My challenge was to design a wearable garment using the fabrics and garments in the make-pack kindly sent by Re-Mode, an absolutely brilliant independent sustainable and ethical fashion retail & workshop space in Paisley.
ReMode It (YouTube)
The garments I’ve made should appeal to the Re-Mode customer demographic –
- Student & young professionals
- Likes vintage clothes, charity shopping and also shops high street
- Individual but not eccentric
- Socially aware
I was initially nervous about the sportswear and jeans included, as it was not really the sort of thing I’d naturally gravitate towards however felt that I should challenge myself to do something unexpected with it…
After some thought about what the final garment should be, I decided I’d like to make something unisex, size inclusive, fun and functional. And so the pattern-cutting and draping began.
and I realised the pattern I’d drafted would work well with the original shapes of the deconstructed shorts (to allow for minimal waste). I had the urge to make the vest reversible, and gosh it was not easy combining the Polystyrene and mesh with thick denim.
In all honestly, my skills as a pattern-cutter vs my ambitious concepts for this piece didn’t quite marry up as nicely as I’d have hoped, nevertheless it turned out to be an interesting looking piece which can definitely serve as a statement piece and has an abundance of pocket real-estate. (who doesn’t love lots of hidden pockets?!)
Feeling a bit defeated by the challenge of this vest, I decided to re-contextualise it so that I could gain creative momentum again. Very kindly my brother agreed to be my model for this impromptu photoshoot in the middle of the woods…
At this point I’d already started making a second vest with the leftover denim, adjusting the pattern slightly from the original. It was still in it’s making stage (hence the embroidery hoop!) however I actually really liked the way the hoop stretched the denim and gave it a new structure entirely.
After the Christmas break, and the announcement of the new Lockdown, I found myself with an abundance of beautiful tie-dye cotton and some silky lining left in the original box.
I wanted to do the fabric justice, and it just felt off-beat at that moment in time to make anything avant-garde and so I proceeded to think about making something beautiful, useful and relevant to the world right now. Masks were the obvious choice.
I started thinking more about how a mask serves mostly two functions – utilitarian and emotional. Moreover, how in the last few decades the face covering was not welcome in many Western public spaces due to countless mythologies.
From a postcolonial perspective, I really delved into not only the physical functions of masks in society, but also how masks and ideas associated with them have evolved over the past year.
The acceptance of wearing a face mask is very much influenced by cultural landscapes. In European countries, wearing a face mask has traditionally been taken to indicate illness or bad intention. In contrast, it seems to be generally regarded as a sign of thoughtfulness and modesty in East Asian countries.
Masks in their multiple forms have been a focus, and continue to figure at the heart of anthropological, semiotic and postcolonial studies which offer a context to comprehend and decipher the meaning, symbolism and the social function of face coverings.
In addition to thinking about the physicality of protective masks, I considered how the Tie-Dye cotton I’d used was also a great signifier of the times we are living in. Linking the prevalence of the tie-dye aesthetic today, to the 60’s and 70’s when there was also widespread social unrest and a dire political landscape.
Tie-dyeing methods have of course been around for centuries, originating from indigenous communities in the far east such as Shibori the Japanese manual resist dyeing technique, or the West African dye pits, originating from 1498 to the Americas where the Wari peoples of Peru who crafted vividly colored tie-dyed tunics.
The works of Franz Fanon, Oliver Roy, Talal Asad and Edward Said who talk extensively on the idea of cultural symbols and construction of the Orient help us to understand the fact that face covering, in all it’s variations has been used and misused for decades.
Edward Said’s Orientalism explains how we understand the ‘unfamiliar and strange’, as we (most people reading this on my website) will have grown up with a Western construction of the East as ‘mysterious’ and far from ‘normal’. The pandemic has not helped with this idea, but that’s a whole other story…
These scholars and their theories can be utilised to analyse the importance given to the face coverings nowadays and its relationship to Western discourse on the dress code.
The meaning of the face covering seems to have drastically shifted due to the pandemic as not just an instrument for resisting the virus but it has also come to represent considerate precautionary measures, and perhaps even an ornament of solidarity with more liberal movements fighting for equality and sovereignty.
As a fashion theorist, and womxn of colour* it hurt me to look very seriously at some of the stereotypes linked to face coverings which in most cases are based on orientalists’ discourses. But I also thought back to the vilification of religious face coverings in relation to the dress code as we saw in many European countries regarding the Islamic Veil.
The pandemic and the need for face masks will hopefully urge policy makers and the general public alike, to rethink the concept of public appearances and individuals’ freedom to dress.