Death Climb to Serenity: Tepoztlán, Morelos

I recently 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, bothRead more

Cuernavaca, Robert Brady & Emperor Maximilian

I recently traveled to Cuernavaca to see the Robert Brady Museum, and survey his extensive collection. Brady was a refugee from a wealthy Iowa family and in addition to being a skilled painter had spectacular taste in art and objects. Both of which cover most available wall space, but somehow the house never feels overwhelming. The ambiance reminded me of Toller Cranston’s house in San Miguel de Allende, the “more is more” Mexicana-chic aesthetic.     Regarding the history ofRead 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

I recently 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. Wave forms, repeating “eye” elements and undulating interleaved diagonals. All of these designRead more

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

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the cartography between autonomous art culture and fashion commerce and the increased blurring of their overlapping borders. 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, butRead more

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

As part of my ongoing research into fashion sustainability and ethical capitalism, I visited the village of Santa Ana del Valle in the Tlacolula region of Oaxaca, Mexico. The Santa Ana weavers supply the famous weaving town of Teotitlan del Valle with weavings, as well as clients in the American Southwest, the master weavers also work on custom orders for an international clientele. The weavers I visited were independent contractors who took on large commissioned weaving orders for their clientRead more

Natural Dye Intensive: San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

In February of 2019 I attended 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 dye I learned about the following natural dyestuffs: Pericone; Brazilwood; Huizache; Cochineal; and Anil (Indigo). I also learned about the history of natural dyeing in Mexico, the colonial history of cochinealRead more

Hudson’s Bay Blanket as a Symbol of Canadian Identity

An examination of the adaptive uses of the Hudson’s Bay blanket, and their selection as an iconic Olympic symbol speak to how deeply engrained they are into the imagination of Canadian identity, and elevate them to far more than just a staple trade item. The blanket can be read simultaneously as a symbol for good and ill, as it denotes both a resilient and creative spirit of adaptation, and also the complicated and sometimes devastating ties with colonial powers overseas.Read more

Conference Presentation: “Heilige Röcke (Holy Skirts) and Liturgical Linings: The Use of Manuscript Materials in the Production of Garments” at the Book History and Print Culture Colloquium March 10, Massey College, University of Toronto

  On Saturday March 10, at the Book History and Print Culture Colloquium at Massey College, University of Toronto, whose theme was “Books Beyond Reading” I presented the following: “Heilige Röcke (Holy Skirts) and Liturgical Linings: The Use of Manuscript Materials in the Production of Garments” (abstract) As revealed through the physical explorations found within codicology research, the processes of manuscript recycling and re-purposing were common throughout history, usually for purposes of mending, or building up spines. However, this researchRead more

“Items: Is Fashion Modern?” at the MOMA

Visited the Items: Is Fashion Modern Exhibition at MOMA which is described on the exhibition website as follows: “Items: Is Fashion Modern? explores the present, past—and sometimes the future—of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries—and continue to hold currency today. Among them are pieces as well-known and transformative as the Levi’s 501s, the Breton shirt, and the Little Black Dress, and as ancient and culturallyRead more

“Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium” at the Whitney

Had the great pleasure to view the superb exhibition of the work of Hélio Oiticica, at the Whitney. The exhibition is described as follows on the exhibition website: “Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium is the first full-scale U.S. retrospective in two decades of the Brazilian artist’s work. One of the most original artists of the twentieth century, Oiticica (1937—1980) made art that awakens us to our bodies, our senses, our feelings about being in the world: art that challenges us toRead more

“Actually, I’m in Havana”, Clandestina, an Ethnographic Study of Economic Policy and Colonial Hegemonies Encoded in the Consumption of Used Garments

I presented my paper: “‘Actually, I’m in Havana’, Clandestina, an Ethnographic Study of Economic Policy and Colonial Hegemonies Encoded in the Consumption of Used Garments” at the Fashion: Now & Then, Fashion and Sustainability Conference  at LIM College in New York City in October 20, 2017: http://lim.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/fnt/?rm=20170%7C%7C%7C1%7C%7C%7C0%7C%7C%7Ctrue  Keywords, Fashion Sustainability; Used Garments; Re-use; Fashion History, Globalization Abstract: This research involves an onsite ethnographic study and interview of the designers of the Clandestina fashion brand in Havana, Cuba, undertaken by the author in FebruaryRead more

Conference Presentation: “Rich Relations: The Evolution and Uneasy Symbiosis of Art and Fashion” May 12, 2017, Ryerson University

I presented my paper: “Rich Relations: The Evolution and Uneasy Symbiosis of Art and Fashion” at the Nouveau Reach: Past Present and Future of Luxury Conference on Friday May 12, 2017. : http://nouveaureach.ca/ (Abstract) The new Fondation Louis Vuitton (LV) is the latest incarnation of the corporate/art mega-partnership, highlighting the increasingly uncomfortable relationship between art and fashion. This research explores the cartography between autonomous art culture and fashion commerce and the increased blurring of their overlapping borders. From its earliest roots,Read more

Nomenclature in Fashion Sustainability Research

sus·tain·a·bil·i·ty səˌstānəˈbilədē/ noun the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. “the sustainability of economic growth” avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. “the pursuit of global environmental sustainability” Sustainability; Ethical consumption; Greenwash; Responsible consumption; Organic clothes; Environment; Free trade; Neoliberal economic paradigm; Global apparel industry; Trade policy; Labor markets, Trade liberalization, Green textiles After a read through the available contemporary literature and research, the discourse around fashion sustainability as a whole seems to beRead more

Mark O’Connell Art Portfolio

From my explorations a monograph emerges that can include painting, collage, block prints, drawings, poetry, fashion illustration and text. Upon completion, the series is gathered together and exhibited partially in a gallery, and partially online. This hybrid installation model allows the artwork to be read both as a cohesive agglomeration, as well as a collection of individual art objects and text. I use the form of the art to mediate levels of accessibility for the content therein. The availability ofRead more

Fashion Archival Research

“Fashion brings together creative authorship, technological production and cultural dissemination associated with dress, drawing together designers, producers, retailers and all of us who wear garments.” (Fletcher, Grose & Hawken 2012: 8). During a recent visit to the Archives Ontario facility at York University, I toured the restoration lab and looked at rare photographs, and learned about histories that were not included in the dominant discourse. If you are not familiar with the archive you can learn more about it here:Read more

Stolen Goods: Plagiarism and Fashion Scholarship

“Arsenic Dress”: English or French, c. 1860s The Fashion Research Collection at Ryerson University. Gift The Racked website, recently published a piece on toxic clothing that appears to be an unattributed reproduction of a body of work by Ryerson University fashion scholar Dr. Alison Matthews David. The Racked post even includes a photo of the arsenic dress from the popular “Fashion Victims” exhibition at the Bata Shoe museum in Toronto that Matthews David and Bata head curator Elizabeth Semmelhack co-curated. http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/fashion-victims/Read more

Holocaust Chic: Homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Abject Fashion Marketing. Mark O’Connell

Holocaust Chic: Homophobia, Anti-Semitism and Abject Fashion Marketing @Mark O’Connell 2017, no reproduction without permission “ I hate the word Homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an a**hole” Morgan Freeman, Twitter, 2014. Contemporary media engagement results in the constant barrage of information and marketing that is funneled through the myriad channels that stream into devices and apps and into our consciousness. The ability for cognitive registration of any particular item becomes more and more andRead more