Cosa Vostra: Contemporary Art in Italy

Michelangelo Pistoletto

It's sad to report that drastic budget cuts to be enacted in 2011 threaten the health of contemporary art museums in Italy—an area which is already underfunded vis-a-vis the rest of Europe.

AMACI, the association of Contemporary Art Museums in Italy, is launching a campaign "Cosa Vostra" to publicize the imminent cuts and to raise awareness of the importance of contemporary art to Italy's past, present and future.

Among the artists who contributed by allowing their work to be used in promotion of the campaign are Carla Accardi, Stefano Arienti, Maurizio Cattelan, Enzo Cucchi, Marisa Merz, Luigi Ontani, Giulio Paolini, Mimmo Paladino, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Paola Pivi and Francesco Vezzoli.

"COSA VOSTRA. The art of the present is the soul of the future: let's nourish it."

"The title chosen for the campaign promoted by AMACI, through which member museums want to underscore to the general public the community nature of Italy's heritage and artistic production, emphasises a key concept, as "Cosa Vostra" means "your thing." Contemporary art is the soul of the future because, with its ability to offer new scenarios and perspectives, it is a constant stimulus to the creativity of Italians and to social and economic innovation. It is a means through which, thanks also to relations established with leading international museums, Italy offers the world an image that is not built on stereotypes, but is composed of creative and dynamic intelligences.

The decrease in public funding is part of a general policy of cutbacks that have been made over the past few years, in a scenario of public allocations to culture that are far lower than those of other European countries. Consequently, AMACI wants to make people aware of the key role of contemporary art in Italy's cultural, social and economic development."

AMACI, Bergamo, December 31, 2010

Julie Gilhart leaving Barneys

Julie Gilhart speaking at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

It is quite sad to report that Julie Gilhart will no longer be Fashion Director and Senior Vice President at Barneys. Together with Judy Collinson, who will also be leaving Barneys, she championed emerging, often experimental designers in an otherwise often mind-numbing department-store horizon.

What’s more, Gilhart was an early and outspoken supporter of sustainable designers, such as John Patrick Organic and Loomstate, and also, more generally, of sustainable consumption/production practices of good design which followed a realistic tempo for fashion. She often brought Dries Van Noten, an independently owned company and designer, who produces two well-made collections yearly as an example of integrity in design. Gilhart has spoken on the topic of sustainability in design quite extensively, including at the panel Sarah Scaturro and I moderated at Pratt in conjunction with the “Ethics+Aesthetics” exhibition, as well as contributing to our exhibition catalogue. She also spoke at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference.

Partially the victim of an incredibly ill-timed over-expansion, Barneys seems to be destined to go down-market or, perhaps more simply in a generic direction. This decision seems an ill-advised attempt at temporarily saving their bottom line while in the long run diluting their brand identity and potentially damaging their bottom line more permanently. (Brands like the Gap and/or American Apparel, albeit completely different in scope, are clear examples of such a downward spiral.)

If that’s the case—and taking away the unique and quirky aesthetic of Gilhart and Collinson from the mix seems to suggest it is—one will be hard-pressed to see why the so-called luxury consumer would shop at Barneys over Net-a-Porter, or, if outside New York, at a department store such as Neiman Marcus.


A Textile Arts Community Grows in Brooklyn

Summer Camp at the Textile Arts Center

I first heard about the Textile Arts Center (TAC) from my friend Isa Rodrigues, a textile conservator and fiber enthusiast who works there as the studio manager. She kept telling me I needed to meet the "TAC girls" because not only were they young and cool, they were doing something that nobody else in the city was doing - singlehandedly crafting together a vibrant community of like-minded people interested in textiles and fiber arts. I stopped by one of their free open-house weaving sessions that they have every last Friday of the month, and I was thrilled with the beauty of the space, the incredible looms, the colorful spools of yarn and the welcoming feeling that greeted me. Once I met Visnja Popovic and Owyn Ruck, the co-founders of TAC, I was instantly swept up by their enthusiasm and commitment towards forging a place where textile experts, novices, enthusiasts, and artists can learn and practice this most ancient of arts. Owyn took a moment out of her busy schedule to talk to Fashion Projects about their work and vision for the Textile Arts Center.

Fashion Projects: Recently TAC has gotten a lot of people in the local fashion and textile
 fields buzzing, even though it seems like you popped out of nowhere.
 Can you give us a little information on the backstory of the center 
and tell us about your gorgeous new space in Brooklyn?

Textile Arts Center: Buzzing?! Are they? That’s good to hear…I feel like we have our noses to the ground, pounding work out without taking a second to stop and see how much we’ve changed in the past year.

Textile Arts Center started just over a year ago in a small weaving studio in Park Slope. Visnja and I really wanted to expand to offer other programs, especially for adults, and create the “center” we envisioned. I think the main thrill was in bringing together everyone with a love for fibers, or even slightest interest, and creating the environment that was comfortable, fun and really conducive to making great work. The feeling of art school, without going back to art school.

We went through a long process of finding the right space, kind of with haste at one point… But we found this one after a few mishaps! And that’s what’s important. It felt like home immediately. Our move to Carroll St was in April and since then we’ve just sort of grown. I think a big part of that growth was feeling secure in what we were presenting to the public. The space speaks a lot for itself and we’ve been working hard to reach the right audiences with the confidence that we are doing something people could really love.

What is the overarching goal of TAC? How do you see the center fitting 
into the existing fashion and textile community in Brooklyn and New
 York City?

The whole DIY and fashion scene here is…intense. Growing up here (Brooklyn) I didn’t really ever imagine this happening, it hardly seems like the same place. But Brooklyn, and NYC in general, is amazing that way. There is always something new and exciting. People are constantly pushing boundaries here, and it’s really exciting to be a part of.

Fiber and textile arts have a stodgy stigma and one of our goals is to change that. Textiles are not only beautiful and fun to create, but also really important in our human history. Textiles touch practically everything in our lives and every industry. It’s frustrating, for example, that even those most knowledgeable in current fashion could not know the technical difference between a knit and a woven fabric! It’s important to understand how things are made, where they are coming from. We want to acknowledge that people can do it themselves, too. It’s not for a set of elite talent. Textiles are inherently social and community oriented and that should always be the attitude about textile appreciation in any form.


What are some of the classes you offer, and who is your intended 
audience? What are some of the classes, services and events that you 
hope to offer in the future?

We now offer quite a bit. In addition to the continuous Intro Weaving and Intro Screen Printing courses, the Fall courses include paper and book arts, sewing, knitting, dyeing, embroidery, quilting… We’ve really enjoyed shifting our focus to an adult audience, while finessing and perfecting our kids programs (Summer Camp and Afterschool). We want to reach anyone with interest in learning new skills, sharing their work, and being part of a larger community.

In the future, we want to keep the momentum going by consistently offering new class topics and more advanced courses. However, once that is going, our focus can come back a bit to the Gallery and fiber artists. We really have some great shows planned, as well as a textile artists residency program in the works. In addition, we’ll hopefully be adding a product line and a free program for underserved teens in portfolio development for art and vocational schools. I could go through the ideas constantly spewed out daily, but we’d be here awhile…

Brooklyn Mini-Skills: Natural Dyeing from tom hayes on Vimeo.

You have a very small team of people working at the Center, so it
 seems to really be a labor of love. How do you find that it’s working 
out? Are you looking for interns and volunteers? (something that I’m
 sure many Fashion Projects readers would like to know)

Boy is it a labor of love… Endless hours, but also endless fun. We’ve really created our ideal working life. There is never a shortage of people who want to be involved, and we love meeting new people. Some of our greatest advice and help has been 100% free. We really love this part of the community – textile lovers will do whatever they can for it and to be involved.

It’s hard when you are starting out to want to give up some dough to have hired help. But when we embarked upon the new space, growing rapidly, we quickly saw we needed real, solid help. We were drowning a bit! Both Isa (studio manager) and Kim (marketing assistant) started as free interns, devoting so much time, and are both now on staff. You don’t necessarily need a lot of people to run something like this, but you do need devotion and love for it. We’ve been lucky to have so many people around with this attitude.

We are always looking for interns and volunteers! Particularly coming up in the fall. We are aiming to be open 7 days a week, with late hours for artists, and need studio monitors we can trust in exchange for use of the studio. 

You’re participating in Fashion’s Night Out on September 10th, with an
 emphasis on Slow Fashion. In a way, this seems to be subverting FNO’s
 original purpose of spurring consumption by restoring consumer
 confidence and boosting the economy. (“Shop. For Something Good.” is 
their tagline.) What are you trying to gain and what message are you
 intending to spread by participating in this event?

I really thought hard about this when planning the event. The event started out as a small thing, since our Opening Party is the week after. But the feedback we were receiving from people was really positive so it kind of turned into something else entirely.

This positive feedback seemed to tell us there was a real place for this type of appreciation in fashion, that there are a lot of people that want to participate in FNO but not necessarily in the sense of pure consumerism.

I think FNO is great in many ways. The industry should not die out, designers need to be supported, and the economy does need a boost. There is no doubt about that. However, we didn’t feel right promoting blind consumerism. We are doing an event about the direction we think fashion should be taking, and IS taking, as we speak. Eco-fashion is the new thing…”green is the new black”, right?

As with all of our programs, the main objective is to educate. We wanted to support local Brooklyn/NYC designers that are making things by hand, with fabrics made in sustainable ways, with versatile, classic design sense. At the same time we wanted to make sure that people were walking away from the event with the understanding that “Sustainable Fashion” is not only about buying from designers who use organic fabrics. Yes, that is important, but the responsibility is on the consumer as well as the designer. “Slow Fashion” is buying what you need, what you love, buying locally, reusing and repurposing materials, learning about and knowing how to do-it-yourself…It’s imperative to understand the industry you are buying from and having the knowledge to make the right decisions of what and who you want to support with your well-earned cash.


As part of your commitment to Slow Fashion, you are also participating 
in the 6 Things challenge that was recently profiled in the NYT. Your 
blog about the challenge is
 fascinating as it reveals a lot of the anxiety, frustration, but
 ultimately liberation that you all are going through. Do you think 
that once you have finished the challenge your approach to your
 wardrobe will be radically altered?

I think so…I hope so! It’s hard to tell as in week one it still feels fine and relatively normal. Week 3 or 4 might be a different story.

I came across the 6 Items or Less project on and thought what Heidi and Stella had started was great, I was happy to see the coverage they’ve been receiving. It’s yet another good point to fashion lovers: to pay attention to what we buy and wear, and why we do. Fashion is an important part of self-expression, and has a psychological effect on most, but we need to be more aware of it. Why do we feel bad about ourselves if you don’t have the perfect outfit? Why should getting dressed in the morning be hard? Why do we feel we have “nothing to wear” with a closet of 100+ items. It’s just a great way to challenge yourself and dig a little deeper into your own psyche.

There have been a lot of complaints so far! But I think that doing it as a staff, a group, we are able to support each other and stay on track. I must admit, I felt like I was pulling teeth a bit, but I’m glad everyone agreed to do it. I love waking up and not thinking about it. I think we’ll all learn to be a bit more creative with what we already own, and appreciate the quality of what we buy.


Where do you envision TAC to be in 5 years? 10 years?

Hopefully it will still exist! It’s a little hard to imagine, but I can only hope that our classes and programs are always full, we have the grant funding to run the free programs we would like, we have a product line of beautiful woven and printed goods, and we never have to advertise ever again!

No, but really, we have a lot of ideas. We have huge goals, and we have the energy while we are young to take ideas and (attempt to) turn them into reality.

The ultimate goal is to be an accredited institution where students come to receive credit (so many fashion and textile programs in NYC don’t even have a weaving course!), where we can offer multiple free programs so everyone can join the community, and be a staple in the art world representing textile and fiber artists. ----------------- Textile Arts Center 505 Carroll Street Brooklyn, NY 11215 Phone: 718.369.0222

Hours: Mon - Sat : 10am - 6pm Sunday: Closed

Sarah Scaturro

Conference Review: Finding Our fashion Footing

by Marco Pecorari

What is the Future of Fashion studies? If one year ago affirmed fashion scholars met in Warwick to find an answer (McNeil 2010), “Finding Our Fashion Footing” was the occasion for Phd students to discuss their research future as a possible answer to such challenging question.

Organized the last 19th March by the research students at London College of Fashion and the Center for Fashion Studies – Stockholm University, this first International Fashion Phd workshop was hosted by LCF. The presentation of each project was the occasion to discuss, problematize and individualize personal experiences, methodological issues and future research connections. As the title of the meeting suggests, it was also an opportunity for placing each individual work in a global geography of Fashion research.

The one-day meeting started with a session on Style and Youth Culture that saw the presentation of "The Indie Project: style and youth culture in London" by Rachel Lifter. Her research cuts across three diverse trajectories: the London fashion environment, theoretical style's approaches and contemporary youth culture. Despite the diverse disciplinarian affiliation, Lifter's use of Foucault's discourse is shared by Pecorari's Phd that aims to argument an archeology of the fashion discursive formation on contemporary ephemera through three different but generative dimensions of such discourse: academia, museum and designers.

Dries Van Noten, Press Release, Autumn/Winter 1999/2000 (pertaining to the PhD Research of Marco Pecorari)

In the same section, Promoting Designer Identity, Maria Sacchetti presented her analysis of the minimal aesthetic through a case study of the flagship store of Helmut Lang, showing how the retail space embodied in tandem the principles of the architect and the fashion designer’s aesthetic. Presentations proceeded with a section dedicated to Swedish Fashion History. Hanne Eide introduced the case of Augusta Lundin problematizing the Swedish translation of French fashion couture in the first part of the last century. In the same section Ulrika Berglund questioned how haute couture was interpreted within a social democratic country as Sweden (1930-1960), investigating the formation of a Swedish national identity far before the advent of the mass-market.

In the afternoon the section dedicated to Contemporary Fashion Media and Trends was opened by Jessica Conrah's "MTV- Fashion, Technology and Music Videos: The 1980s through a Critical and Phenomenological Approach." Conrah presented the case of MTV, reading it as a an important visual medium for fashion, style and image creation as well as a distribution site for advertising and consumer goods. Successively Ane Lynge Jorlén discussed her research on Contemporary Fashion Niche Magazine, such as Self Service, Ten, A Magazine.... Illustrating the production and consumption of such fundamental independent media, Lynge Jorlén addressed a fundamental fashion phenomenon that academic studies have neglected until now. The last presentation of this section was Chitra Buckley's "In-season Fashion Trend Information: implications for decision-making in own brand fashion retailers operating in the UK." Buckley examined the interaction in retail buying teams, during the processes of analyzing fashion change and developing clothing collections in the fast-moving, high street context.

The last session was dedicated to Gender Ambiguity and hosted the paper by Geraldine Biddle-Perry and Philip Walkander. Biddle-Perry presented the development and adoption of new forms of outdoor recreational leisure clothing in the aftermath of the First World War. Warkander examines his research, "Looking Queer," that concerns materiality, queer theory, issues of agency and power regulations. Working with 'queer' informants, Warkander aims to study aesthetics created in opposition with normative expectations, analyzing how looks and styles are produced, maintained, questioned or supported.

A final and fertile discussion pointed out a common will for fashion fashion research to move beyond those approaches that inevitable forced fashion within pre-fixed theoretical cages, claiming for an academic recognition but, too often, mortifying the phenomenon. The perspectives seem to change: from a pre-existing theory applied to fashion to a theory of fashion. However we must remember that this change has been initiated by fashion scholars' works which have opened academics doors to a discussion on fashion and on a theory of fashion. These fundamental interventions formed Phd students' disciplinarian awareness in recognizing their selves as Fashion Phds rather than sociologists, art historians, anthropologists... Despite this strong affiliation, a mutual difficulty emerged in defining fashion as a discipline or a field of research, testifying a common need for a terminological clarity reachable through the discussion of the past, present and future of study fashion. “Finding Our Fashion Footing” was an important step in this direction and the forthcoming related publication will contribute to formulate new scenarios.

Acknowledgment The author would like to thank: London College of Fashion, and in particular Ane Lynge Jorlén, Geraldine Biddle-Perry and Rachel Lifter, for the organization and for hosting the Phd group of the Centre for Fashion Studies (Stockholm University); and Philip Warkander for having contributed to the realization of this important dialogue.

References McNeil, Peter. 2010. “Conference Report: 'The Future of Fashion Studies'” Fashion Theory 14 (1): 105-110.

Spring Fashion Events around NYC

Jane Fonda in Klute

by Sarah Scaturro

This spring there are a lot of events occurring around NYC with fashion as the main focus. Here is a breakdown of the ones that I’ve been able to find, and they are all free! Please leave a comment if I've left anything out.

April 9th - Richard Martin Visual Culture Symposium Tonight is the Annual Richard Martin Visual Culture Symposium at NYU, which allows the graduating students of the Visual Culture MA program to lecture on their thesis topic. Worn Through has a breakdown of the topics and schedule.

April 13th, 20th and 27th – Fashion In Film: New York City The brand new MA program in Fashion Studies at Parsons The New School for Design is hosting a fashion in film series for the entire month of April. Curated by Jeffrey Lieber, Assistant Professor of Visual Culture Studies, the series has some fashion classics - Annie Hall and Sabrina - but also some lesser-known films with impressive fashions, such as Klute (Jane Fonda) and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Barbara Streisand).

April 15th – 16th Bard Graduate Center Annual Symposium Bard Graduate Center is having their annual symposium on April 15-16th on the topic of Secondhand Culture: Waste, Value, and Materiality. I can’t wait for to hear Senior Curator of Costume at the ROM Alexandra Palmer speak on “Back to Back: Retro-fitting Fashion within the Museum.” There will also be a screening of the film “Secondhand.”

April 19th – Anna Wintour Lecture According to NY MAG Anna Wintour is giving a free lecture on the 19th at 6 pm at Pratt Institute.

April 22nd – FIT’s 4th Annual Sustainable Business & Design conference This year’s theme is Redesigning for a Sustainable Future. Go here for more information.

April 27th – Mannequins in the Museum: Perspectives on Curating Fashion The lecture I’m most excited for is by Joanne Dolan Ingersoll, a truly talented curator from RISD. She will be giving a lecture for SVA’s Design Criticism MFA lecture series on a topic I have great interest in due to my work: “Mannequins in the Museum: Perspectives on Curating Fashion.”

April 29th – Predicting Color Trends in Fashion FIT is hosting the seriously hardworking historian Reggie Blaszczyk on April 29th when she’ll give a lecture on the history of predicting color trends. I was fortunate enough to meet her at the Business History conference last year in Milan - I had just read her article on Dorothy Liebes called “Designing Synthetics, Building Brands” in the Journal of Design History. As someone who studies synthetics and has handled Liebes’ textiles, the article about blew my mind.

May 4th – Towards Sustainable Fashion Symposium In conjunction with the Scandinavian House’s Eco-Chic exhibition, there will be a panel discussion featuring Marcus Bergman, Karin Stenmar, Sass Brown and Eviana Hartman, and moderated by Hazel Clark, Dean of the School of Art and Design and Theory, Parsons: The New School for Design.

May 8th – FIT’s Annual Fashion and Textiles Symposium This year’s topic for FIT’s Annual Fashion and Textiles Symposium on May 8th sounds great - Americans in Paris: Designers, Buyers, Editors, Photographers, Models, and Clients in Paris Fashion.

May 21st and 22nd - Costume Collections: A Collaborative Model for Museums The Brooklyn Museum and the Costume Institute are hosting a 2-day symposium about their new costume collaboration. I’m looking forward to seeing both exhibitions this spring!