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 ;)

Brent Luvaas- Saturday Keynote Speaker at Trans/National Conference

Today's keynote speaker from Drexel University in Philidelphia took us on trip through the alternative Indonesian music scene, urban styles, Distro shops and cool clothing labels like Unkl347. We are embedding a few videos by some of Brents favourite bands (Polyester Embassy, The S.I.G.I.T, White Shoes and The Couples Company and Armada Racun). Enjoy!

Vintage and Handmade Textile Fair!

Following the success of the Textile Fair at the American Museum I thought I'd let you know of another one coming up nearby on Saturday 1st of October, 10am-4pm consisting of 45 stalls packed with vintage textiles, jewellery, fashion, French linens, brocante and more. Its in the Chipping Sodbury Town Hall, South Gloucestershire and has free admission. 

See you there!

Dr Hazel Clark 'From National Dress to Transnational Brand'

Dr Hazel Clark, of New York's Parsons New School for Design, hit the ground Thursday yesterday afternoon with the first lecture of the Trans/National Clothing Conference entitled ‘From National Dress to Transnational Brand’ giving a teaser of what we could expect from the following days.

In the context of this highly academic lecture I will only attempt to translate my hastily scribbled notes- a meagre effort in comparison to the font of knowledge that was Clark herself on the day. Starting us off were 5 key themes we would discuss:

1.     The relationship between fashion as a system and clothing as material objects.

2.     The complexity of the production and consumption of fashion- it’s contemporary ‘pluralism and polycentrism’.

3.     The dependency of clothing and fashion on a circulatory system- on the movement of materials and goods and on mediated messages and flows of culture.

4.     The changing role of clothing- first, for example, through ‘national dress’ and now of fashion as brand- in the construction and promotion of identities, personal, local, national and transnational.

5.     The politics of clothing production and fashion consumption, for example, our moral obligation to consider ethical use of clothing.

Clark was arguing that the new global contexts have formed a new global geography- even perhaps signalling the paradox of the end of geography itself- a characteristic of The Brand (The Brand as a sign that is working through the production of its own ‘difference’ and using its distinctions as values against other Brands). She noted that of particular influence have been sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and Arjun Appadurai’s theories on globalisation being about flows i.e. the flow of fashion, raw materials and commerce- an idea further demonstrated in Pietra Rivolli’s ‘Travellors of a T-shirt’ (see earlier post).

Additionally, what is key today is that the deterritorialisation of the modern world is creating new markets i.e. film and travel agencies whilst also proving we still need some contact with what we regard as home to give us a sense of place…..

As a final note I leave you with a quote to mull over before logging off…..

“International fashion, is not just a matter of Global markets and cross-national style cannibalism but is increasingly a matter of systematic transnational assemblages of production, taste transfer, pricing and exhibitions.”
Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: cultural dimensions of globalisation, 1996: 167

Watch this space for more posts on references from Dr Hazel Clark's lecture- including Alexander McQueen! 

Tom Ford for YSL A/W 2004/5

Absolutely loved this yellow Tom Ford dress referenced in Alexandra Palmer's lecture yesterday (see previous post). Transnational it's influence and cut but my favourite detail is the print- almost like little toys in a battle scene!

Alexandra Palmer Keynote at Bath School of Art and Design

Follow the link below to Anna Battista's blog, Irenebrination, for audio from Alexandra Palmer's fascinating keynote lecture: 'Sameness and Difference: Historical Perspectives in Trans/national Fashion'......

Friday, 2 September 2011

Recommended Books

I can't get enough of books. Over the course of the lectures so far so many have been referenced or recommended- not to mention the speakers who are authors themselves. Dr Hazel Clark from New York's Parsons New School for Design gave the kickstart keynote talk yesterday afternoon, notes on the lecture will follow but for now here are some books I managed to jot down:

"Old Clothes, New Looks: Second-Hand Fashion"
A book by two of our speakers- Hazel Clark and Alexandra Palmer.

Check me out!

"The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade"
Pietra Rivoli

"The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective"
Arjun Appadurai

Check me out!

"The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization"
Eugenia Paulicelli (Editor) and Hazel Clark (Editor)

You might also like this film- a still of which was used in the keynote presentation :)

Pret a Porter (1994), directed by Robert Altman.

'Images in Time' Book Launch

At last nights preview of the photographic exhibition 'Global Style' here at Bath School of Art and Design, we were also lucky enough to be hosting a book launch for 'Images In Time: Flashing forward, backward, in front and behind photography in fashion, advertising and the press' by Aesa Sigurjonsdottir, Michael A. Langkjaer and one our conference organisers Dr Jo Turney!

“Images in Time offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of photography and dress and emerges in response to research undertaken under the umbrella term ‘Wardrobe’. 
The book draws together international critical writings from scholars in anthropology, history, social sciences, the humanities and fashion studies, as well as photographic practitioners and museum curators and archivists, in an attempt to critique and valorize photography as a significant medium in the creation of wider socio-cultural discourse.”

Rummaging at the Textile Fair

Yesterdays Textile Fair at the American Museum in Bath seemed a find in itself as guests and lecturers of the Trans/National Conference perused the stalls brimming with vintage and antique finds- from fabrics to books, there was so much to take in!

Unfortunately for me I turned up way too late for my slow shopping habits to fully perform and ended up having to take a few of the stall holders' cards for further investigation- I did however manage to buy some Edwardian circular embroidery pieces for possible use in a future collection?..........

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Thank You to the Sponsors!

Peroni and Pizza Express were very kind in giving us sponsorship this evening, a final big thank you to them!

Guests and lecturers alike enjoy an insight into Global Style

Some perhaps enjoying themselves a little too much! ;)

'Global Style' Exhibition Preview- A moment with Anna Battista

Pulled aside after the official opening of the exhibition she and Dr Jo Turney had spent months working on, we grabbed Italian fashion journalist Anna Battista for an exclusive few words.......

"I am very proud of these rare images being showcased here at Bath Spa University. Each image reflects a transnational, cross-cultural style. I hope that the looks, clothes and accessories in these photographs will inspire you in your search for your personal style."

In introducing the exhibition of 16 photographs from the Rome-based Archivio Collezione Marco Garzia (exhibited for the first time in the UK!) she explained it was covering celebrities as transnational icons of style. The images are perhaps strange because in our time we often see our style icons as perfect packages but in the vintage black ad white photographs on display Battista wanted to show famous people having cross cultural themes- such as shopping, travelling, filming and scouting for locations- all going on in a very human sense. It was also important to her to include images of men as icons are all to often only remembered as women.

Battista emphasizes "I am often asked if I feel stylish because I am Italian. The secret to style is not following any trends. Be transnational but be yourself inside."

A mantra we could all follow I think........
Another international visitor!! .... :)

Truly is Inter/National!

The day is off on a good start with fantastic weather and Sion Hill campus is filling up with many visitors by the minute!!!

The conference is abundant with selections of stalls set up by various companies and organisers who are all inviting interest and are here to help!! .... and not to forget the yummy cupcakes simply going down a treat!!! :)

The location of the stalls themselves are just inside the Sion Hill campus and can be located just up the first set of stairs. Through out the four day schedule the conference will supply a tour to the Art Fashion Museums situated in Bath and also a intense choice of lectures that can be attended to suit all ages and interests - ( Please see schedule for times). 

We have lecturers from all around the globe attending this event all who are bringing their thoughts, aims and objectives. Individual lectures are spread across the next four days!! 

It's bound to be an eye opener! and is truly Inter/National!! 

James Campbell- An intellect from Intellect....

Bristol based, Intellect Publishing have joined us here in Bath selling books on the Visual Arts, encompassing fashion, culture, film and creative practice. James Campbell, their representative here today, explained "the importance of covering a wide range of traditionally academically neglected subject matter" and that "through publishing academic papers and research they are addressing this need". Campbell argues the importance of such a conference as this as "it's subject matter is broader than just fashion and reflects issues we all should be taking seriously". He will be keeping a close eye on the lectures over the next few days as Intellect are looking for possible papers to publish- for more information including submitting a paper of your own email

Among the forthcoming books to be released by Intellect is the hotly anticipated 'Decadence and Decay: Fashion in the 1970's' by our very own Dr. Jo Turney! Be sure to keep an eye out for it's debut!

And last but not least.... click here to check out Intellect's journal 'Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty' :)

Crisp Knits with Alison Harper

 On display among the visitors today are stunning pieces from textile artist Alison Harper- made from crisp packets and coffee cups no less! She explains that "With a focus on resources and materials, her work shows concern for environmental issues and addresses issues of waste"- literally food for thought!

As well as here at the conference- where she will be heading up a lecture Sunday morning at 11am, Alison's work is also currently on show in the Material Actions exhibition at the Create Centre in Bristol until the 24th Sept so be sure to pop along if you can!

See also Alison's Interactive Knitting video created by Marc Le Galle follow this link!

30 Seconds with Debbie from Woolcake!

From right here in the Somerset hills comes (or perhaps baaa's) Woolcake, a family company producing 100% natural hand knitting wool from the fleece of happy sheep who live on the Mendip Hills- and we're lucky enough to have them here at the Trans/National conference today! We stole away a few seconds from Debbie- one of the two sisters heading up the company- to get a few basics.........

For those of us who aren't familiar with Woolcake, what are you about?

"Woolcake is an ethical company based in Somerset. We manufacture 100% natural wool through a cooperative of local families and farmers to support our British wool. Our company is a 3 year old family business run by me and my sister Julie which has since become in partnership with the British Wool Campaign which is all about keeping wool in Britain, supporting small British farms financially and bringing business to our local communities."

"Community, communication, bringing people all together."

Thanks Debbie!

Days just getting started! and the Cupcakes look delicious!

Currently laying out the programmes and welcome packs. The lovely ladies are dishing out mouth watering cupcakes that simply look de-licious!

Today has started off with a gloriously sunny day and everyones really excited to meet and greet the visitors. Already arrived are our photographers who are helping update  everyone with an inside glimpse on todays events.. Thank you Mark and Heidi! :)

Also here Berg Publishers, Intellect Publishers and Woolcake stall selling 100% British Wool.

WATCH THIS SPACE for an interview with Woolcake!! .... :)