Sunday, March 30, 2008

new journal from Berg: Fashion Practice

First came the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, and now there is a new journal from Berg, Fashion Practice, The Journal of Design, Creative Process & the Fashion Industry. From the Berg website:

This is the first peer-reviewed academic journal to cover the full range of contemporary design and manufacture within the context of the fashion industry. Design processes and new technologies fuel the most vibrant areas of fashion practice and commerce today, yet they have been largely ignored by scholarship. Fashion Practice fills this major gap by providing a much-needed forum for topics ranging from design theory to the impact of technology, economics and industry on fashion practice. The journal also covers the cultural ramifications of these isues upon the larger fashion sphere. Interdisciplinary in approach, Fashion Practice will address, broadly, the business of fashion, including some or all of the following topics:

  • innovation in fashion design and practice
  • sustainability and ethics within the industry
  • micro-and nano-technologies within the fashion context
  • 'smart' textiles and digital fashion
  • materials, design, concepts and process
  • fashion consumption and production from retail/e-tail to performance fashion
  • new developments in fashion and clothing retail
The journal encourages submissions from scholars and practitioners working specifically within fashion / apparel, design and business departments, as well as those working on the creative industries from a broad range of social science perspectives.

To have two new such journals emerge in one year is great; there has been somewhat of a void in opportunities to publish research on fashion design practice in journals. Seeing Fashion Theory and Fashion Practice listed next to each other on the Berg website makes one wonder why this didn't come about earlier. But better late than never. The advisory board looks most impressive.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


An interesting business concept: one owned by consumers, nvohk. (Having run -badly- a brand called USVSU once upon a time, I can say from experience that creative brand name spellings can be a blessing and a curse.) There seems to be little information as to what the eventual product line will be like but I hope against hope this is not another venture pushing god-awful organic cotton t-shirts. I won't name names but too many of them produce what is essentially compost, from an aesthetic point of view.

I found nvohk through, where there are some interesting posts, though posting doesn't seem too regular. But, pot calling the kettle... green? Speaking of green, the header bugs me for its touting of another 'eco-cliche', a photo of a forest. My original supervisor, Dr Cameron Tonkinwise, actually ran a project once where the undergrad students had to design a logo for a sustainability initiative that didn't use the colour green, the globe or sphere in any form nor any type of plant. Think about it, eh?

Finally, an article on sustainable fashion by Tiffany Choy, that provides some background to FutureFashion, which I was going to pick on here at the time but never got around to (timber catwalk - see previous paragraph). I guess my worry was that because of the show, and based on one dress per brand, consumers might somehow misconstrue companies like Versace, Givenchy or Yves Saint Laurent as 'eco-friendly'. I don't doubt the desire to be so exists within the companies that took part but most still have a long, long way to go.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

open your diaries, and educators, look up!

At the moment the amount of writing is making my fingers and brain bleed, hence the lack of posting. I'd be lying if I said this year, with the exhibition(s), thesis submission, the possible show in December and the rest weren't making me nervous. At times it's terrifying. But enough whine and onto business:

UC Davis is hosting a free (good on them!) symposium: “Designing with Conscience: A Sustainable Fashion Symposium” on Sunday, May 18. The list of confirmed speakers certainly looks promising: Lynda Grose is part of the line-up.

And this from Fashioning an Ethical Industry, a Labour Behind the Label project, which couldn't be timelier: Teaching Resources "that will provide educators on fashion-related courses with a variety of ideas to enable them to teach corporate social and environmental responsibility issues." As I noted then, there was a general desire at the IFFTI08 conference for more knowledge among fashion design and technology educators on issues of sustainability, and this looks like a great start.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

if in South Australia in July 2009...

...consider attending Winterworks, an "international ecologically sustainable bush textiles symposium". The symposium will take place in the Mount Lofty Ranges in SA between July 12 and 17, 2009. India Flint, an Australian textile artist known for her works using Australian Merino wool and plants, has more information here. The setting certainly looks stunning; let's keep an eye out for the call for papers.

if in San Francisco...

...go to this (click to enlarge):

Dr Connie Ulasewicz co-edited the book I contributed the chapter to, and she will have a pretty rich understanding of the issues. (From here.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

something good

Trying to stay on top of things, and up-to-date with EVERYTHING (ha!), I now get daily Google alerts on 20, 30, 40 topics a day; most on things relating to my thesis and, ahem, a few relating to birds. (Have you seen my Nerd.) You can specify News, Web, Blogs, Video or Comprehensive. I get Comprehensive, daily, for each search term (e.g. "green fashion", "eco-fashion", "sustainable fashion", "green clothing", "green apparel" and so it goes...) Thanks mainly to blogging, my inbox fills with more crap every morning than those portaloos along the City2Surf route (I had to go during last year's run so know what I'm talking about). That's how that stupid "cotton is great (if it's Jag Apparel)" post came to annoy me. Today, an absolute gem: Reflections of an Angry Shopgirl. The post is brilliant. And I love the cranky writing. Through friends I'm aware what a nightmare to spare time running a shop can be, but I hope she can keep the blog going even intermittently.

The Angry Shopgirl's attention to detail reminded me of something that I've been thinking about ever since I started this project: what the hell am I going to sew everything with? Polyester/cotton threads are generally much stronger than cotton or threads from other natural fibres; the durability argument. But cradle-to-cradle and "monstrous hybrids" as McDonough and Braungart put it; I don't know. Though of course, IF I do some 100% polyester things, they'll be sewn with 100% polyester threads, and when they are all over and done with after many, many years of loving wear and care, Patagonia or Kate Goldsworthy can upcycle them into new beautiful things. But say, for example, organic cotton thread: where will I get the range of colours (hundreds) that something like Rasant, from Ackermann, offers? I think I'll ask Ackermann. If there is no demand, there will be no supply.

Speaking of, I expect to hear back for my inquiry regarding the recycled textiles from The Smith Family in the next few days; I'd like to use some in the collection, with those monstrous hybrids whispering in my ears about downcycling. Report to come.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Today, Cotton USA gets into trouble for claims about cotton and sustainability - please, go after Jag Apparel next. Their 'blog' qualifies as advertising, doesn't it? On a positive note, just after the 29th International Cotton Conference in Bremen, Germany, the Organic Exchange will organise a two-day seminar for business (courtesy of Ecotextile News).

Why I avoid interviews with fashion designers written by fashion journalists (from The Toronto Star, via this blog):

"Using raw silk in jewel tones, organic wools, organic cotton-bamboo blends and organic denim, Biddell has created coats with grand architectural collars, extreme wide-leg jeans and dramatic eveningwear with long trailing trains and full skirts.

“A lot of the silhouettes I am using are egotistical,” Biddell says of the high volume shapes in his collection. “I haven’t seen a lot of really interesting, unique organic clothes … there is a lot of casual wear in organic fabrics but there are only a few luxury designers, like Stella McCartney and Marc Jacobs, who are starting to go sustainable."

There is a video of the collection inspired by eco-warriors and animé here. I have to say, the only thing that caught my eye on that page was the advertisement for Earth Hour. A year ago, Sydney was leading the way with it; now it's global. It's easy to be cynical about it, but as a visualisation tool it was pretty powerful as I recall. My neighbours and I were sitting outside in the darkness; at least 80% of the neighbourhood, normally all lit up, was dark. As for my cynicism regarding the article about the Project Runway Canada winner; it is great he's chosen to use the fabrics he has. I'm just a little bit impatient for there to be more widespread intellectual dialogue on fashion design that goes beyond designers talking about their inspirations.

As a short distraction, the following video from Issey Miyake (from last year) is powerful, too:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

greenwashing: cotton

Courtesy of another Google alert came this:
"Essentially, all earth friendly fashion is biodegradable. 100% cotton is very appealing to most earth friendly fashion customers who wish to look chic and help the environment. If you’re interested in the latest earth friendly fashion made of 100% cotton, take a look at some of these featured 100% cotton items of eco-friendly apparel below."

Ok, the blog exists merely to promote a brand, Jag Apparel. And maybe Marissa2007 really does think cotton is environmentally friendly. I invite her to read some real facts about cotton here. Or here. I could go on but am very busy, and very annoyed.

Bottega Veneta A/W 2008 by Tomas Meier

These three looks caught my eye whilst trawling through the vortex that is during the shows. I'd argue that all three looks would be adapted to no-waste fairly easily, without compromising the integrity of each design. Maybe they are no-waste. I doubt it, but I'd love to work with them to make them so.

copyright and fashion design in Australia

While in Melbourne, a copyright infringement case involving two dresses got a bit of press. Melbourne brand Review managed to convince a judge that a dress by Sydney label Lili was a copy of one by Review. You be the judge (Review on left, Lili on right; image from The Age):

Whatever, I say. Copyright infringement is rampant in the Australian industry, but forgive me for saying this: neither of the above dresses are worthy of litigation given their lack of originality, in my humble opinion. Every high street label has done something similar over the last couple of years; I've made quite a few patterns in that time that would be 80-90% like either of the above, and I can assure you neither dress was copied. I'd guess something Marc Jacobs did in 2002 or 2003 would be the original source and since then the idea has been regurgitated more than an episode of M.A.S.H on mid-afternoon television. Fashion design in Australia is in a long-term crisis; for many designers, magazines, overseas buying trips and websites such as and net-a-porter are the primary sources of ideas: to copy is to design, apparently. It takes me back to 1999, when I was completing my undergraduate collection. We were required to find an industry mentor, and mine was a high-profile Australian designer, still very successful in business today. Everything he did was based on bought samples and magazine photographs. You say inspiration, I say rotten potato. His exact words to me: "There is no time to design in Australia." I would beg to differ. Of my graduating year, two unique and original friends stand out: Therese Rawsthorne and Fiona Buckingham of Kyotap. Over the past few years I've had the pleasure of making patterns for both, and it's been a delight to see the two actually make full use of the creative skills bestowed on us during our education. I should also note that both are very capable of making their own patterns, too; I've come in when they've been too busy to do so. Both have dedicated clienteles that go back for more. Perhaps because I know Fiona's work better, I can usually recognise a Kyotap piece without checking the label because Fiona's own, original handwriting is inherent and explicit in every single garment. The two are my beacons of hope.

What worries me is the precedent the two dresses above set. What next: a similar case over some god-awful smock dress with a jewelled neckline? Because to me, they all look the same.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Discarded to Divine is an upcycling charity project involving designers and students in San Francisco; an article is here and the website, including images, is here. This will be the project's third year, wish them the best of luck.

Staples have switched all their copy and print centres to recycled paper, a first for a national printing service in the US.

Still from Environmental Leader, on the confusion over carbon labels and what they mean, if anything.

Via the Sustainable Style Foundation (I'm still catching up post-Melbourne), Toggery by Kate D'Arcy - with lots of colour! The website claims the product to be 100% organic cotton and locally made; I'd love to know more about the dyes used.

Via Ecotextile News, polyester uniforms of Japanese telecom firm Oki Electric Industry are to be recycled by Teijin, the same company that's working with Patagonia on the Common Threads garment recycling program.

That's all for this morning.

synergies: yeohlee teng and andrew hague

During the shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris I was annoyed with for omitting so many worthy designers from their coverage, for whatever reason. With some of the labels they bother to write a runway review for... Anyway, one established designer ignores season after season is Yeohlee Teng, whose approach is beautifully showcased in Yeohlee: Work
 - visually better than in some of the essays, if I may say so. As I've complained before, describing a designer's practice as an artistic and/or art practice can unintentionally keep hidden the nitty-gritties of the practice itself - and I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know about it. The book is somewhat vague as to how Teng went about resolving some of her ideas. It's not that the creative facets of practice aren't important - I passionately believe they are, but they shouldn't overwhelm the more mundane, practical aspects of practice. (Actually, I'm not convinced the two should or can be treated separately from each other in a critical account of practice; it's just that much of the literature shies away from the bits that get hands dirty.) And please, let met clarify; I may be critical of certain decisions regarding the scope of the book, but I am very much a fan of Teng, one of the less-waste pioneers. And very jealous of Mark Liu who recently got to meet her. But, without further ado, some images from Teng's latest collection are here. I hope so in any case - after six foreheads had loaded the page froze on my computer.

And here is the beauty of the message I got from Andrew Hague earlier today: a clear, concise description of what he did to arrive at the shirt in Fletcher's book (p. 153 - for copyright reasons I won't post the image here). I am posting Andrew's description here unedited - practice-led researchers every where, sit up and listen:

"The project was given as a class assignment by my instructor, Lynda Grose, and she was so impressed with it that she sent it along to her colleague, Kate.

The idea was germinated years ago when I saw an exhibit by Yeohlee Teng at the museum at FIT, where they had copies of her actual patterns on the wall. Her interest in fabric conservation was admittedly financially motivated, but I guess the idea stuck. I wanted to reassess traditional design protocol in service to "green design," instead of simply replacing one carbon intensive product with one with a smaller eco-footprint, if you will.

So I found an image of a traditional shirt pattern on the web and pulled it into a vector-based platform (Illustrator, but almost any will work). From there, I manipulated the pattern almost arbitrarily to fill out all the holes which would leave wastage. I paid special attention to the armholes, but that's about it. I let the shirt become what it wanted to be. Most importantly, I neither added, nor subtracted pattern pieces, so when I sat down to the sewing machine, I sewed the shirt the way I had been trained as a tailor's apprentice.

The result is a decidedly Kawakubo effect, but the purpose and rationale are what makes it special."

I see similarities in Andrew's approach (for example, the parameters; "I neither added, nor subtracted pattern pieces") to some of my own experiment briefs. One reads as follows:

"Use the sketch and pattern of an existing design, and test various ways of placing the pattern pieces on a particular fabric width. When the least wasteful way of cutting the garment has been discovered, look at the gaps between the pattern pieces (fabric waste) and begin to redesign the garment by incorporating these gaps into it. Use sketching, informed by what is happening on pattern, to explore different possibilities of incorporating the wasted fabric into the design. Modify the patterns until waste has been eliminated. "

Confession time. At this point, 67945 years into my PhD, this is one of very few of the experiments I've yet to do, and for the others there are good logistical reasons for not having done them yet. But, the collection is lacking 'good' jackets (=any I'm happy with) and there is a jacket I did for my label back in 2003 that has much potential; it will most likely provide me with the existing design.

I would like to thank Andrew for sharing, and I dare you to try it out. It's how it can begin. Andrew's account hopefully shows that no-waste can be as creative as you allow it to be. Finally, if you are unfamiliar with Lynda Grose, she's as pioneering and inspiring (I think) as Kate Fletcher.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I will not post a review of the IFFTI08 conference, except to say that the papers I looked forward to didn't disappoint. Yesterday the conference finished with a panel discussion on sustainability and it was a delight to hear the diversity of views from around the world, and more significantly, sense the huge hunger for more knowledge from everyone. The reminder about the development of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion (LCF) was timely; the initiative looks very promising (but I can't find a website). On the whole, I've come back invigorated, and have some very rough ideas for post-doctoral research that would involve industry, too. I did meet some old friends who are doing very well in industry, and the hunger for more knowledge is apparent there, too. I did ask a friend, a designer for one of the largest manufacturers of t-shirts and cotton underwear (all made in Australia) if the company had any plans for even small percentage of organic or other alternative cottons in their products. "We looked into it but the consumers aren't interested", was the response. I doubt this, or at least wonder what the actual percentage of non-interest was. I also wonder when this research was conducted; as Alison Gwilt pointed out on the panel, last year's Earth Hour probably played a huge role in Australia in bringing the environmental crisis to the mainstream. Further, I think the responsibilities are shared, and such a passive approach is sad. This company really could lead, given the volumes of their production. I understand that a 100% shift away from conventional cotton is not possible in an instant - simply, not enough fibre is being grown to meet the potential demand - but examples set by large-scale manufacturers like Nike, Marks & Spencer and Levi's will be followed by many, and soon.

Speaking of denim, I told a friend about the jeans (which admittedly weren't chosen for their environmental friendliness, except maybe durability - I plan to wear them for 5+ years; my oldest pair is 13 or so years old) and she's asked me to blog about them here. I'll certainly check the exact date I bought them, and will photograph them, too, as they are at the moment (in the freezer, to be exact). With four or so months of wear, some of the indigo has worn off where I keep my wallet and keys, and the creases around the crotch, knees and hem - that's my body leaving a very personal imprint on the garment. In fact, when held up from the waist, there is a strong suggestion of the body in them. Because of the freezing there is no smell, but the jeans feel 'dirty' - both have had drenchings of beer, rain and food on them (spot cleaning does the trick), not to mention the natural oils our skins produce.

At the conference I was jokingly referred to as one of the two people in Oz to have Kate Fletcher's book (Sue Thomas is the other); apparently Amazon is having problems with the paperbacks (though do correct me if you know otherwise). Again I spent the flight reading, Chapter 2 titled 'Ethically Made'. Using Donella Meadows' list of systems intervention points and examples from fashion and textiles, Fletcher sets the stage for the future in a most powerful way. I've been reading the book in a rather random fashion, and this chapter has probably had the strongest impact on me to date. As a designer and a design educator I was left feeling empowered and re-energised after reading it. This was partly from the panel discussion, too - the power of all the design educators in the room for a change for better was acknowledged.

I've much more to blog about but other things need addressing urgently. On Monday I saw the final proof for the chapter - I'm very excited.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

the designer genius

A while back I commented on Kathleen Fasanella's blog that I sometimes fantasise of there being some legal protection for the term 'fashion designer'. It was mainly an emotional response after two recent requests for work, from people that were utterly clueless. Once upon a time I was not very choosy at all as to who I worked for, but now I simply say no to anyone that needs to have fusing explained, not to mention the notches on patterns, why it's ideal to follow the grainline I've drawn on the pattern, etc.

Reading Kate Fletcher's book on the flight today, I discovered a very different view, carefully considered (not that I'd expect anything else from the author), and found myself learning and agreeing. The final chapter, 'User Maker', is critical of how "the industry controls and 'professionalizes' the practice of designing and making clothes" (p. 187). According to Fletcher, this results in "passive fashion" and deskilled consumers reluctant to customise, repair and transform the increasingly homogenised clothes on offer (I will rewrite the paper I presented at Dressing Rooms in Oslo last year, after I've finished with the book). Fletcher is critical of the myth-building by the industry - the designer as a creative genius - and this is where my pulse went up; it's an issue that has annoyed me for years. Read almost any article or book about a fashion designer (Colin McDowell's books on Galliano and Gaultier come to mind first) and there you see it: the designer presented as a creative artist. You see, in the early phases of the project I was trying to find out how fashion designers actually work, so I could eventually perhaps understand how fashion designers might work in a zero-waste situation. There isn't much out there, that isn't dressed up in the mythology of fashion design. One might as well watch The Bold and the Beautiful. I tried to categorise fashion design and patternmaking practices at Nordes, and whilst I see holes in the thinking of that paper, it is something I will take further as the project progresses.

But back to Fletcher's ideas. I certainly love the idea of a garment that is not finished when the designer thinks it is, in the sense that it may later transform into something more special in the hands of the consumer. Cameron Tonkinwise has written about this in Design Philosophy Papers (Issue 3, 2004), about design that is not finished, about things that can keep on keeping, I think he put it. It's a beautiful paper - read it.

I'd go on but the internet cafe in Melbourne doubles as a sauna, apparently - I'm literally dripping. Tomorrow, for the papers!

protocol analysis: fashion design

(Last post today, and probably pre-IFFTI, I promise)

Today I took part in a protocol analysis(*) exercise at uni; they wanted a designer from each of the disciplines (fashion design, visual communications, industrial design and interior design) to work in a real-life design situation and talk through their thinking whilst designing whilst being filmed. Apparently my PhD-designing was real life enough. (And to prove I've completely lost my sense of humour, everything I do now is doctoral. As in doctoral sewing, doctoral answering the phone, doctoral going to the toilet. Think carefully before stepping into the slushy pit that is a PhD.)

It was interesting to be the guinea pig, given the practice-led methodology of my project. There are parallels in what I'm doing during the practice and what I did today (working on a circle shirt, of all things, on camera). Of course I don't talk out loud in my studio - much - but as I'm needing to keep a record of pretty much everything I do, I kind of talk inside my head a lot as I document it all. I do tell myself that most faculties are still intact while I do this, of course, but boy is it noisy in there sometimes. Research, baby. It was also interesting to get someone else's view on my design processes afterwards; one person's (mine) anal retentiveness is another's "methodical approach", it turns out. The video will be used to show undergraduate students design in action and reflection in action. That tablecloth (to be explained later) is sure to come back to haunt me, possibly on YouTube.

(*) Protocol analysis as a method of inquiry isn't anywhere near as boring as it sounds even if a large percentage of the academic papers written about it would put half the universe into a permanent coma.

Found: Andrew Hague

The MySpace was that of the very Andrew Hague in Fletcher's book! I'm hoping to write a post on him and his work here soon so watch out. Two weeks after resurrecting the blog (after nine months in password-only purgatory) it's finally coming up on Google. So, hopefully I can use this for good and plug another no-waste designer out there.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

circles and waste

Any investigation into cutting without waste would eventually need to consider circles. Take circle skirts. The question, generally, one finds oneself asking over and over in a no-waste approach is, 'What can this shape become?' 'This shape' mostly refers to the edge left behind by a pattern shape one has just created; I absolutely believe that here the main limiting factor is one's creativity.

With circles there are many possibilities. Here's a dodgy quick sketch to (hopefully) illustrate three:

The first and second are the same really; the third is something I did at work yesterday. We had some digitally printed blocks of fabric with a blank border about an inch wide between each, which the designer definitely didn't want in the skirt. (Why the textile people couldn't have the solid background colour continue through the 15 metres is beyond me. No, we didn't need it in repeat but all up we paid for at least 20 inches of blank bits through the fabric.) It was to be a full circle, so I made the skirt with six pieces: a quarter circle at front and back and eighths at sides, with side seams (and the zip!) on the straight grain and the bias seams at side front and back. The waistbands came out of the shaded bits. For a no-waste skirt, the third option would probably be the easiest though I see lots of design potential in the first two, too. And not just applique, which has become the running joke in my project - as in "can't think of anything to do with this so it'll become applique". There will be some applique, for sure, but hopefully it won't look like a poor man's version of those amazing fishermen's coats from Awaji Island.

I would love to one day do an experiment with leaving the corners in (rather than cutting out a circle) and darting the hem to bring it back to the circle and having it on the outside. But maybe you'll do it first. Whilst my collection of menswear may well have some skirts in it (why should a windy male groin be the reserve of the Scots?) I'm not sure about circle skirts. Nor capes; whether on men or women, I always expect the cape wearer to take off and save the world flying.

The waist doesn't have to be a circle, of course. It could be a simple straight slash (on any angle, as long as you know what it'll do), or a rectangle, like this:
To cut a long, painful story short, a lovely friend is having a commitment ceremony (she doesn't believe in marriage) and was going to get a dress made from a reissued 1950s Vogue pattern. Her dressmaker bailed and I said I could get someone else but that person wouldn't go anywhere near a Vogue pattern with a sewing machine because why would one; life's too short for those nightmares. So, I offered to 'fix' the pattern prior. From the picture I expected to find pleats but it was cut like the doodle above; the corners create flares from the waist.

(As a side note, why do they print a cute little zip on the pattern piece? A notch would do quite nicely, thanks very much. As for the rest... Thankfully it's a good friend, otherwise all that tissue paper - how I HATE tissue paper - would be eaten and digested in anger by now.)

I had a point but now it eludes me. Think outside the circle, maybe?

what couture? haute couture (and not couture)

Whilst I've taken a break this year from teaching in order to finish my thesis (this makes me a nearly middle-aged full-time student...), I'm giving one lecture to the second-year students this semester that I've given twice before, on haute couture. The subject is 'Couturier Techniques' and it's mostly very practice-oriented, with a series of six or seven lectures to support, beginning with mine today.

When I was first asked to do the lecture, the working title was 'What is couture?' I will give a very brief history and an overview of the organisational support for the industry in France, but mostly the lecture is about the clothes and their makers and wearers, and the relationships between them that are intrinsic to couture. I hope that by the end, the students will see how all those 'haute couture' shops along Parramatta Road (a grotty but important Sydney roadway) aren't. I also hope that by the end any misconceptions about the meaning of haute couture have been laid to rest. Understandably a common misunderstanding among past students has equated haute couture with eveningwear; evening certainly dominates the little media coverage couture now gets. My perhaps most important example to show the impact of the client on the garments produced is decidedly day: the famous 'Bar' suit from Dior's 1947 'New Look' collection. Or three rather different versions of it, to be precise.

I will also touch on the recurring pronouncements on the death of couture, and the reasons for couture's decline. In an era when some companies will have you believe that a trend lasts a month, who would be willing to wait three for a garment to be finished (presuming you can afford it)? I don't believe the claims nobody can any longer afford couture - there is arguably more uneven wealth in the world than ever before - rather, I think it's a cultural thing. Apparently to many shopping is a social activity full of pleasure, and being able to take something home straight away - we don't question that any more, do we?.

Many dismiss haute couture outright as an unnecessary frivolity (often without any insight into quality, workmanship, etc.). It's therefore a pleasure that Alison Gwilt, a colleague, has been focusing on haute couture for her PhD for some time. For the past two years, I've not really followed the various investigations into 'slow fashion' as intently as I should have, but surely there are links to be built to couture? Fletcher has included a 'slow fashion' section in her book but I've yet to read it. Anyway, some of the positive aspects of haute couture get little airing, such as the service aspect (a garment will be repaired and/or altered as needed in the future, usually free of charge), or that garments are produced to order only.

Tomorrow: Melbourne, and IFFTI 08. I seem to cause the weather to turn frosty every time I go down, regardless of season; Victorians, I apologise and advise you to rug up.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The World of Blue Jeans, a photo essay from Time

Here. The images could, of course, be of most things we wear now.

Anyone else bought a pair of 'raw' (unwashed) jeans lately that you're not supposed to wash for the first six months? I got two pairs in October/November, from G-Star. That was after a month or two of looking for organic cotton and/or hemp alternatives, both in real shops and the net. By alternatives I mean something that I would actually want to wear, not something I would wear just because it was organic cotton and/or hemp (because I wouldn't - I've yet to find a hemp pair that I would love for five years, a criterion for any new garment I buy).

Now, for someone that always abhorred the artificial aging and distressing that dominated denim for so many years, the tide has finally turned in the past two years and there are jeans worth buying again (even if some prices remain in the rude and stupid categories). Denim - at least reasonably good-quality denim, with no nasty stretch in it - will respond to wear better than any other fabric, I think. Knobbly knees, wallet, keys; it all eventually comes through like the Shroud of Turin but without the pilgrims, making your pair explicitly yours. No such luck with the generic 'worn' jeans of yesterday. I didn't buy jeans for four years, which resulted in a range of denim rags hanging off me towards the end of last year.

But back to the no-washing: the six months has something to do with the jeans taking to your shape or not losing their (synthetic/chemical/toxic?) coating, depending on the sales assistant you get. I think it's a bit of a gimmick, a trend, and nothing more, but one with some positive side effects. As we know, many garments make their greatest environmental impact in the hands of the consumers, through laundering and tumble-drying. (Though Fletcher provides some great insights about this in her book; some were new to me.) One friend lasted beyond the six months, despite weekly wear of the jeans, and I've now made it to 4+ months. The secret to odourless denim? The freezer. I aired and aired the jeans, religiously, but there were a few hot weeks in November and airing in the end did little. You whack the jeans in the freezer for 24 hours, however... Perfect! 24 hours seems to be enough to kill the bacteria that live off your sweat, dead skin cells, body lotion, etc. Now, this isn't without problems, of course - freezers consume considerable energy. But, I think if you have one in operation already, a pair of jeans doesn't take up much space or extra energy to freeze, though I'd love to see someone investigate this.

In the end, though, because of the sweat, dead skin cells and body lotion residue I am looking forward to washing the jeans soon. One more month, maybe two... And to take your mind off my dead skin cells, here are some images from Eco Chic, a show in Jakarta, Indonesia.

project runway australia

If that sort of thing interests you, applications for Project Runway Australia close on Sunday. Since I don't have cable and won't be watching, I won't know if the competitors will be tested on such essential design skills as printing off pictures from and giving these to a patternmaker, or attending a champagne launch for a thrush medication on a Wednesday morning so that your picture may appear in the Sunday papers. But please do tell me all about it when it begins.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Everyone in my inner circle would know that I'm not exactly up there when it comes to new technology and new things on the web, even if I may have been part of the first wave to leave Facebook. I've known of for quite some time but never got around to it until last week. Some of my fellow research students do know me for my, um, somewhat anally retentive bookmarking, so it's hard to believe it took this long for me to join. I joined on Friday, and imported all the bookmarks from Firefox and IE on my uni computer. 1200+... By the time I'd done the same at home - let's not even go there. It may be a blessing I've yet to work out how to do the same from Safari. I've spent four days culling and cleaning (not unlike the experience of leaving Facebook, actually), and whilst there are some obvious missing tags and things that don't necessarily make the sense they could yet, here they are.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

information wanted: Andrew Hague

In Kate Fletcher's book there is a photo of a shirt (p. 153) by Andrew Hague, described as "efficient pattern cutting concept shirt to address wastage". I did Google searches for 'Andrew Hague fashion' and 'Andrew Hague patterncutting', with little success in the first five or so results pages. I did find this, the MySpace of a Andrew Hague. I will contact him later, to see if he's the one. I should contact Fletcher, too, to ask for more information and thank her for the book (a must!). But, if you know more, please email me on timo.i.rissanen at For whatever reason, there is no reference to Hague in the body of the book.

Oh, and the book with my chapter in it should be out by mid-April - I just got word on the weekend that there has been a slight delay. I'm still not completely over my embarrassment that the chapter includes no reference to the research work of Deborah K. Burnham but naturally I will rectify this in any future publications. Thanks to Kathleen Fasanella and Alexandra Palmer for introducing me to her work. On Palmer, the latest issue of Fashion Theory has a fabulous article by her, with a fascinating account of her education at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art under Stella Blum, during the Diana Vreeland era. In fact, the entire issue, on fashion exhibitions, is fantastic, and I'm finding it really helpful as I find myself involved in three different exhibitions over the next 18 months. One is, of course, my PhD exhibition, I'm contributing to the catalogue of one by two colleagues and I'm co-curating one for 2009.