Monday, 26 December 2011

"A tiger that lives in a cage is much wilder than a tiger that is free to roam," Frank Schäfer

Louise, a final year fashion student, has asked about further research material for a really interesting dissertation topic, namely “What happens to fashion under proscriptive political regimes such as communism and the establishment of the GDR, particularly during the time period of the 1970s to 1989."

This is quite hard, as it is a very new area of research, and you have already looked at two of the key texts for this subject: “Fashion East” by Djurdja Bartlett and “Fashioning Socialism” by Judd Stitziel. I imagine these have links to all of the things I might suggest here as they are very thorough, and since it’s a new field, have captured and critiqued most of what has already been written. You have also seen the documentary, Ein Traum in Erdbeerfolie (A Dream in Strawberry Foil) which captures the wild, experimental, and often seedy, even sleazy, fashion that emerged from the Underground, reminiscent of the style captured by the Neue Sachlichkeit artists who were both critical and yet immersed in the depraved culture of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s.

If you haven’t already looked at “Too Much Future/In Grenzen Frei: Fashion, Photography, Underground Culture in the Former East German 1979-89, (edited by Michael Boehike) then this would be worth a look. The photography in Sibylle Magazin was very important for the style of the era, and, as I am sure you already know, they included patterns in the magazine so that readers could create the clothes shown within, but which they could not afford to buy. The exhibition In Grenzen Frei at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin is covered well on the internet.

Finally, for primary research, the German Historical Museum in Berlin has a collection of designs from this era I believe which would definitely be worth visiting and documenting photographically, as universities like to see that you have seen things first hand.

(You could cover what happened to fashion in China, but I think there is so much you can explore in Eastern Europe, that it is best to keep your focus there. Again, the tighter the focus, the higher grade you will get.)

Your main problem will be writing something 'new'. With this field being only recently explored in the academic world, there is not much material already out there for you to research. You could look at how the creativity that came out of such repression then fed back into the free western world, perhaps through conceptual fashion, and/or fetish wear. Or you could look at how the street styles in the free world crept into eastern block fashion, such as punk, grunge, etc. You do need an angle, otherwise you are in danger of just regurgitating what others have written.

This article is interesting and readable. It struck me that there was a slight similarity to the photo of the model with the tree like head piece from the design group 'Kathi' and the Alexander McQueen antler garment.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Recycling. Textiles and Lace

A number of students are working on dissertations or final projects revolving around recycling. I will tackle the topic under different media, providing some visual stimuli. I have also responded to academic requests in more detailed emails, as there is so much material out there. Maria, hopefully you will have got my fuller email of ideas and links, but you were particularly interested in looking at recycling in textiles, lace and dyes. I will add some images here to inspire others.
Silvina Romero has used recycled scraps of textiles, dyed, re-woven, etc., to create jewellery.

Silvana Romero

Amanda White doesn't resuse textiles, but uses vintage lace and ribbon and casts them in silver and gold, turning fluid fabric into metallic filagree. Barbi Touron converts bike inner tubes into lace-style urban jewellery.(Urban Lace)

Amanda White: Cast vintage lace


Fashion made from plastic bottles

Recycled Bottles

Recycled Bottles - Armour

Adhesif: Upcycled fashion

Well Fashioned Exhibition

Well Fashioned Exhibition

Bridget West: Pieces of You: Cushions made from care labels.

Terra Plana: High Street shoes from old textiles

Sophie Gorton recycled textiles

There is a huge amount of material in print and on the web, as, in an age of austerity, we are looking at reusing materials to both save money and save the planet.

Alison Willoughby: The Skirt

Emmeline Child sold her clothes through Top Shop, partnered with The Salvation Army, recycling/upcycling garments, with profits going back to the charity. Her label is Emmeline 4 Re.

Mia Nisbet likewise reuses textiles for her fashion line:


Lauren Stanley, like a number of textile artists, uses recycled threads for interior products.

Cal Lane creates beautiful lace like finishes using laser cutters on discarded metal.

There are so many sites to check out, but try the following:

Monday, 17 October 2011

Apocalypse Now

Thinking more about your dissertation, Sylwia, you actually cover quite a large field, by naming art, photography, film and fashion. Is it important that you address all of these? Fashion, for example, seems a little tangential, unless you are working in the mode of a fashion photographer in your negotiated project. You don't have a huge number of words to play with in a dissertation, even though it may seem enormous at the moment, so you need to keep a tight focus, otherwise you will just scrape the surface and write a superficial survey rather than produce analytical depth. It occured to me in your theme, that there is a link to what is currently going on around the world, in terms of riots in London and the Middle East. Are there reportage or fine art photographers out there who have re-interpreted paintings of the apocalypse? I'll just add a few images to get you thinking including natural apocalypses such as famine and tsunami, as well as human acts of destruction, such as the riots.

Riots in Egypt

Carra: Death of an Anarchist

Cars in Japan after the Tsunami

Tom Hunter: For Batter or Worse. Fight after a wedding based on.....

Piero di Cosimo: Fight between the Lapiths and Centaurs 1500 - 1515

The battling horses here look like a Uccello, such as the Battle of San Romano

The two images above are by Sabastiao Selgado, the top of a refugee camp, and the lower image taken in Equador
The Cartoon Riots in Syria

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Apocalyptic visions

Hi Sylwia
You sent in a query about further lines of enquiry for your dissertation on theapocalyptic vision in art, fashion, film and photography.  You have already covered a lot of the key artists from the Renaissance, eg, Durer, Bosch and Memling through to the more recent visualisers of Hell, such as the Chapman Brothers. Have you looked at John Martin, with paintings such as The Great Day of his Wrath (1853), and Sodom and Gomorrah. There is currently an exhibition at Tate Britain, called John Martin: Apocalypse. It also shows his influence on artists who followed. They've also made a film trailer for the show. Watch the trailer!

John Martin: The Great Day of his Wrath 1853
Other artists from the past who have covered the theme, include William Blake, Gustave Dore, and various medieval illuminators. The best book that I have come across is The Apocalypse: The Shape of Things to Come edited by Frances Carey. The Apocalyse - link to Amazon  This covers a wide range of imagery and films, with essays by a variety of specialists. Some of the stills from the films provide interesting visual stimuli. Another thought, is Alfred Kubin, who wrote a weird novel called The Other Side. It was really about fears of the first world war and the sexual politics of Vienna, but quite apocalyptic.

Alfred Kubin

The fashion designers you have looked at, particularly Mitanovksi, are stunning.


There are similarities to Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh.
You could look at cyberpunk fashion, although you'd have to be very selective, as it can get too close to comics/graphic art. You don't mention the Terminator series of films, but this kind of fashion links to this. Blade Runner, and other films with dystopian themes also come to mind.

Gareth Pugh

For the cyberpunk designers, look at Sandra Buckland, Scherer Gonzales, and Iris Van Herpen.

Iris Van Herpen

Sandra Backlund

Scherer Gonzales

In photography, have you also looked at Arthur Tress, and further back, Atget?

Eugene Atget

Arthur Tress
Arthur Tress

Or Angus McBean?