All in Notes from the Field
Reflective practice requires the critical reframing of a designer’s work, while technical practice can be trained with repetition. We observed that students were eager to learn meaningful theoretical content in tandem with advancing their hands-on skills.
The old rules are gone, crushed under the Nikes and Birkenstocks of our fathers, but in their place? Ruins. This is the general sentiment of the Styleforum crowd, a group of online menswear aficionados, who gathered en masse for the first iteration of a new, high-end trade show called “Proper Kit,” presented by Styleforum.
As academics, we’re taught to share our research by writing articles and books. These tools focus on the written word and our words are the primary means by which they’re framed. But what does the written word leave out? Whose stories are lost in the process of academic writing? By using the fashion show in research, I discovered a new method to share our work—a method which expands who knows and how we know in fashion studies and beyond.
CONSUME(s) ME was born out of a conversation following a clothing swap I co-hosted with a friend. We were satisfied and congratulating ourselves for throwing a good party. My friend called me the ‘queen of clothing swaps’ and the statement stuck with me.
Questions of archiving imply questions of power that are closely linked to a social power in a given geographical place and time. In this way, the history is extended to the elderly socio-cultural group, whose dress practices and memory often go undocumented.
Returning from a fashionable SoHo party two years ago, wearing the highest pair of stiletto heels I owned, I rushed out, anxious to get home and take those things off. Outside, as I ran to hail a cab, I found myself in the midst of an impressive acrobatic flip. I was left kneeling on the sidewalk with a broken Miu Miu heel and countless questions.
I spent five years at the Centre for Fashion Studies as a PhD candidate, learning both the trade and the politics of academia. It was challenging in many ways, but it is through hardship that we grow the most, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to find myself a scholar in this field, regardless of the many obstacles that I found in my way.
For those working in fashion studies, the institution takes many forms: the university, the museum, the archive, the media outlet, the commercial fashion industry, the sponsoring or granting body. This is the nature of interdisciplinary work that engages with a behemoth as grand as fashion.
My motivation in wanting to understand how we experience wearing the positive feeling of being happy is based on my personal relationship with my wardrobe and the way I feel about dressing. Fashion creates meaning in my life, dress connects me to others, and clothes allow me to engage with my creativity. I wanted to learn if that was also true for others.
I'm not going to be able to share any groundbreaking pedagogy in this article. I will, however, give some perspective into what happens when we — speaking on behalf of those who struggle to make an impact in academia — remove ourselves from the politics of our competitive field in order to focus on doing what we love.
This issue brings us two reports from scholars working within the academic system, both of whom have found ways to use that structure to think more personally about fashion, dress, history and psychology. In reading through them both, we as editors are left thinking about the deep connections between our emotions, our dress, and our work.
In a time of informed consumers, sustainability is becoming a major marketing and communication challenge. If a brand does not communicate at least the goal of achieving sustainability they will be challenged, but if they do they will be criticized for not doing it correctly. Whatever happened to, “It’s better to try and fail than to not try at all”?
Looking at this mess of textiles, we realized there was a prominent flaw within the industry and we were staring directly at it. As the speed of the industry increases and the quality decreases from fast fashion, consumers lose connection with their clothing and choose to buy new instead of cherish the old. As a result, we end up with this, a room full of textiles holding labour, water and raw materials being wasted.
The dark water was not a good sign. I was soaking a 1970s yellow and black dress in a plastic tub, in mild temperature water mixed with a little detergent. I had two goals—to alleviate some of the terrible smell and fade some staining in the bodice. The dress was a sturdy fabric, I threw it in its bath without much thought. I figured the worst-case scenario would be the dress was as smelly and stained as before.
As a fashion researcher, I was interested in the relationship between craft, creativity, and policy, but I was also deeply concerned about what these changes would mean for the city and the individuals who labor in this space. What was motivating the city to consider removing these protections now? How would fashion manufacturers cope with this change? Where were garment workers’ voices in this process?
The fashion industry is a majority female culture, while tech tends to be male-dominated. It’s not that male-dominated cultures are all bad, but I’ve been surprised by the rules and notions of professionalism that accompany these types of work environments.