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

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 museum website as an exhibit that “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”. Some of these items are of modern vintage like Levi’s 501s, the Breton shirt, and “the Little Black Dress”, and there also ancient and “culturally charged” items likeRead more

“Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium” at the Whitney

Had the great pleasure to view the superb exhibition “Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium”, which is a retrospective of the of the work of the late Brazilian artist and designer Hélio Oiticica, on at the Whitney. The exhibition is the first comprehensive U.S. retrospective of the Brazilian artist’s oeuvre in the past two decades. Oiticica (1937—1980) is described on the exhibition website as “One of the most original artists of the twentieth century (who) made art that awakens us to our bodies,Read 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