Thursday, 8 September 2011

'Stig of the Dump': The Textiles Technologies Project, Wales

Representing the Textiles Technologies Project in Wales was a presentation about awareness and transnational humanity in our consumption. Communicated through a very cool, illustrative style of slide, we were hit with the facts of the production of just one of our many wardrobe staples: the t-shirt.

To make our one t-shirt takes around 400 gallons of water and often uses cotton from farms in the developing world. On some of these farms the average age of the workers is 7 years old and there are often reports across the board of breathing difficulties from the pesticides- not to mention the damage done to the hands of the workers from handling them. They need gloves but they can't afford them and the owners cant afford to not use the pesticides. 

Having travelled over perhaps 3 countries, our t-shirt arrives on the high street where we pick it up and momentarily wonder- at best- why and how it can only cost us £2.50 (for instance). The reason is that we are not paying for it- they are. The message was and is that as consumers we need to start voting with our wallets and as designers we can influence how people consume, use and behave. 

The point was also made that change doesn't have to be about telling people off or what to do- it can be fun and is much more effective and long lasting this way, illustrated in the videos below from The Fun Theory, enjoy :)

Sorry I missed...... Jo Tidy Wiltshire (Bath Spa University) speaking on The Denim Jean- a universal uniform.

Anna Battista: Prada or Prato? The blurred division between 'made in Italy' and 'made in China'

For a summary from Battista herself click here!

Sorry I missed..... Djurdja Bartlett (London College of Fashion) speaking on Russian Sartorial Heritage in Translation and Auto-Translation.

Nicolas Cambridge: From bag ladies to Bathing Apes: Japanese interventions in British Sartorial Culture

Kicking off the East meets West strand was a paper on the interplay between the two. Among many examples was the infiltration of Western staples like the suit into Eastern culture. Men would wear them to work then change back into their Japanese robes when at home- creating distinct symbols of public and private life. Conversely (and perhaps similarly), rather than conquering the British market it may be that the big names in Japanese fashion have in fact colonised it with collaborations such as Yamamoto for Adidas, Watanabe for Aquascutum and Comme des Carcons for Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Fred Perry and H&M. If history has taught us anything it must be that infiltration creates more longevity than domination....

Sorry I've missed.......
-Anja Koppchen (Radboud University, Nijmegan, Netherlands), Made in Holland? Unravelling myths of Dutch fashion.
-Maaike Feitsma (Radboud University, Nijmegan, Netherlands), How everyone can become a Dutch fashion designer.
-Ekaterina Bagreeva (Russian Economic University of GV Piekhanov, Moscow), High Heels or sneakers? Soviet identity in fashion and everyday life of Russian speaking immigrants in Germany and Norway.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Dr. Liudmila Aliabieva: DIY fashionable or the hand-made revival in modern Russia

Dr. Liudmila Aliabieva's- of the Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow and Editor in Chief of Russian Fashion Theory- drew us in from the offset with an eye opening personal account dealing with her experiences growing up in Soviet Russia.

In every home could be found a sewing machine, not however because of some prevailing trend, but because- even if you didn't make professionally, you had to make for your family for survival. It is in this way, she noted, that these residents went green simply because they had no choice. Items once made, were very often passed down 3 generations- potentially changing form with every hand over.

Unfortunately, even for those who did have money there was nothing to spend it on- explaining why people tended to hold onto their possessions for such a long time. It was not because they particularly loved them but just that there was no alternative. Fashion too had to change to this environment- uncharacteristically slowing down- even freezing altogether.

More recently however, there has been a kind of hand made revival in Russia with beautiful and unique crafts and resulting communities springing up everywhere. While some still feel the stigma of secondhand representing poverty, others are embracing the trend in a bid to allow their clothing to finally portray their individuality (although it must be noted that this look is heavily marketed). There is also a feeling- as there seems to be among some circles in the UK of late- of wishing to slow down the fast pace of modern life, wanting to feel time with the things they most enjoy. This is a concept I think we should mull over........ perhaps in a quiet place, away from the stresses of everyday life ;)

Sorry I missed......... Jennifer Sargeant (University of Warwick) speaking on English Madames and French Fashion: the lure of Paris and ready-to-wear women's clothing in interwar Britain.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Julie Botticello: Reproducing Western Clothing for Transnational Second Hand Markets

I and many like me have always considered myself to be 'doing my bit' by shopping at charity shops. This still perhaps remains true but quite how much is up for debate. Botticello started with two factors; a)  that over consumption is leading to an over abundance of second hand clothing in domestic markets and b) that surplus second hand clothing that is unable to be sold at home is exported to the developing world. She posed the question: what happens between a and b? What people (like myself) probably didn't realise was that of all the clothing donated to the charity shops, only 20% is sold in the UK and 60% is resold abroad- mostly to Eastern Europe and Central Africa. So while that 20% is going to the charity's chosen cause, who is getting the rest of the profit?

A rag factory- receiving several hundred tonnes of clothing a week- is the middle man between a and b where the garments are sorted into categories such as fabric type or intended market. These are then resold in unopened bales which, importantly, must remain sealed as an opened bale is considered 'contaminated' where someone may have laid eyes on its contents already or swapped items. In this way the factory itself becomes a brand. The clothing also goes through various stages of re-branding- being new, then classed as rubbish, then re-classed in the rag factory and made new again when sold. These shifting biography's perhaps can be paralleled with our own shifting definitions within our current media run culture- being valued, valueless, then valued again.

Sorry I missed......... Sarah Cheang (London College of Fashion) speaking on Fashion and Ethnicity.

Dr. Virginia Wimberley on Student Designers' Perceptions of Recycling and Green Trends

Dr Virginia Wimberley, Assistant Professor at The University of Alabama, filled us in on her findings from the University's annual 'Tee-Time Design' event where students are challenged to deconstruct an ordinary staple item- the t-shirt. They can be died, cut or reconstructed in any way and are then sold following a catwalk show at a silent auction. 

Following the event, students were emailed and asked to take part in a survey to gauge their perceptions on recycling and other green trends. Among the findings of the 40% reply rate were that most who took part in the Tee Time event were females aged 21-23 with the most popular motivation being to do creative design and secondly to use recycled materials. Most of those surveyed would characterize themselves as concerned with social issues but less would class themselves as eco-friendly shoppers- a trait a lot of young people here in the UK could attest to......

Sorry I missed......... Susie Ralph (University for the Creative Arts) speaking on Colour, Culture and Clothing:   The Cape Town Garment Industry in the 1980s.

Hands on 3D Design by Andrew Richards

Senior Technical Demonstrator for BA Fashion Design at Bath and School of Art and Design and world's most patient man (as we students have often tested in full) Andrew Richards, has designed a playful element found in all the packs given out at the Trans/National conference- a fan to be constructed from Vogue pages. Complete with instructions, detailed technical drawings, rubber band and 2 stiffeners/fold guides it is a treat sure to occupy many- strictly inbetween lectures of course ;)