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

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

“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

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

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, class-based and economic factors can change how a second-hand garment will beRead more