IFFTI 2020: Between Individual and Society. Practice Based Research

Practice Based Research

Fashion scholarship, in the form of creative art practice, provides a unique chance for researchers to express abstracted ideas as they relate to the body and identity, or the community and identity, in clothing and appearance. Not surprisingly, the role of the educator and advocate for change, features prominently in many of the creative researcher’s work. Katherine Townsend, Emma Prince, Alison Escott, Gill Barker and Tim Bassford contributed the outcomes of student work focused on expanding the design experience in support of social good in Emanuel House X NTU: Be Protected; Be Visible; Be Functional; Be Secure; Be Transformable. The project brought groups of students to work with members of a homeless shelter to create up-cycled clothing that solved specific requirements through a user centered design focus. Polly Kenny in Using Digital Resources to Develop Responsible Design: ARTCHERIE Project reports on a project with students that utilizes digital archives aimed at negotiating the importance of cultural and social responsibility while considering inclusivity and diversity.

Jennifer Whitty expands the scope of her role as teacher beyond the immediate classroom to encompass the general public in her proposed flash-mob performance Throwaway. The flash-mob was aimed at engaging the public encouraging consideration of the intricate relationship with clothing, the meaning that we instill in our dress, and our shared responsibility of the disposal of that clothing. Similarly, Shweta Rangekar, Patricia Sumod and Kundlata Mishra in #NoStitchSeptember- A Surreal Journey Towards Sustainable Fashion engaged the larger community via social media to conduct an experiment utilizing both historical precedent and contemporary zero-waste methodology for possible solutions to sustainable practice.

Other academics were inspired by their students and the inherent negotiations of inclusivity, diversity, social justice and environmental concerns that youth must encounter as their world view expands upon entry into adulthood. Anne Porterfield created work which engaged students as subjects in a discussion of body image and inclusivity in Every Body Fits Here. Porterfield reminds us that as subjective and objective participants in the fashion system, educators must consistently navigate increasingly outdated notions of beauty and acceptance. Sue Hershberger Yoder and Melissa Campbell were inspired by the similarities of student protests stemming from the Vietnam War in the 1970s and the 2018 protests of students inspired by inaction of the government to combat gun violence in Kindred Bloom Collaboration. In both cases craft practice is an important element conveying intimacy of personal creation and self-representation.

Continuing in this examination of personal statements within a larger context of society, the following artists used their work to suggest the importance of clothing as a form of protest. Travis W Li, Elita YN Lam, and Eddy S. Lui show what happens when designers and environmental activists come together in Fashion Activism with Community: Co-Design Project Between Fashion Designers and Bike Commuters in Hong Kong. Here designers support bike-commuters desire to utilize carbon neutral transportation by co-designing biking-friendly clothing that also calls attention to environmentalism. Krissi Riewe in Sewn at $0.13/hour presents a visual representation of elapsed time, pointing out the unappreciated and underpaid makers of clothing. A singular dress, with the handprints of all that have touched it in the process of making it, reminds the viewer of the labor involved in making clothing that we all take for granted. Finally, Anahita Suri utilizes the controversial Muslim ‘burqa’ to call attention to the misunderstandings that Muslims and non-Muslims have attached to this piece of women’s clothing in her installation Wrap Me Up…Or Not….

Throughout these papers and presentations, a viewer will undoubtedly see the thoughtful and considered approach of global fashion researchers and academics seeking to affect positive change in the fashion industry and in our global community. IFFTI researchers have advanced several interesting and compelling case studies, creative projects, and qualitative or quantitative studies which add to the breadth of knowledge we share in the hopes that we can make a difference for the environment, for society and the greater good.


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