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

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

“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

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

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

Frankly Scarlet: Representations of St. Mary Magdalen Through the Italian Renaissance

Abstract: Within Christian iconography there has been a standard representation of scenes from the life of Christ. The main female figure in these scenes is Mary: Jesus’ mother, an archetypal maternal signifier. In addition to an otherwise mostly male visual narrative there is an inclusion of another woman who represents a younger, more worldly, archetype, and that is the figure of Mary Magdalen. An amalgamation of three different women in the biblical narrative, her pictorial representation was reduced to aRead more

The Emic and the Etic

Stumbling Block Word: Environment en·vi·ron·ment noun the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates. synonyms: habitat, territory, domain the natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographical area, especially as affected by human activity. synonyms: the natural world, nature, the earth, the planet, the ecosystem, the biosphere, Mother Nature; This is the dictionary definition of “environment”. However, there is another aspect to this term, which is the one that conflates the term with “nature”, and all of the accompanying associationsRead more

Fashion Sustainability Principles and Definitions

There is an art that kills and an art that gives life. The fine fabric that we import from the West or the Far East has literally killed millions of our brothers and sisters, and delivered thousands of our dear sisters to a life of shame. True art must be evidence of happiness, contentment and purity of its authors (Gandhi 1929). Value and fashion. Fashion used to be very valuable, now it is treated like garbage-to-be. Luxury is not luxuriousRead more

Second Hand News: Cultural and Economic Messages Encoded in the Consumption of Used Garments

Second Hand News: Cultural and Economic Messages Encoded in the Consumption of Used Garments Mark O’Connell@2015 no reproduction without permission Velvet fragments with Medici arms, 1440–1500 http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/46.156.118 ABSTRACT: Adoption and re-use of textiles and garments has been practiced by all textile-producing cultures. The manner of consumption of second hand clothes has been dictated and redefined by cultural directives specific to where the practice was taking place. Prevailing cultural, classist and economic factors can change how a second-hand garment will beRead more

Set Dressing: Courbet’s “L’Atelier du Peintre” and the Power of Fashion

“Studio Dressing: Courbet’s ‘L’Atelier du Peintre’ and the Power of Fashion” Gustave Courbet : “L’Atelier du Peintre. Allégorie Réelle Déterminant une Phase de Sept Années de ma Vie Artistique (The Artist’s Studio. A Real Allegory of A Seven-Year Phase of My Artistic Life)” (1855), Collection Musée D’Orsay, Paris. “I have studied, outside any system and without prejudice, the art of the ancients and the art of the moderns. I no more wanted to imitate the one than to copy the other;Read more

From Versailles to the Ganges, Dress as a Form of Sartorial Nationalism

From Versailles to the Ganges, Dress as a Form of Sartorial Nationalism, Mark O’Connell@2015 No Reproduction without permission “We should not ask ‘what is a nation’ but rather […] How does nation work as a practical category, as classificatory scheme, as cognitive frame? What makes the use of that category by or against states more or less resonant or effective? What makes the nation-evoking, nation-invoking efforts of political entrepreneurs more or less likely to proceed” Rogers Brubaker quoted in: PatriotsRead more

Glamour is Not Gamine

Glamour is not Gamine: Thoughts on the Construction of Modern and Historical Glamour ”Adorned with the most modern artifices, beautified according to the newest techniques, she comes down from the remoteness of the ages, from Thebes, from Crete, from Chichén-Itzá; and she is also the totem set up deep in the African jungle; she is a helicopter and she is a bird; and there is this, the greatest wonder of all: under her tinted hair the forest murmur becomes aRead more

Reposition the Canon, an Arts Based Exploration into Post-Structuralist Theory and Art Historical Biases

  “Reposition the Canon, an Arts Based Exploration in Post-Structuralist Theory and Art Historical Biases” Mark O’Connell@2015 no reproduction without permission The visual narrative of this piece is based on the concept of knitting an unbroken narrative with a beginning, a logical progression towards an ending. Which in my opinion has been part of the process of constructing a cohesive modern art history. I have knitted a swatch to represent this historical progressive process, and then built a sculpture aroundRead more

Habitus to Tribe, the Evolution of the Dissemination of Style

https://www.flickr.com/photos/markoconnellstudio/21400834923/ Digital painting: Men’s Corset by Gaultier, Mark O’Connell, 2014 Habitus to Tribe, the Evolution of the Dissemination of Style Mark O’Connell@2015 No reproduction without permission “The feature of “modernity” in fashion is especially significant. Fashion is always modern; it always seeks to keep abreast of the times. It is sensitive to the movement of current developments as they take place in its own field, in adjacent fields, and in the larger social world.” Herbert Blumer (1969, 283). Abstract: “CanRead more

Conquest by Consumption: Fashion as a Colonial Agent

Conquest by Consumption: Fashion as a Colonial Agent @Mark O’Connell 2015, no reproduction without permission “As a society becomes increasingly affluent, wants are increasingly created by the process by which they are satisfied…. Wants thus come to depend on output. In technical terms, it can no longer be assumed that welfare is greater at an all-round higher level of production than at a lower one. It may be the same. The higher level of production has, merely, a higher levelRead more

Gaultier and the Rajasthani Gypsies

Gaultier and the Rajasthani Gypsies, @Mark O’Connell 2015, no reproduction without permission “It’s about the Indian gypsies,” said Jean Paul Gaultier, “the real ones from Rajasthan.” (Bowles, 2013) As a way of explaining the inspiration for his Spring 2013 Haute Couture Show. And with that statement casued some red flags to be raised. With the ongoing debates around cultural mis-appropriation, the inclusion of cultural references that are not one’s own are potentially problematic. Fashion is about creative exploration and toRead more