How the term “curator” went from identifying the keeper of a collection to describing a wider range of activities across a variety of sites. Borrowing W.T. Mitchell’s concept of “indiscipline”—“a moment of breakage or rupture”—it seeks to show how these shifts have occurred across disciplinary boundaries and have questioned such boundaries in the process.
The roundtable participants include Harold Koda (Curator-in-Charge of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), Sarah Lawrence (an academic curator and dean of the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons the New School for Design), and Sabrina Gschwandtner (a New York–based artist, writer and curator). It is chaired by Francesca Granata, Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies in the School of Art and Design History and Theory.
The panel takes place on April 17th from 6:30–8:00pm in the Kellen Auditorium at 66 Fifth Avenue (at 12th street). The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.
February 26th, 2012
A favorite look from Titania Inglis’ F/W 2012 collection. Photographer: Dan Lecca
Fashion Projects has been a fan of Titania Inglis ever since she launched her eponymous label a few years ago, so it was such great news to hear that she had won the 2012 Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for Sustainable Design. While I initially thought of Inglis as an “eco” designer, it quickly became apparent that the term “eco” was simply too reductive for her design philosophy. For her, sustainability is not a gimmick, or just about sourcing yet another ecotextile. Rather, she is moving towards a concept of sustainability that emphasizes longevity, quality, and thoughtfulness. We are very pleased to present this interview with Inglis, coming on the heels of her recent F/W 2012 fashion presentation at Eyebeam.
Fashion Projects: Congratulations on your recent Ecco Domani Fashion Foundation Award for Sustainable Design. How has winning the award affected your business?
Titania Inglis: Thank you! Receiving the Ecco Domani award is such a dream come true — I didn’t believe it at first when I received the email telling me I’d won. It’s opened a lot of doors for me already within the fashion industry, and I was able to put together an incredible team for my show this season, including stylist Christian Stroble, makeup artist Lisa Aharon and hairstylist Ramona Eschbach, photographer Aliya Naumoff, set designer Ryan Crozier of Forgotten City — and collaborating on a series of leather body accessories with Bliss Lau, a designer whose innovative work I’ve admired for years.
January 23rd, 2012
by Francesca Granata
“The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will feature Francesca Granata, ADHT Professor of Fashion Studies, in their Spring 2012 season of Thursday Evening Salon Series on January 26. The series, now in its fifth season, functions as a forum for current topics in the arts, humanities and the social sciences with artists, curators, philosophers and writers.
Dr. Granata’s discussion, called “Fashioning the Grotesque Body,” will focus on the proliferation of grotesque images of the body within contemporary fashion and will explore the link between art and fashion through the work of experimental designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons to the designer and performance artist Leigh Bowery.”
Thursday Evening Salon Series
December 1st, 2011
We had been meaning to continue on our artist/designer series, and we couldn’t think of a better way than to feature Andrea Diodati’s work. An inspiring young artist/designer whose work has been featured in Artforum, Andrea has worked with some of our favorites, including Susan Cianciolo and Pascale Gatzen.
In her own words:
electric love light seeks to unite feeling and object in a bespoke design practice that challenges contemporary notions of production. Handmade by artist, Andrea Diodati, each piece explores the history of materiality through local sourcing at thrift stores and flea markets. The quiet joys of an anonymously crocheted doily are relived on the body in fashions that tell our common material history.
November 19th, 2011
By Mae Colburn
Rebecca Burgess: What a Fibershed is, is taking responsibility for the biological context of your clothes. I’m interested in the revitalization of my community’s economy and green jobs, but I’m also interested in reconnecting to the plant and animal communities that are responsible for our clothes. It’s quite a beautiful narrative, if we could support it.
It’s a beautiful narrative, and an imperative, according to Rebecca Burgess. Burgess’ blog chronicles Fibershed-related events, projects, and the Fibershed Challenge: her quest to live for one year in clothes made from fibers sourced within a geographical region no larger than 150 miles from her front door. Her book, Harvesting Color, explains the dye potential of 36 plants, including pokeweed, elderberries, indigo, and coyote brush. Her restoration education curriculum gives children the opportunity to “investigate macro-environmental issues of our day” and “create solutions within their own landscape.” Finally, the Fibershed Marketplace website, to be launched later this month, will provide resources for those interested in starting their own Fibershed Project.
Somehow, Burgess also finds time to work on her 45-acre organic farm in Northern California, where she grows and harvests over 4,500 natural dye plants. She often does phone interviews from the farm: “I put my headset in, do my work, and answer calls.” Burgess works hard, fueled both by sheer enthusiasm and by a distinct sense of urgency. Her vision for a “thriving local textile economy” answers to a growing concern about the environmental, social, and economic impacts of the clothing industry. Likewise, the Fibershed model serves as both a functional and symbolic antidote to the prevailing system. Burgess’ commitment to local fiber reminds us of the physical labor involved in creating a garment from – as she puts it – “fiber to skin,” and forces us to reconsider the relationship between our bodies and our clothes.
RB: These little realities about living and working with plants and animals – it creates a difference in your body. I know this because I observed the changes in myself. You really learn how to work. It’s like systems theory; you can get a system to start producing good results if you get the pendulum swinging in the right direction. My body is different now; I’m sunburnt most of the time (even though I wear a lot of sunblock), but I’m strong, and I can endure long hours, and I have a much greater sense of confidence in what I can do physically because I see the product of my labor.
Tomorrow I’m driving up to the Capay Valley, where I have 2,000 indigo plants that I’m going to harvest. I’m going to be harvesting from nine to nine at night, and I’ll have six or seven days like that in the summer. Then once I harvest the indigo, I have to dry it all, stomp it, separate the stems, bag it, bring it back to the facility that I’m renting. This summer has been a lot of maintenance; I have to do a lot of gopher trapping at the farm. I’ve been dealing with irrigation problems, pressure valves, dripping stuff that’s not dripping the right way. I’m getting tired, but I’m building capacity.
MC: Do you see this as a creative outlet as well as a manual, physical experience?
RB: Creativity is definitely expressed through the body, and I get to use my whole body while I’m farming. I’m lifting. I’m carrying. I’m dragging. I’m walking around. I’m bending up and down. All of that is a form of self-expression because you’re making all these small decisions for yourself. You’re applying your own ideas and concepts second-to-second. It sounds like mundane stuff, but oddly enough for the modern person, this is new terrain – at least for me – to have a total flow out on a land base, being out on 45 acres of organic farm, working.
MC: Do you see yourself as part of a movement of people interested in local textiles?
RB: I see myself as part of a continuum, a historical continuum, around textiles in this area. In my region, a lot of retirees started raising sheep and alpaca, but not a lot of people were raising fiber for money. When ‘fibershed’ became a useful word for people, and the community at large, some of those who’d been doing it a long time started to become recognized in a new way, and to feel the power behind what they were doing.
MC: On your website, you state that your mission is to “go beyond the one-year wardrobe and create a thriving local textile economy.” What do you see this thriving local economy looking like?
RB: A thriving local textile economy would include current and existent land-owners working with young people, putting second housing on their land – for example, green modular trailers with solar panels. If farmworker housing were a top priority, we could start training people who don’t yet have the skills, but have the energy [to begin farming]. The really important thing is continuity, and the only way to cultivate continuity is to put young people in proximity to people who have the skills.
But on a macro level, from a very specific supply chain perspective, we need to be able to take our wool, alpaca, mohair, then cotton, and eventually bast fibers (linen, hemp), and mill them at small-scale milling facilities that can be run off of solar technology. There hasn’t been farm-based milling equipment designed for fibers except for wool, and there’s very little farm-based milling equipment for wool even, but for cotton it’s almost nonexistent, and for bast fibers – I have to put a call out there to anyone who understands how to engineer bast-fiber processing equipment and can scale it down to a farm size.
Pre-industrial revolution, we were relying on massive manpower, indentured servants, slaves. Now we’re in a new era. If we go back to a human-powered economy, this can’t be about indentured servants and slaves. It has to be about cooperatively owned businesses, about people working for the common good – that’s how we’re going to inspire people to get involved in this. We need equipment that honors our humanity; we’re not going to be slaves to technology, but we’re also not going to be slaves to each other. We need this new human-scale technology combined with continuity of the generations. We already have world-class fibers. We have no lack of fiber, but there’s no processing equipment in my region, so all of those pieces – how to get the wool off the sheep, how to wash it, how to card it, how to blend it, spin it – all of this needs serious improvement. To me, it’s about enhancing human infrastructure, technological infrastructure, and communication. We’re talking about a revitalization of the whole economy when we talk about the revitalization of a Fibershed.
MC: Do you have any recommendations for people interested in learning more or starting a similar project?
RB: The website that we’re going to launch in the next week and a half will have a reading list and the protocol that we followed. We started a one-year challenge, so we had a prototype wardrobe. I started a Kickstarter campaign. How did I organize farmers and artisans? I used Google Docs. I used Doodle Calendar. I did community-building projects where instead of charging for workshops, I gave free classes for artisans and farmers, to bring them together. You need to be able to build a network. You also have to be in good health, because it takes a sound mind and body to create these networks and keep them alive. It’s kind of like running a marathon in the beginning.
Mae Colburn is an independent textile researcher and writer and professional seamstress based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Rebecca Burgess is an ecological restoration educator, curricula developer, author, and textile artist and a fifth-generation resident of the watershed where she works in Northern California.
November 7th, 2011
by Ingrid Mida
Harold Koda has served as the Curator-in-Charge of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since 2000 and is the author of 19 books. He agreed to an interview on the subject of art and fashion with Ingrid Mida and this is a transcript of their conversation on September 16, 2011. Harold will be speaking tomorrow, November 8, 2011 for the Bata Shoe Museum Founder’s Lecture on the topic of Fashion and the Art Museum.
Ingrid: Do you have an opinion on where the boundary sits between fashion and contemporary art?
Harold: Until the last quarter of the 20th century, there was a clear boundary between fashion and the “fine” arts. With few exceptions fashion designers rarely saw themselves in the role of the artist. They aligned themselves more closely with creators in the applied arts, and associated their work with craft and artisanal traditions.
There were exceptions. The most notable was Paul Poiret who felt all the skills required to create an exceptional dress were those of a painter, sculptor, and musician. Even as his collections fell out of fashionability in the 1920s, critics conceded that his distinction resided in his artistic approach to design. The American mid-century designer, Charles James, who won a Guggenheim Fellowship, always promoted his work as equal to the other arts. Certainly, designers from Charles Frederick Worth, whose personal style projected a Rembrant-esque bohemianism, onward have seen the advantage that a “high art” association might have on their design house. This is especially notable in collaborations between fashion houses and contemporary artists (Poiret/Dufy, Schiaparelli/Dali, Tracey Emin/Longchamp, Louis Vuitton/Takashi Murakami, Miyake/Cai Guo-Qiang).
As early as Duchamp and post-Warhol, the traditional parameters of what constitutes an artwork had begun to erode or, rather, expand. This benefited fashion. The further blurring of the boundaries between art and fashion has occurred relatively recently. When contemporary artists as diverse in their practice as Cindy Sherman, Judith Shea, Joseph Beuys, Barbara Kruger, Jim Dine, and Richard Prince, all cite concepts and imagery related to apparel and the fashion system, fashion began to be seen as a subject for serious intellectual consideration. Designers, especially those that presented works on the runway intended to convey compelling ideas and themes, rather than more quotidian commercial works, began to be seen in the wider context of art production.
Ingrid: How do you feel about Matthew Teitelbaum’s suggestion that a fashion designer has to have a specific intent to engage in the artistic community in order to be considered an artist?
Harold: I like to point out, just as not all photographs are art, not all fashion is art, but what constitutes an important work in either field is not necessarily established by the intention of its creator or the reason for its creation.
While having fashion designers state explicitly that their work is informed by, or engages directly in the issues and practices of the arts community makes it easier to isolate their works from the general field of more commercial work, intentionality is not a sole prerequisite to the consideration of an individual designer as an artist.
Two of the greatest artists in 20th century fashion were Madeleine Vionnet and Cristobal Balenciaga. Neither had the hubris to say they created art: Vionnet always described herself as a simple “dressmaker.” However, anyone with knowledge of the métier of the haute couture would acknowledge that Vionnet’s technical virtuosity–she was the great innovator of the use of the bias cut–and aesthetic elegance, and Balenciaga’s investigation of the codified traditions of tailoring resulting in sculpted forms of unprecedented refinement made them artists. All their clothes were meant to be worn and none were created purely for art-for-art’s-sake, but even deprived of a cultural, political, economic, and gender narrative, their designs transcend the pragmatics and function of dress to achieve something grander akin to other artistic masterworks.
Ingrid: Nathalie Bondil of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art said that she didn’t care that Jean Paul Gaultier said that “fashion is not art”. She thought it important to convey his premise that beauty has no singular shape, age, size, or sexual orientation. This message is presented very subtly within the context of the exhibition and probably lost to the average viewer. Do you feel it is important for a designer to convey a social, political or conceptual premise over the course of their career to merit presentation within the confines of a museum?
Harold: Not necessarily. For example, we don’t generally insist on such criteria for a painting on a Japanese sliding door, the carvings on a New Guinea spear, or the casting of a Shang bronze vessel, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that designers who freight their creations with narratives beyond their simple utility and formal qualities of dress are not more easily rationalized as artists. We prize the work of designers like Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, and John Galliano, not for the manifestations of their work put into production, but for their most difficult, conceptually-driven, often commercially untenable, creations. On the other hand, a designer like Azzedine Alaia seems actively to avoid any larger allusion to his work other than to create beautiful clothes. Still, the originality of his designs and the technical mastery they reveal would have anyone who knows this field concede that he is an artist.
Ingrid: Do you think curators play a significant role in defining a fashion designer’s work as an artist? In other words, the curator can make choices to animate a display of costume with light, sound, and/or video, group displays thematically instead of chronologically, and select mannequins to enhance the presentation as an art installation. Do you think it is possible to turn any designers work into an art installation?
Harold: Curators may play a role in establishing certain designers as exemplary and as artists. To function successfully as a curator requires a knowledgeable specialization in a subject area with a level of expertise and the discrimination associated with that. But it is in the isolation of an individual design or selected works from a designer–that is by editing–that a curator argues for an evaluation of the artistic achievement of that designer.
To attempt to establish the value of a body of work simply through installation techniques would be a kind of subterfuge. It might be possible, but in the end it is about the importance of the object. Most curators do not see themselves as installation artists in which the work of others is reduced to a component of their new artistic vision or creation.
Perhaps this will seem a subjective approach, but there are instances where as a curator one sees a design as something conceptually or culturally richer in meaning than the creator of the piece intended. Sometimes a design can be imbued with much more aesthetic, intellectual, and emotional resonance than its creator ever imagined. To place such an object in the context of a museum with the cultural imprimatur it suggests seems legitimate.
Ingrid: Fashion is far more accessible to the average person than contemporary art is. Do you feel that this is a driver behind the increasing popularity of fashion exhibitions in the museum world?
Harold: It has always been my observation that no matter how familiar an audience is with the work of a painter of sculptor, their reaction in the galleries is a hushed reverence, where their responses and comments are whispered. In our costume galleries, comments are more freely articulated in a conversational tone. The reason for this might be that with clothing, even if it is the apparel of the French 18th century court or an item of haute couture beyond the reach of most of the population, people feel the right to their opinions based on their own direct knowledge of what it means to get dressed every morning. At the Museum, The Costume Institute galleries are in the far north end on the ground floor. They are difficult to find. Philippe de Montebello used to say when he was Director here, “The Costume Institute is a point of destination.” He was acknowledging that our audiences had to search us out. That our attendance numbers are among the highest in the institution suggests the popularity of the collection.
However, furniture is as much a part of our lives as clothing, but exhibitions on furniture and furniture makers do not draw as much interest as costume exhibitions. Perhaps it is less about accessibility than the fact that clothing is able to represent a myriad of issues that have a direct relevance to each of us and the identities we construct and convey. So, more than accessible, I’d say the operative word is relevant.
Ingrid Mida is a Toronto-based artist and writer who recently gave the keynote address at the Costume Society of America mid-west conference on the subject of Fashion and Art.
October 30th, 2011
Coming up are two conferences of interest. At the Museum at FIT, “Fashion Icons and Insiders” is taking place on November 3rd and 4th, featuring speakers including Caroline Weber (author of Queen of Fashion: What Marie-Antoinette Wore to the French Revolution and professor of French at Barnard), Thierry-Maxime Loriot (curator of the exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier), and Thelma Golden (Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem).
On a completely different but equally interesting topic is the conference organized by Pictoplasma and hosted by Parsons, which takes place from November 3rd to November 6th. Exploring the topic of contemporary characters in art and design, it features among its list of speakers the Wooster Collective and the American artist Mark Jenkins, known for his street installations.
Pictoplasma recently published the book Not A Toy: Fashioning Radical Characters edited by Vassilis Zidanikis of ATOPOS and accompanied by the exhibition ARRRHG! Monsters in Fashion at the Benaki Museum in Athens.
October 7th, 2011
It is rumored that Bernard-Henri Lévy originally wooed Daphne Guinness with the line, “You are no longer a person; you are a concept,” an idea that her eponymous exhibition at The Museum at FIT further solidifies. The multi-media exhibition co-created by Valerie Steele and Guinness features over 100 garments and accessories, as well as a number of short films and a floating hologram of Guinness (à la Kate Moss for Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2006 collection.)
The show begins with a concise cabinet of curiosities featuring Guinness’ trademark sky-high shoes. The gravity-defying platforms by Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci are on display. (Gaga fans, Daphne wore them first.) Alexander McQueen’s take on the motorcycle boot complete with a one-and-a-half inch spike jutting out like a modern-day spur is available for viewing, as is one of his baroque botany creations with flowers for platforms and leaves for heels. The first garment on display is by McQueen as well: a custom-made meticulously bejeweled catsuit with flowing cape. The cape appears ethereal, as if the fabric was somehow made out of jellyfish. Even without Daphne in it, it seems to emanate an aura.
Fine mesh screens divide the main exhibition space into themed rooms: “dandyism, armor, chic, evening chic, exoticism, and sparkle.” (The screens, a brilliant curatorial choice, allow for the mannequins to be positioned in a plethora of ways, which avoids monotony and still allows for visibility. The back of the garment may face the viewer on one side, but the front is still visible through the screen on the other side.) The “Dandyism” room shows fiercely structure ensembles. Apparently, Guinness’ balks at the renewed interest in la garçonne styles, perferring to embracing a chromophobic version of dandy masculinity. Ultimately, though, all of the outfits seem to be feminine versions of Karl Lagerfeld’s personal uniform. Not coincidentally, many of them are made by “the Kaiser” himself.
September 27th, 2011
It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of Fashion Week when there is so much excitement about emerging young London designers. It was only a few years ago that the likes of Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab and Louise Gray were showcasing their debut collections to unsuspecting audiences; now they are fashion heavyweights commanding the order of LFW. Celebrated for its endorsement and support of fresh design talent, it is widely accepted that as the capital of experimental and extreme style, it is London that people look to for inspirational and progressive approaches towards fashion. So it is only natural that London takes this tradition one step further and applies the same forward-thinking attitude towards ethical and sustainable fashion initiatives.
Launched at London Fashion Week in 2006 and sponsored by high street retailer Monsoon, Estethica is a revolutionary endeavour conceived to support the growth of sustainable fashion and exhibit the elite of eco design. Celebrating its fifth year and cementing its prominent place on the British Fashion Council’s LFW schedule, a brunch was held to inaugurate the exhibition, where the designers participating were able to enlighten and educate over champagne and canapés. Nineteen carefully selected designers and ethical fashion companies (chosen for their merit in design and commitment to sustainable methods of production) showcased their efforts for spring/summer 2012, The guidelines state that to be part of the Estethica family, the designer must be working with organic, Fairtrade and/or recycled materials.
The BFC is doing great work in raising the profile of these brands and designers with a conscience, and in turn ethical fashion as a whole. Providing the opportunity to be showcased at the heart of London Fashion Week is a coup in itself; a unique platform that these designers are fully aware of and take advantage of wholeheartedly. Of these nineteen bright young designers, each has a unique take on the principles of design practice and a distinct aesthetic. Most noteworthy, their limitless passion for ethical fashion is not compromised by their love for beautiful clothing and accessories proving that when it comes to dressing, one can be stylish and sustainable.
About Fashion Projects
Fashion Projects began in New York in 2004, with the aim to create a platform to highlight the importance of fashion — especially “experimental” fashion — within current critical discourses. Through interviews with a range of artists, designers, writers and curators, as well as through other planned projects and exhibits, we hope to foster a dialogue between theory and practice across disciplines.
We are primarily a print journal, however we also publish web-based updates and interviews (a “digest” version of which you can receive by signing up to our mailing list or via our RSS feed) and are currently working on exhibits based on past and future issues. To order any of our issues visit our ordering page.
We are a nonprofit organization, which has previously received grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
We are currently a sponsored project by the New York Foundation of the Arts, a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization. Contributions on behalf of Fashion Projects can be made payable to the “New York Foundation of the Arts,” and are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law. For more information please don’t hesitate to contact us.
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