Recent Publications

  Rich Relations: The Evolution and Uneasy Symbiosis of Art and Fashion (2020) Fashion Style and Popular Culture 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 ambivalentRead 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

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 Toller Cranston’s house in SanRead 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 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 design elementsRead 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 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 cochineal (preRead more