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 time around, the Dress section looks at sustainable fashion, as we attempt to clarify some terms and engage in the serious debate in which the contemporary fashion industry is involved.
We kick off with Kate Fletcher’s Slow Fashion: An Invitation for Systems Change. In some circles, ‘fast’ has become a proxy for a type of fashion that epitomizes ideas of unsustainability. Yet high speed is not in itself a descriptor of unethical and/or environmentally damaging practices, but a tool that is used to increase sales and deliver economic growth with attendant ecological and social effects. Questions about speed probe deeply into the economic systems, business models, and value sets that underpin the fashion sector today and which profoundly shape its sustainability potential. In this article, ideas and practices of the lexicographical opposite to ‘fast’, i.e. slow culture, are framed as an opportunity to begin to engage better with systems-level questions in the fashion sector in order to build deeper and longer-lasting change towards sustainability.
Hazel Clark contributes SLOW FASHION — an Oxymoron — or a Promise for the Future ...? Conceptually, the slow food movement provides the point of departure for this article, which asks if the slow approach can offer a sustainable solution for fashion. Three ‘lines of reflection’ are addressed: the valuing of local resources and distributed economies; transparent production systems with less intermediation between producer and consumer; and sustainable and sensorial products that have a longer usable life and are more highly valued than typical ‘consumables’. Each is investigated using examples that together address the possible global dominance of fast fashion, provide more sustainable ways of approaching fashion, and concentrate on the implication of fashion as actual material garments, which are used and discarded. The approaches mentioned simultaneously challenge existing hierarchies of designer, producer, and consumer; question the notion of fashion being concerned exclusively with the new; confront fashion’s reliance on image; present fashion as a choice rather than as a mandate; and highlight collaborative/cooperative work — providing agency especially to women.
Nathaniel Dafydd Beard presents The Branding of Ethical Fashion and the Consumer: A Luxury Niche or Mass-market Reality? This article seeks to address the branding and marketing of ecofashion or ethical fashion, juxtaposing the experiences of today’s, often confused, fashion consumers with the promotional methodologies used by sometimes equally confused fashion brands. Looking at the rise of ethical fashion, the author takes into consideration the factors that have influenced this. In addition, the lifestyle and societal indicators that affect consumer behavior in relation to purchasing ecofashion are also investigated. Further to this theoretical discussion, the article concludes with a reflection on today’s practical manifestations of the branding and promotion of ecofashion, and the challenges ahead that both fashion brands, and consumers, face in the continuation and sustainability of ecofashion.
Sue Thomas contributes From ‘Green Blur’ to Ecofashion: Fashioning an Eco-lexicon. Language is created or co-opted to map and navigate the new territory of developing ideas. Ecofashion is part of that mapping: encompassing terms, adopting and adapting many theories. The signpost for the ecofashion movement was the launch of Esprit Ecollection in November 1991. Over the last fifteen years the fashion industry, educational institutions, media, and consequently consumers have become more aware of the environmental and ecological movement. Environmental, ecological, green, sustainable, ethical, recycled, organic, and inclusive (universal) fashion and fashion design, as terms, coexist, cross-fertilize, and are readily confused. The lack of discussion of the phenomenon and debate has fueled misunderstandings, and terminology (especially in the general and fashion media) is often misused. Fashion as a design discipline has been late to investigate the theoretical greening of the design production loop, lagging behind industrial design and architecture, unlike consumer activist campaigns where fashion has been targeted more than other disciplines. The situation demonstrates the tension in fashion between theoretical and practical, and the immediate social, economic, and environmental impact of decisions. To go forward, we need to be proactive and visionary in ideas and specifically language. In essence, we need to know the clear meaning of the language we use. Terminology provides definition, clarity, and boundaries which may be fought or celebrated. A lexicon is required. It is timely to consider language: its past, current, and future meanings. The article will discuss the terms used and their concept, history, and reality in the fashion industry and media. It will situate fashion within design areas addressing environmental, sustainable, ethical, and inclusive (universal) design, whilst identifying new and particular emerging terms.
Olga Gurova and Darya Morozova present ‘Where Others See Waste, We See Treasures’: Sustainable Fashion in Scandinavia. This article discusses the concept of sustainable fashion, by which is understood fashion produced and consumed with a responsible attitude towards people and the planet. Drawing on literature, the article traces controversies and paradoxes within this concept. Sustainable fashion is analyzed in the context of Scandinavian countries, where it has gained popularity not only among fashion designers. Sustainable fashion has been linked to the circular economy, a regenerative economic system based on principles of ‘closed loops’; a transition to the circular economy has become one of the policy goals of the European Union as well as of nation states in Europe. On a practical level, the article looks at three cases of Scandinavian fashion brands, which implement different elements of sustainable fashion. Overall, the article contemplates the reasons for the popularity of sustainable fashion in Scandinavian countries, where governments, businesses and consumers have been showing a growing level of interest in it.
Ekaterina Vasilieva contributes The Strategy of Fashion: The Phenomenon of the New and the Principle of Sustainability. Frequent stereotypes in the understanding of fashion are the view that it is fascinated with the phenomenon of novelty, and that changeability is an identifying factor of fashion. In her article, Ekaterina Vasilieva looks at fashion as something stable, constant and habitual, where sustainability plays as important a part as the desire for change, novelty and transformation. Examining the main issues connected with sustainable fashion, Vasilieva essentially defines this concept, looking at the stereotypes and contradictions with which it is associated. The author focuses on the tensions between a stable constant, fashion’s tendency towards balance, on the one hand, and its aspirations to regulate stable values, on the other. Vasilieva also looks at issues around the notion of fashion as a rapidly changing mechanism.
Focusing on the body, new technologies and sensibilities, this issue’s Body section opens with Irina Sirotkina’s paper WebBody: Digital Corporeality and Kinaesthesia. Following the emergence of such concepts as web fiction and digitisation, the article puts forward the concept of the WebBody, a fusion of the real physical body and digital technology. A WebBody is not the same as a cyborg: in cyborgs, or cybernetic organisms, the living organism is inseparable from its technological features. In a WebBody, the two can be separated, despite the physical body and computer technologies functioning together as a single unit. The digitisation of the body does not mean that it is totally engulfed by the internet and disappears. The body retains its sensitivity, including that most intimate inner sensation of movement, kinaesthesia. The WebBody heralds changes in what we refer to as ‘body techniques’ and ‘movement culture’: the kinaesthetic, movement-related habits of today’s humans.
Nello Barile and Satomi Sugiyama present Wearing Data: From McLuhan’s ‘Extended Skin’ to the Integration Between Wearable Technologies and a New Algorithmic Sensibility. One of the current issues in fashion studies resides in the area of wearable technologies research. The intersection between fashion and technology has been studied; however, as technology, particularly information and communication technologies (ICTs), evolves at a rapid speed, this topic has become increasingly important in recent years. This paper proposes to apply Marshall McLuhan’s ideas on media and fashion as an analytical framework of wearable technologies, particularly focusing on the case of Hussein Chalayan. Analysis of Chalayan’s work suggests progressive integration between design innovation and increasingly elaborate storytelling techniques. The paper argues that the smartly clothed body produces data as well as wearing it. The extended skin is equipped with artificial sensory systems, extending our natural body and sensory systems into the augmented space; the extended skin is datafied and the body is datafied.
The Culture section looks at the principles behind the formation of museum dress collections, and at private initiatives in the collection of costume.
Claire Wilcox’s ‘Who Gives a Frock?’ Valerie D. Mendes, Jean Muir and the Building of the National Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum investigates the private and public responsibilities of building the national collection of textiles and fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Taking the British designer Jean Muir’s collection as a case study and drawing on previously unpublished oral history recordings by Dr Linda Sandino, it interrogates the way in which Valerie D. Mendes, Assistant Keeper of Textiles
William DeGregorio contributes ‘Hallowed with Memory’: The Colis de Trianon Collections of Costume and Haute Couture at the Costume Institute.
As Lou Taylor has written, a defining feature of American museum collections of costume is ‘their wealth of couture garments’. This article investigates the pioneering and ultimately dominant role of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a collector of this material — a marked shift from its founding interests — by exploring a little known 1940 charitable exhibition at the Wanamaker department stores in New York and Philadelphia, organized by socialites Lady Mendl, Mrs. Harrison Williams, and Mrs. Ector O. Munn. The collection of immediately pre-war haute couture garments exhibited and subsequently donated to the Costume Institute in 1946 formed the material and qualitative core of the young institution’s collection of essentially ‘new’ haute couture, setting a precedent for a strategy of collecting that remains paramount. Emphasizing the long-term impact of this groundbreaking assemblage on the Costume Institute’s collection and exhibition program, this article analyzes the changing epistemological contexts — from tantalizing glimpses inside the celebrity wardrobes to ‘historicized’ objects of practical study and finally as art — of this collection and the garments it comprises through an examination of the exhibitions in which it has played a significant role.
Susan Jane Bishop presents Motivations for Private Collecting. In his seminal text, Collecting in a Consumer Society (1995), Russell W. Belk proposed that modern hedonists live out their desires through the consumption of goods. Other texts by contemporary fashion experts have made explicit that collecting dress is in many respects unlike collecting other media, not least because the acquisition is not strategic. Clothes are usually bought to be worn, and the fact that a number of items might at some point constitute a collection often ‘creeps up’ on the wearer. Using oral testimony as the core methodology, this paper explores some intriguing personal motivations for four private collectors of women’s dress.
Philippa Allison’s Collecting and Selling Everyday Clothing Narratives on eBay explores the practice of collecting everyday clothing narratives online, using eBay in particular as an unlikely source to find fascinating stories giving evidence to lives lived in garments. The author specifically references the collection Sentimental Value (www.sentimental-value.com) and the stories that have been brought together by private collector Emily Spivack. The collection is homage to eBay as a platform for collecting, but also offers insight into the ways in which people chose to use the platform to divulge information on their personal lives.
In this issue Fashion Business column we present Hilary Davidson’s paper Grave Emotions: Textiles and Clothing from Nineteenth-Century London Cemeteries. What is the last thing someone ever wears, who decides, and what emotions do those garments embody? Excavations by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) of two 1840s Non-Conformist and Baptist cemetery sites answer some of these questions for poorer
In this issue’s Events section, Ksenia Gusarova contributes A Textile Alphabet of Modern Art, her review of the ‘Fabric of Felicity’ exhibition at Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art (12 September 2018 — 27 January 2019).
In her paper Feet in Fashion, or Sweet Emancipation, Irina Sirotkina reviews ‘Les Années Folles. Photography, Suits and Shoes from the Shoe Icons Collection’, an exhibition from the XI Moscow International Biennale ‘Fashion and Style in Photography — 2019’ at Moscow’s Multimedia Art Museum (6 March — 19 May 2019).
Anna Davydova’s Porcelain Fashion reviews ‘Tatiana Chapurgina’s Porcelain Fashion’ at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (5 December 2018 — 10 March 2019).
In The Russian Headscarf: Warm, Smart and Meaningful, Maria Terekhova takes a look at ‘Headscarves and Shawls in Russia from the Eighteenth to the Twenty First Century’ at St. Petersburg’s Russian Museum (20 December 2018 — 11 March 2019).
Olga Nikitina presents The Bolshoi at the Manezh, her impressions of the exhibition ‘Museum and Theatre. 100 Years Together (1918—2018)’ at Moscow’s New Manezh Exhibition Hall (19 December 2018 — 14 April 2019).
Tatyana Vedeneyeva’s A Man for a Suit reviews ‘Piero Tosi. Exercises in Beauty. The CSC [Experimental Cinema Centre] Years, 1988—2016’ (‘Piero Tosi. Esercizi sulla bellezza. Gli anni del CSC, 1988—2016’) at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (16 October 2018 — 20 January 2019).
In this issue’s Books section, Hans J. Rindisbacher contributes Modesty Is Back In Fashion, a review of ‘Contemporary Muslim Fashions’, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Munich; London; NY: DelMonico Books, Prestel: 2018 (the catalogue for the ‘Contemporary Muslim Fashions’ exhibition organised by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 22 September 2018 — 6 January 2019).
Irina Sirotkina offers Dancing with Your Feet and Your Head, her review of ‘The Bloomsbury Companion to Dance Studies’ ed. by Sh. Dodds. London: Bloomsbury, 2019. 465 pp.