Fashioning the Body – A New Narrative

Have you ever thought about why we wear what we wear?

What does it means for (the collection of) garments when it’s worn by us?

How does it change everything?

The city is a scape painted only to its completion added by the droplets of character and richness bought together by wear, reflected and bouncing off each other one the streets. We cut and paste, paste to cut, cut sans paste, and all the of above.

Let’s not get too Freudian here, but lets admit it – the modernist movement since the late 19th to 20th century has led about the rise of cities and cosmopolitanism. Think Moulin Rouge, Ballet Russes, spectacles and spectacles that worked together with new expressions via the likes of Picasso (Cubism), Klimst (Art Nouveau), Van Gogh, Matisse (Fauvism), Boccioni (Futurism), the Delauneys (Orphism), Kandinsky (Bauhaus), Munch (Expressionism), Duchamp (Dadaism), Mondrian (De Stijl), Dali (Surrealism) to the latter Warhol (Pop)

The deconstructing notion of the ‘self’, the ‘unconscious’ as well as sexual becoming has become centralised in the period of Enlightenment, causing Western counterparts to express thetransgression of ideas into a multitude of art forms. The Manifesto of the Futurists attempted to create disorder through dynamic, juxtaposed shapes and forms, representing the notion of movement in still sculptures; Cubists cut out fragments and reconstructed reality just as Picasso rejected the classical female beauty and depicted a crude portrayal in his 1907 Des Mademoiselles D’Avigon (see below for illustator Achraf Amiri’s beautiful Lanvin interpretation); Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists explored dreamscapes and the unconscious – Kandinsky captured music and dance through colourful, gestural strokes in Improvisation. Following this route, fashion creates a dialogue with art and reconveys the myriad of new meanings via our ‘second skin’.

Styles and trends of a certain decade reflect its macro and micro-environment of sub/culture, values, politics, economy, climate, religion, architecture, cityscape, art, philosophy. Fashion then, tells a story on several parts – broadly speaking, it narrates a past of people, perhaps a city and its sensory signifiers that provokes mood. A fashion line is then not only a reaction to its time but is the aesthetic projection of the designer’s own personal narrative at the time. Secondly, whatever garment is chosen by the wearer is chosen for a purpose driven by either a conscious or unconscious emotive trigger point. The garment – a story within a story – adds on to the wearer’s own narrative, enhancing their social identity, projected onto the streets where it will be taken as a trigger for someone else’s narrative, and so forth. It is then not only the process of cutting – but also wearing and exhibiting – that contributes to simultaneous dialogues of modern thought to form one continuous cycle. Fashion is precisely an information transmittor, ‘a visual schema between self and chaos in environment’ (Ellsworth Kelly), “poised as the intersection of design, strategy, economic, critical theory, visual culture, and contemporary art” (Simon 2007)

Consider the modern identity of consumers, factoring in the subject of globalisation: to some, there are pessimistic outlooks on an apocalyptic return the ‘lost souls’ or misplace of origin. Growing numbers of new ‘nomadic’ identities are created by globalising factors such as rapid urbanisation, travel culture, immigration, and internet communication technology, – the transgressed ‘Silk Route’ so to say – exchanging religion, language, arts, culture (customs), fashion ideas at a rapid speed, across the world in different cosmopolitan cities centres. While one may argue these travelling identities are searching for fragments of the past or unattainable future through fashion pieces, to add value to their social projection – I would be to differ. Fast exchanges and diverse identities of fashion narratives in the global environment has led to a few promising factors: the rise of subcultures and return to the niche through wearer’s individualised narratives (via remixing cultural/travel experiences), and the return to heritage in many luxury fashion labels as a reaction to fears of the prior ‘lost souls’ panic by many.  As a result, we see formations of New Narratives in Fashion as written by Professor Kathryn Simon. Fashion curatorship in museums and visual merchandising in retail spaces has become recognised as a new narrative for fashion garments – removed from the body as ‘second skin’ and instead worn by appropriated museum settings – it stands alone as a still art form, this time ejected as a information transmitter to have a voice of its own, retelling its story from the past to create a dialogue with the now.



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