Thursday, February 28, 2008

the crisis of fashion journalism in australia

This sorry piece in the Sydney Morning Herald pretty such sums up the state of 95% of fashion reporting in this country (100% of TV reporting, in fact). Only last week I was bemoaning to a colleague how the reports from the shows tend to be along the lines of, 'Oh, look at this funny hat', and there it is. I long for the days when Jane de Teliga, Maggie Alderson and Patty Huntington used to report for the Herald. I could go on and on - what about that 20-something socialite that 'wrote' the fashion section for the Sunday Telegraph while the wonderful Melissa Hoyer was on leave? The poor love confused the Australian designer Collette Dinnigan with Colette, the store in Paris. 'Nuff said.


Models smiling at Hussein Chalayan. Who would have thought?

Via a Google alert on eco-fashion came this. Whilst I have absolute respect for people with convictions, 'eco-fashion' and vegan fashion are not the same thing. I don't know, it's like a thousand 'fashion is bad' posts I've read before and speaks to the converted only.

Excitingly, a new journal: International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, from Taylor & Francis. Call for Papers is downloadable from the button at top. From the 'Aims and Scope':

Aims & Scope

International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education aims to provide a high quality peer-reviewed forum for research in fashion design, pattern cutting, apparel production, manufacturing technology and fashion education. The Journal will encourage interdisciplinary research and the development of an academic community which will share newly developed technology, theory and techniques in the fashion and textile industries, as well as promote the development of excellent education practice in the clothing and textile fields.

Contributions suitable for this new journal should fall into one of the following three categories:

(1) Research papers presenting important new findings
(2) Technical papers describing new developments or innovation
(3) Academic discussion papers dealing with medium to long-term trends and predictions.

All published research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening and anonymous refereeing by independent expert referees.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

collection fabrication

For a long time, I've been torn in regards to the fabrics for the collection. Of course I would like to use solely 'sustainable' fabrics, whether they be organically grown, recycled/reclaimed, local, etc. There are two problems I need to deal with: lack of diversity and lack of money. For example, if I were to use only locally produced (Australian) fabrics, my choices as a designer would be very limited, also posing problems for the quality of the research (see below). Even if I expanded beyond local, the emphasis in hemp and organic cotton fabrics tends to be on basic canvasses, lawns, poplins and jersey. And the quality is often... well, not as high as I'd like; the coffee sack look is still worryingly popular. And don't get me started on the strange woven plaids and stripes that I regularly come across. As for the latter (finance), I think it's a disadvantage that can be turned into an opportunity; lack of money is only as restrictive as you allow it to be, I think.

I do believe that bought, old, fabrics already in existence are better used than not. So, I will use some of the fabrics I've had lying around for four or more years, since I walked away from the label (including some 100 metres of cotton jersey). If I were to mass produce the garments, I would substitute the conventional cotton jersey with an organic alternative, if I were able to find one of the same quality. Two weeks ago a friend donated ten metres of a double wool she'd had for ten years, with good intentions but no outcomes. Anyway, arguably the fabric to date has been passively wasted, and so for me to use it is to make the most of the effort and resources that went into producing it, just like with the fabrics I've had collecting dust.

I will use some fabrics and trims that I've bought in second-hand stores. This would pose a challenge if I were to mass produce but I have no plans to do so; nevertheless, I will discuss later how I would tackle the particular challenges - various options do exist.

Finally, some fabrics will be bought new, and it's here I will make the effort to find the most sustainable option, as long as the compromise to quality isn't too great. So, denim will most likely come in a hemp/cotton mix (organic cotton if possible) and hemp canvas may provide the canvas for some hand-painted pieces. (Painted how? Let me read Fletcher's book, fresh out of the box, and I will get back on that.) I've also seen a hemp-silk mix that might work for some of the shirts.

But, I do aim for the collection to be at the high-end of things in terms of quality and level of finish and some painful compromises may come my way. And of course, I will try to educate myself as thoroughly as possible, every step of the way. For example, in her book Fletcher questions the antibacterial claims made about bamboo fabrics (ppp. 32-34) although TreeHugger has discussed some studies done in the area. There are also some research requirements for the fabrics that I need to meet, for example, using stripes and/or checks, and one-way prints, to see the implications for a no-waste approach. At the end of the day, my project is about not wasting fabric, and to keep it firmly focussed within the time frame I have, some high ideals may need temporary ignoring.

Synthetics: some still take a zero-tolerance approach to anything synthetic (a verbal attack against a carpet manufacturer by an audience member at one of the d factory talks on sustainability last year comes to mind), but to me the infinite recyclability appeals. Kate Goldsworthy's research in particular is worth looking into. To me, the problem with synthetics is more to do with comfort and wearability - I wear them little myself (an old nylon Miyake jacket notwithstanding) so I do have trouble proposing others to wear them.

Then there are the trims and notions... Many will be reclaimed (e.g. buttons from second-hand shops) and I will avoid creating natural/synthetic mixes with trims - for example, applying a polyester braid to a hemp pant. Overall, I find this a problematic area and will discuss further as things progress.

A short post on a complex topic but life beckons. I will return to this, no doubt.

Oh and next week I'll be attending the IFFTI conference in Melbourne. Some very interesting papers though not much on sustainability.


Bahar Shahpar Autumn 2008 collection: The use of the plaid in this is inspired though probably somewhat wasteful.

Evolution/Revolution: The Arts and Crafts in Contemporary Fashion and Textiles at The RISD Museum of Art, curated by Joanne Ingersoll.

Encyclopedia of Life is now online. Some background from the BBC.

This BBC article on greenwashing reminds me of a project I taught in, where the students had to come up with logos promoting sustainability that did NOT include a sphere/circle/globe, a plant or the colour green.

That'll do for now. But, with the endless Google Alerts, more to come soon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

print repeats

In a zero-waste approach to fashion creation, fabric poses significant considerations for design that one might not otherwise think about. Recently, in my industry job, I did, however, need to think in a no-waste approach, sort of. We were using a print that was essentially a very large check - a 55cm repeat - to make a full-length bias-cut dress. Because the same print placement was desired for all the dresses about to be produced, the yield (or yardage, meterage, etc.) was going to be a multiple of 55cm. I then needed to work out the smallest multiple of 55cm that we could get the dress out of. I think in the end it was seven repeats, or 3.85 metres.

The amount of waste? HUGE, much bigger than the figures put forward by Cooklin and others. I work as a patternmaker, making patterns according to the designer's sketch. These generally aren't negotiable. Yes, I feel awful about it, but at the moment working is about keeping me fed to the end of my PhD, and I still don't know how most companies would go from a conventional, wasteful approach to wasting little or none. Anyway, unlike many of the awful cheap fabrics (result of people demanding ever more awful and cheap clothes, I think) I've had to work with over the years, this was quite beautiful and the print was begging for a creative no-waste approach. It wasn't to be, but I will be using some conventionally repeating prints or patterns (e.g. checks) in the collection to see what the implications are. I may also use -gasp- digital printing although 99% of the time it looks too much like, well, digital printing. It seems that anyone capable of operating a scanner and/or Photoshop is a textile designer these days. But there I go digressing again. (Need to discuss collection fabrication in detail here soon, too. Very problematic, if a holistic approach is to be adopted in terms of sustainability.)

The collection... The working title is 'Bad Dogs', for reasons I'll explain another time. A lively conversation about related stuff today produced 'Do Not Iron the Poof', which might just work as a title. But time for sleep now.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

a quick note

I should clarify that I cannot share my key research findings here until after I've submitted my thesis and published the most significant aspects of the research. Obviously I will share some findings in the exhibition in August and don't see a problem with discussing those here. As for the rest, they will have to wait until next year. I do hope to maintain this blog beyond thesis submission, however sporadic that may be. So, apologies, but we'll get there eventually.

Friday, February 22, 2008

new books

Eight months after my last post, here I am, again. The collection is well on its way and the exhibition will take place in August 2008. Since my last post, two significant new books have been published on sustainability and fashion and textiles. Whilst I'm still waiting for my copies to arrive and hence am unable to comment on either, here are the details:

Kate Fletcher: Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys, available from here.

Janet Hethorn, Connie Ulasewicz, Yvon Chouinard (editors): Sustainable Fashion: Why Now? A conversation exploring issues, practices, and possibilities, available from here. (This is the book I wrote a chapter for.)

Also worth a read, the WWF 'Deeper Luxury' report, from here.

That's it, for now. In coming days I'd like to summarise some of the articles on futurefashion (NY fashion week) and Esthetica (London fashion week). I have, however, a lot to organise for my exhibition as well as one I'm co-curating for 2009 so it may not happen.