Interrogating Fashion, Practice Process and Presentation: Co-ordinating an Interdiscipinary Research Cluster
Fashion and clothing are part of a universal experience, the textile and clothing industries occupying a powerful global position in both economic and socio-cultural terms. It is however under-researched and under-represented academically. Interrogating Fashion is a research cluster, led by Sandy Black, which takes a comprehensive view of fashion in its broadest sense. It was developed during 2005 under the Designing for the 21st Century initiative jointly funded by two UK research councils EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences) and AHRC (Arts and Humanities). The purpose was to establish a much-needed forum for the discussion of issues surrounding fashion today, and to consider new paradigms for design and manufacturing in the industry. It brought together a wide-ranging group of academics and practitioners: fashion and textile designers, artists, industrial designers, technologists, computer and material scientists, cultural theorists, design theorists, marketers, and researchers in industry in order to interrogate fashion, and challenge existing practices and processes within fashion and clothing. The cluster aimed to identify key questions and develop a research agenda for projects which will have genuine impact on both academia and the manufacturing sector, to develop products and processes which will, by design, be inherently more sustainable. There were three interrelated key discussion themes within the cluster: Digital Fashion? From craft to mass customisation, 'fashion in ontext', presentation and display, audience and engagement and 'The Fashion Paradox' transience and sustainability. These themes created a broad overview of the key issues faced by this major global industry, whose pervasive influence impacts many aspects of design, cultural and technological production. The aim was to create synergies across the practices of art, design, manufacturing and marketing, with a range of theoretical, cultural, technological, and scientific viewpoints to challenge the practices and processes of fashion, deliberately integrating the traditional divisions of production, consumption and representation. Textiles and clothing are now the focus of increasing attention as the carriers of an ever-growing range of functionalities. As we apply new ways of thinking, new technologies materials and processes, this leads to a change in the role and responsibilities of the textile and fashion designer, and the requirement to integrate our personal, social, cultural, ethical and environmental agendas. The paper presents a case study of the development and continuing work of the cluster and discusses the methods used to engage diverse participants and debate ideas and issues in cluster workshops and in public debate and performance demonstrations at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London and at the final symposium at London College of Fashion.
Keywords: Design practice, Inter-disciplinary working, Interrogating Fashion
Prof. Sandy Black
Professor in Fashion Design and Technology, Research Department
She currently co-ordinates the Fashion Science research group at LCF and established the Interrogating Fashion network in 2005 via the recent EPSRC/AHRC Designing for the 21st Century initiative.
Sandy Black writes and lectures on the intersections of textiles, knitwear and fashion design with emerging technology, science and cultural contexts, and has a particular interest in the role of the designer for a sustainaible future. She is a regular speaker at international conferences and in public lectures and publishes in both academic and specialist press. Recent publications include: FASHIONING FABRICS: contemporary textiles in fashion, editor and author, Black Dog Publishing; KNITWEAR in FASHION, authored book, Thames and Hudson; Chapter 'Fashion and Function: factors in the development and use of protective clothing' in TEXTILES for PROTECTION, Woodhead Publishing
She has also contributed a chapter on future textiles to the forthcoming publication by Woodhead 'Smart Textiles for Medical and Healthcare'