Recent Publications

Dr. Mark Joseph O’Connell (PhD Communication and Culture, Ryerson University: “Mors Naviculam: The Globalization of Canadian Fashion through Trade, Policy and Regulation”; MA Fashion, Ryerson University; BA, OCADU) is a an award-winning professor of fashion studies at Seneca College, Toronto, Canada. His essays have been published in Fashion Theory; Textile the Journal of Cloth and Culture;Fashion, Style & Popular Culture and Fashion Studies. He has lectured on fashion, material culture and craft-based social justice movements in the U.S., Mexico and Canada (in English and Spanish). His chapter “CoverRead more

Toller Cranston in San Miguel de Allende

    Normally I travel a great deal. For research, for pleasure, for the opportunity to meet new people, see new things. Not now. Since traveling is not currently an option, well not a good option anyway, I have taken the opportunity to travel back through my own journeys and to revisit some of the places I’ve been and things that I’ve seen. I’m living vicariously through myself (how meta).   This has actually proven to be surprisingly rewarding. OnRead more

Rich Relations: The Evolution and Uneasy Symbiosis of Art and Fashion

From its earliest roots, art was used to codify and communicate what is fashionable, powerful and luxurious. Recently, however, through institutional mega art projects like the Fondation LV and the Fondazione Prada, fashion seeks not just to legitimize itself, but to position itself as patron-cum-collaborator. Up until now the art world has been happy to take the money, but has been ambivalent towards the commercialization that co-branding brings. However, as the highest grossing exhibits at hallowed cultural institutions – like the McQueen retrospective at the Met – have been fashion based. It seems, as of late, the fashion industry has gone past sponsorship and now seems to be colonizing the environs of the art world itself. These new imbrications hold significance for a broad range of related topics such as creative appropriation, feminist theory, and issues of gendered representation and power. As such, the politics of criteria for inclusion and collection must now become a necessary aspect of the dialogue within fashion, art and museum studies, and the thinking that situates them as discrete entities that exist within autonomous domains irrelative to each other also needs to be challenged. This article explores the cartography between autonomous art culture, fashion marketing, and fashion exhibition, and the increased blurring of their overlapping borders. It also looks at the commercialization of the museum and fine art institutional domain.Read more

Modular Menswear

Highlights from my fashion label: Modular Menswear, a brand that focused on handworked knitwear, artisanal (local) tailored production, using gorgeous fabrics imported form Europe. active at the turn of the century!Read more

Sweetarts: The Politics of Exclusion, and Camping Out with Susan Sontag at the Met

“Sweetarts: The Politics of Exclusion, and Camping Out with Susan Sontag at the Met” (2019) Mark O’Connell “I have a confession to make, here, lean in a little closer, I’ll whisper it: I went to the Camp exhibition at the Met, fully expecting not to like it…”   Abstract:   Camp, historically a coded communication of queer identity has been recently dragged out of the closet and into the limelight with the exhibition “Camp, Notes on Fashion” (2019) at theRead more

“Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture” by Dr. Cheryl Thompson (Book Review)

Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture by Cheryl Thompson (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2019) Abstract With her recent publication Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty Culture, Dr. Cheryl Thompson provides an in-depth exploration of the history and evolution of the Canadian beauty industry, in particular focusing on hair products for black consumers, but within this analysis has also brought in relevant and timely discussions concerning: politics of representation, accessRead more

Sine Qua Non: An Exploration of a “Catholic Imagination” at the Met

“Sine Qua Non: An Exploration of a ‘Catholic Imagination’ at the Met” (2019) Mark O’Connell   Abstract: Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a hallowed cultural institution, was transformed into an ecclesiastical couture extravaganza through the installation of the Anna Wintour Costume Institute’s latest exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. This exhibition showcased papal finery as well as gorgeous couture gowns juxtapositioned with icons from the Met’s collection in various galleries, some even installed withinRead more

Lux Perpetua: Future Pioneers Utilizing Historical Precedent as Design Innovation Within Fashion

“Lux Perpetua: Future Pioneers Utilizing Historical Precedent as Design Innovation Within Fashion” Mark O’Connell (2019) Abstract: Could the future of fashion be found in the past? As a result of the cumulative negative effects of over-consumption of fashion globally and the commensurate resource depletion this requires, as well as the sometimes catastrophic impacts on the laborers who make them, the accelerated pace of current fast fashion systems are now fundamentally unsustainable. There are however fashion producers who are putting sustainabilityRead more

Redefining Design 2019, Seneca College Fashion Arts (FAA) Graduate Collections

Congratulations to our class of 2019 graduating Fashion Arts students (FAA) of Seneca College. The collections that were seen on the runway at Daniel’s Spectrum on the evening of Thursday, April 25th were truly outstanding. On display-aside from the excellent construction and design expertise-were sustainability innovations, clever subversion of cultural tropes and stereotypes, intriguing exploration of proportion, as well as gender subversive design concepts. It was exciting to see the end result of all the hard work, creativity and skillRead more

Death Climb to Serenity: Tepoztlán, Morelos

I visited the Mexican hillside community of Tepoztlán. Located in the state of Morelos the town is about an hour and a half from Mexico City. I was there to investigate local textile production and distribution, and I took the opportunity to explore the community and local territory. The town turned out to be both an engaging and beautiful locale. The air is clear, the townspeople are welcoming and there is a local population of healers and mystics, both indigenousRead more

Cuernavaca, Robert Brady & Emperor Maximilian

I traveled to Cuernavaca to see the Robert Brady Museum, and survey his extensive collection of art, furniture and objects of cultural significance. Brady was a free-spirited refugee from a wealthy Iowa family who eventually settled in Mexico, and in addition to being a skilled painter had spectacular taste in art and objects. The best of his collections cover most available wall space, but somehow the house never feels overwhelming. The ambiance reminded me of Canadian Olympian figure skater TollerRead more

Design Engagements in Puebla, Mexico

I recently had the pleasure of giving two lectures and visiting leading design schools in Puebla City, Mexico. The first lecture: “El Paisaje de la Moda Canadiense y la Investigación de Sostenibilidad de la Moda” was held on March 26, 2019 at the School of Design at Ibero University. I talked (in Spanish) to the students in the textile design program about my recent research in Oaxaca, as well as discussed fashion sustainability in the Canadian context. The students askedRead more

The Ruins at Mitla, a Legacy of Proto Surface Design

On the advice of friends from the weaving community of Santa Ana del Valle, I visited the Zapotec architectural ruins at Mitla, about an hour from Oaxaca City, Mexico. Like many legacies of pre-Hispanic cultures much of the site was taken apart and used to build new buildings that supported the visual supremacy of conquering forces. What is significant however is what has been left. The walls of the ruins are made of decorative repeating motifs, or “grecas” in Spanish.Read more

Visiting the Studios of Zapotec Weavers in Santa Ana del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico

Carpets woven in Mexico today use design elements found at historical sites in the vicinity of their manufacture, and local indigenous weaving techniques function within an unbroken line of traditional familial wisdom. The weaving culture of the Zapotec Nation of Oaxaca now exists at the juncture of multivalent competing visual, economic and cultural mediators, which makes for a compelling case study to examine the impacts of globalization, as well as the preservation of creative and cultural autonomy. Textile weaving isRead more

Natural Dye Intensive: San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

In February of 2019 I participated in a natural dye intensive taught by sustainable fashion designer and master dyer Nereida Bonmati of Naive Slow Fashion, at the Tlapanochestli Grana Cochinillia in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico. During this fascinating and academically rigorous engagement with the practical application of natural dyes I learned about the following natural dyestuffs: pericone; brazilwood; huizache; cochineal; and añil (indigo). I also learned about the history of natural dyeing in Mexico, the history of cochineal (preRead more

Night Time on the Wild Patch

Night Time on the Wild Patch A short film on my performative art installation, created during a residency at the Centre for Creative Communication at Centennial College Toronto, Canada (2010). This piece engages with my own counter-temporal processes of grieving. The catalyst for making this piece was the premature loss of my friend Marianne. Grieving her, I felt the memories of other friends; friends lost to me due to addiction, AIDS and accident. The grief came and went, ebbing andRead more