Dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of fashion from an academic perspective, the quarterly journal Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture views fashion as a cultural phenomenon, offering the reader a wide range of articles by leading Western and Russian specialists, as well as classical texts on fashion theory. From the history of dress and design to body practices; from the work of well-known designers to issues around consumption in fashion; from beauty and the fashionable figure through the ages to fashion journalism, fashion and PR, fashion and city life, art and fashion, fashion and photography — Fashion Theory covers it all.
This special issue of the journal is devoted to Nordic fashion.
Lise Skov presents Dreams of Small Nations in a Polycentric Fashion World. Fashion production, the author suggests, has been split between a globalized clothing industry, which tends towards extreme centralization, and localized designer fashion sectors, acting as intermediaries between international suppliers and national events, media and the public. Under these conditions, designer fashion takes on national significance in terms of staging events and displays, and engaging with cultural references outside the field of fashion. The article explores how such place-making abilities structure the polycentric world of fashion, taking the United Nations Security Council as a model for the interaction between first- and second-tier fashion cities. The article analyzes the rhetoric of new fashion centres as a traveling discourse that detaches fashion design from the concerns of textile and clothing industries and links it with those of cultural institutions and governments. The author also examines how notions of cultural superiority have held European designers back from giving local flavour to their designs, although there has recently been an approximation between fashion and folk culture.
Marie Riegels Melchior offers Danish Fashion: History, Design and Identity. In this paper, the concept of Danish fashion is examined in the context of history, both as a design object and as a subject of discussions on identity. Since the turn of the millennium, the idea of Danish fashion has gained new force, creating a strong belief in its potential within the industry itself, as fashion designers seek not only to dress consumers in casual and accessible fashion design, but also to improve the sustainability of the global fashion industry. As such, the concept of Danish fashion tells a story from the periphery of the multi-polar fashion system that demonstrates how fashion has gained increased importance as a cultural and economic activity in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.
Maria Mackinney-Valentin’s paper New Nordic Directions in Teaching Fashion Theory in Practice presents LiFT (Lab in Fashion Theory), a new method in fashion teaching intended to enable the use of theory as an active tool in fashion practice. This tool is intended to infuse philosophical thought into the design process as a trigger for concept development, as well as an aid in cultivating a discourse that enables students to understand and articulate the meaning and relevance of their own work. Developing a strong voice in fashion — visually as well as in writing and speech — is an important ability for future fashion designers navigating the shifting landscape of the fashion industry and society in general.
Else Skjold contributes The Wardrobe Method as Key to Developing New Understanding of Sustainability Research, Teaching and Artistic Development at Design School Kolding. At Design School Kolding (DSKD), where the author currently works, the ongoing academization of design, and the expanded notion of design in general, has influenced education on many levels. In this article the author elaborates on how it has influenced fashion education in particular. In order to illustrate how these changes came about, and how they are currently being practiced at the school in question, Skjold starts out by highlighting some fundamental ideas and approaches embedded in the Danish (fashion) design tradition, and in the fashion avant-garde tradition, which have affected development at DSKD since it opened in 1967. Regarding the development of the school’s fashion education from around 2010 onwards, the author shows how the notion of design thinking with its specific agenda of user understanding and user engagement has influenced the understanding of fashion at the school through the so-called Wardrobe Method. Skjold also highlights how this understanding works as a driver of the school’s teaching and research into sustainability. To exemplify this approach, she focuses on a research project about fur, a material that has had a central place in Danish history since the 1930s. In 2014−2018, the author was engaged in a research project on the potential for sustainable practices related to fur. This was carried out within the framework of a partnership agreement between Design School Kolding and the Danish auction house Kopenhagen Fur. The partnership included three levels of cooperation: research, teaching and artistic development. On the basis of this project, the author shows how the Wardrobe Method has been a key element for instance in developing research into sustainable best practices for fashion, innovative teaching methods, and prototypes for communication formats focusing in particular on the design and use of fur, and on strategies for design for longevity that speak to the current debate on how fashion might develop in a more sustainable direction in the future.
Kristen Holm-Jenssen offers Museum Collections in a Global Fashion Industry. By the end of the Cold War, the Danish textile industry was transformed into a fashion industry. For a textile museum, however, this process turned out to be difficult to deal with, as it challenged the museum to reconsider its collecting and communicating practice. In the paper, this question is discussed through an analysis of objects from the collection of a textile museum in Herning,
Kirsten Toftegard presents Designmuseum Danmark and the Making of a Fashion and Dress Collection. A museum is characterized not only by its exhibitions, but also by the content of its collections and its research. Changing times and changes in ideas and attitudes have influenced the nature of the collection in Designmuseum Danmark, as in many other similar museums around the Western world. Originally, Designmuseum Danmark’s Dress, Fashion and Textile Collection was built up through collecting textiles. One can say that the Dress and Fashion Collection originated from the Textile Collection. In her chapter ‘Collecting Practice: Designmuseum Danmark’ in the anthology Fashion and Museums: Theory and Practice (Melchior and Svensson, 2014), the author attempts to shed light on the collecting traditions for textiles, dress and fashion in the context of Designmuseum Danmark. The chapter argues the importance of textiles, dress and fashion in museums complementing each other, and being equal in terms of collecting and exhibiting (Toftegaard, 2014). The current paper looks at how dress and fashion slowly made their way into the collections of Designmuseum Danmark, Copenhagen. Around a hundred years after the foundation of the museum, the Textile Collection became the Dress, Fashion and Textile Collection. The author touches on the history of the museum and the collection, offering an overview of the criteria and guidelines for collecting for the Dress, Fashion and Textile Collection. The paper then presents some contemporary and historical examples and highlights from the collection. Finally, the author examines the museum’s exhibitions and research on dress and fashion in particular.
This issue presents an interview with Faroese fashion designer Sissal Kj. Kristiansen, the creative power behind the Shisa Brand.
Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir presents The New Nordic Cool: Bjцrk, Fashion, and Icelandic Art Today. It was only in the early twenty first century that Icelandic fashion captured international attention, and Icelandic designers started dreaming of recognition in the global fashion system. Over the last few decades, they have oscillated between affirming a cosmopolitan vision of a ‘trendy’ North, and a commercial desire to brand their products through a reconstructed identity rooted in notions of cultural authenticity based on their relationship to nature. Inspired by the international success of Bjцrk as a global style icon, young Icelandic fashion designers now dream of stepping forward in the international fashion world by exploring their historical past.
Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Kirsi Laitala present Did You Make That Yourself? Why So Much Handmade Knitwear in Norway? Knitwear in the form of two-colour Norwegian Sweaters with stars is among the main things that are sold to tourists in Norway. Sweaters and mittens with Norwegian designs are the obvious gifts for guests from abroad. This is also the case in Iceland and Shetland, but not in the other Nordic countries. Why? Or more precisely, why is knitwear, handmade knitwear in particular, so common in Norway? The authors attempt to answer this question by looking at some of the historical factors that have contributed to maintaining the home production of knitwear in the prosperous country of Norway. Their analysis is based on literature and includes historical contemporary sources, as well as analysis made in retrospect. It examines newspapers and journals, industrial history, company stories and local history, as well as previous research. An important source is researcher Eilert Sundt
Tone Rasch offers Fashion on the Ski Trail: Trousers for Women in the Norwegian Style. Norwegian women switched from wearing skirts to trousers for skiing during the 1930s. In that decade, skiing was widespread both as a leisure activity and as a competitive sport expressing national values based on appreciation of nature, the cold climate and the celebration of polar heroes. Ski pants for women were also connected with women’s liberation, as females demanded the same kit for sports as men. Thus, ski trousers were popular because they were practical, but how did they become fashionable? Clothing stores with dressmaker departments made ski suit collections. Some stores in Oslo collaborated with foreign fashion houses, offering Parisian clothing that could be ordered by local customers. Some garments were however designed by the businesses’ own employees. This was particularly true of the ski suits. Molstad & Co sold ski pants for women from the early 1900s. In the interwar period, interest in skiing increased in the Alps. Famous fashion designers made modern ski clothes with long pants. The Norwegian tailor Frode Braathen worked at Patou in Paris. In 1933, he founded his own clothing company in Oslo, selling ski garments for high-end customers. Braathen also sold designs to foreign fashion houses. Norwegian ski pants became a concept on the Continent: in 1936, the Olympic Winter Games were held in the German alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Folklore-inspired ski clothes with strong national features became fashionable in the Third Reich and spread to Norway. The designer Magna Monsen made ski clothes with colourful wool embroidery as in national costumes. These had short-lived popularity. The pants, however, remained in use.
Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen presents Clothes Make Men. Clothes have long been at the core of Norwegian museum collections. Experienced curators have researched this material for decades, but for many years their research was overshadowed by that produced by universities. Clothes belonged to the field of material culture, thus bearing a smell of dust from the past. Now, after a material turn in history and cultural sciences, this is about to change. Theory-driven research has entered museums, mingling successfully with curators’ findings. To underline the development of dress research in Norwegian museums, the author uses an example from his own research, making eighteenth-century clothes from rich Norwegian farmers his primary source material. In the entanglement of human and non-human actors, he investigates the practices related to aspects of sex and gender (Mol 2002). The term ‘practice’ is crucial, analyzed with the help of the Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). ‘Follow the actors’ is an ANT slogan, and the author argues that textiles exert agency (Latour 2005). His aim is to reveal how this entanglement of museum curatorship and cultural theory is advantageous for understanding gendered dress practices. The handling of artefacts, the author argues, is important: taking artefacts into account makes a difference.
Tone Tobiasson offers Slowing the Flow, Norwegian-Style. In the growing discussion of what is the best agenda for making the fashion industry more sustainable, the big global actors have embraced the so-called ‘circular model’ for green growth. However, critical voices claim this is a way to continue business as usual without making the fundamental change that is needed: to produce less and to use better what we already have. A smaller-scale approach with closer-to-market production and local fibres as part of the mix, has been put forward as a more resilient business model for the future. Through exploring several Norwegian design and sports companies which have all focused on wool, and a tighter and mainly European production-line, we notice a tendency towards slowing the flow, higher quality and prices — alongside a more flexible ability to meet the market. Environmental issues surrounding the shedding of microfibres into the air and waterways and their entering the food chain, have increased and become a major area of concern — highlighting the use-phase of apparel as a vital part of the discussion surrounding sustainability. This again feeds into a critique of the industry’s belief in infinite recycling of materials as the key to green growth.
Namkyu Chun, Kirsi Niinimäki and Olga Gurova contribute Fashion Dreams or Fashion Business: Helsinki as an Emerging Fashion Scene. The intention of this paper is to explore the notion of fashion network in the emerging Finnish fashion scene. Following its recent growth through the international recognition of younger designers, local fashion actors can be seen as faced with a dilemma, torn between the artistic and commercial sides of fashion. Although the artistic side has been celebrated, the business of fashion requires the commercial side to be strengthened in order to scale up to enter broader foreign markets. To demonstrate this development, four stages of local conditions in the city of Helsinki are explored. At the same time, the narrative centres on the emergence of local initiatives, namely Pre-Helsinki, Helsinki-New and Fashion-In-Helsinki. Each initiative formed its own fashion network in accordance with its objectives, which included increasing the international visibility of young fashion designers, establishing more commercial fashion companies, as well as boosting sales. This demonstration shows the importance of balancing between the artistic and commercial sides for the business of fashion. Acknowledging the difficulty of embracing both sides, the paper concludes with a strong emphasis on collaborative skills for fashion designers, to help them make a business out of their fashion dreams.
Minna Cheung and Kirsti Cura offer Sustainable Finnish Fashion as Seen by a Design Educator. This paper presents a design educator’s experience of experiments, courses, and changes in students’ thinking and design approaches towards fashion and textiles. In Finland, as in other Nordic countries, ecological and ethical issues of fashion and textile production have been a part of the design process and its outcome for several years. Eco efficient design has been part of the curriculum of Fashion and Clothing Design at LAMK Institute of Design since 2010. The first course was carried out through a workshop called Zero Waste (Koski 2017). A course entitled Ethical and Ecological Issues of Textiles has helped to broaden the topic, including themes such as ethical and ecological production, as well as closed loop methodology. Since 2011, the curriculum has included a project, in which students are guided through creating concepts for fashion collections based on their own values. The circular economy is one of the focus areas at LAMK. The Faculty of Technology has been studying recycled materials and their processing technologies, mainly plastics, for a long time. More recently, textiles and their reuse and recycling have also become a subject of interest. The first driver was when the European Union’s landfill ban for organic waste came into effect in Finland in 2016. Textile waste is classed as organic waste. The latest driver came at the end of 2017, when it was announced that the Member States of the European Union would have to comply with the obligation to establish separate collection of textile waste by 2025. The article also presents examples of past and present courses, projects and individual works from Lahti University of Applied Sciences.
Philip Warkander’s ‘I Don’t Want a Repetitive Job’: A Study of the Concept and Organisation of Work in the Swedish Fashion Industry asks the question, do we work to live, or live to work? This seemingly trivial question neatly summarizes a long and intensive ideological struggle around the role of remunerated work in contemporary society. It also leads to questions regarding the relationship between consumption culture and labour conditions, as well as, from a more philosophical point of view, what can be considered to constitute a meaningful life. The elusive balance between work hours and leisure time is, especially in creative industries marked by extensive freelance labour, unpaid internships and temporary positions, often more of a goal to strive towards than a lived reality. For this reason, the author has become increasingly interested in what it means to be working in the fashion industry. To be engaged in the production of the symbolic value of fashion is to be part of the staging of the added value to commodity goods. At the same time, part of working in fashion is about ensuring that the job appears as the opposite of work, as effortless, fun and playful leisure. This not only disguises social and economic hierarchies, but also makes it difficult to comprehend power structures and the organisation of labour in this industry. For the past two years, the author has been engaged in ethnographic fieldwork, interviewing stylists, designers, photographers, models, agents and assistants about their work in the Swedish fashion industry. The empirical material has been merged with an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, where ideologically charged perspectives on work and the economy are interlaced with studies on the production of fashion as a symbolic value and on the organisation of fashion production. The analysis has therefore had a twofold focus, not only to conduct a mapping of what working with fashion production entails, but also to question underlying myths surrounding work, life and leisure in contemporary creative industries.
Louise Wallenberg offers A Decade of Challenges and Possibilities: Establishing Fashion Studies at Stockholm University. This article offers an account of the establishment and development of the Centre for Fashion Studies at Stockholm University, Sweden, inaugurated in 2006. The centre, which was initially located with the Department of Art History, and later at the Department of Media Studies, has often been referred to as the very ‘first’ fashion studies institution ever to be positioned within a university (and not within a design school context). The article reflects on the possibilities, challenges and difficulties that creating and developing this space for a ‘new’ field have entailed — both within the local context (in this case, a rather traditional university context), and within a larger scholarly context (which, to a large extent, is dominated by Anglo-American institutions). Where does one look for inspiration? With whom does one create alliances to be able to offer a solid base in fashion studies (when there is none)? Also, how does one create curricula that both include and deviate from the ‘canon’ of previous fashion studies, so that the Anglo-American dominance becomes less pronounced?
Patrik Steorn offers Fashion History as Hybrid: A Transnational Perspective on the Distribution of Fashion History in Sweden,
The object of this article is to suggest a methodological examination of this often neglected group of fashion publications. They are often hybrid in nature, as the roots and genealogy of the texts, ideas and images can be found within different theoretical, textual and visual genres and traditions. The focus on the situation in Sweden offers a perspective from the geographical margins of a traditional fashion history narrative that also proposes to broaden the understanding of transnational communications in this area. Using a print culture perspective, the author considers popular fashion history and theory books both as material objects and as bearers of ideas, texts and images. Granting this type of material a serious systematic investigation demands a methodology that transgresses the limitations of national discourse and that avoids getting stuck in methodologies that repeat previous assumptions on the role and interpretation of fashion.
The author has identified some one hundred publications on twentieth-century fashionable dress in Swedish (many have been translated). These represent something of a layered textual landscape that extends beyond national borders. A selection of the publications within this field is contextualized in order to situate them within the heterogeneous fields of texts, actors and arenas that constitute fashion history writing in the post-war era. It was not possible for the author to conduct a wider transnational comparison at this stage, but references to English-language versions of the discussed works are included in the notes to offer an indication of their further international circulation. The period in focus,
Hanne Eide’s Fashion Education in Sweden Today — What’s Happening? attemps to present an overview of the academic study of fashion in Sweden today. Looking at both practical and theoretical courses, the author examines which major institutions offer higher education in fashion in Sweden today. How are the different programmes organized in each institution in terms of curriculum? Through interviews with key representatives from four major educational institutions in Sweden — the University of Borеs, Beckmans College of Design, Lund University and Stockholm University — readers can get a glimpse of the different programmes available, and assess how the field has developed at various levels, from undergraduate to postgraduate. Besides showcasing the opportunities in fashion education in Sweden today, the article also offers an insight into some interesting research projects and visions for the future.
Maja Gunn’s Fashioning Norm Criticism: Artistic Practice and Research in Norm-Challenging Fashion Contexts offers examples of how a queer practice of critiquing design and norm can be maintained in a research context. The author examines the contexts of academia and the arts, crafts and design, discussing the combinations and occasional complications between different areas. Gunn develops the discussion from the experiences of her own practice and research. The language and structure of this paper should be seen as a dialogue, or perhaps a monologue, in which the reader gains an insight into artistic practice and its ambivalence and variations, whilst also being shown that design and fashion contain the potential to create change.
Daniel Bjork in his short note The New Sustainability looks at brands such as Asket and Atacac that are trying to solve the problem of overproduction and the throwaway mindset of fast fashion.
In her note Ksenia Rundin looks at the project ‘Fashion speaks’ by Belorus-born Swedish artist Ludmila Christeseva who focuses on the theme of femininity, extending and enhancing the perception of fashion beyond the expression of individual identity. The project was presented during Stockholm Fashion Week in August 2018.
Karina Nikolskaya offers Fashion Time Machine: Finding Oneself in the 1950s, her impressions of ‘Mitt