The sari challenges Western notions of innovation, for the diverse range of possibilities for draping a seemingly simple, standard swath of fabric. It’s a supremely engineered garment, and a marvel of design, for the sheer fact that it affects countless, workable iterations. For centuries, dozens of drapes have allowed women to engage in various types of labour and in other activities: farming; fishing; house- and office-work; childrearing; sleeping. The practical need for a well-designed garment that moves with the wearer is of the utmost importance, and its utility, convenience and adaptability, combined with a sari’s gracefulness, are precisely how the garment will take on new iterations.
If fashion ‘wants to kill’ its practitioners, that’s because it epitomises capitalist innovation at its bare essence, consisting of the sort of change that is only for the sake of the system’s survival. Fashion is what is left when all pretence to consumer utility or social improvement is stripped away. The sacrifice of perfectly useful goods to the ever-shifting demands of fashion is a kind of corrective purge, an obliteration of what the philosopher and writer Georges Bataille called ‘the accursed share,’ clearing the field so that capitalism’s competitive mechanisms and requirements for endless growth can continue to function.
The main similarity between fashion and fragrance seems simple enough: we wear both on our bodies. However, there are more complex coinciding structures within these decorative matters of the human flesh at second glance. Beginning with Coco Chanel’s eponymous ‘No. 5’ fragrance to the more recent trend of celebrity fragrances, the following series considers the correlations between the consumer industries and ideologies behind clothing and perfume.
Fashion and photography share certain characteristics. Each claims the status of art, yet remains at its margins. The claims of photography have achieved recognition to some extent, yet photography-as-art constitutes only a small part of all photography. Fashion’s claim to artistic status remains contentious.
Performance is something integral to fashion, in industry, and our everyday experience: from catwalk presentations, photo shoots and red carpet events to the dressing up we engage with in our daily lives, all are very much acts of performance in an industry that is necessarily expressive. Artist Adele Varcoe’s work is concerned with these functions – a keen observer of the phenomenon of fashion and our responsive behaviour, her performance events and happenings aim to address fashion and our experience of clothing.
In October 2012, Prada announced the winners of its Prada Journal contest, an initiative, in partnership with Italian publishers Giangiacomo Fettrinelli Editore, soliciting short stories from emerging writers for publication in a new print and online magazine ‘in keeping with the brand’s innovative spirit and constant search for new creative voices.’
The clothing industry has recently seen the introduction of new garments which fall outside of existing definitions. These innovations bring with them requirements for new terminology to distinguish new from old, reminding us of the power of linguistics in the design process.
Given its infancy in the world of academia, fashion studies still shows signs of a discipline in the making, measuring and comparing itself against the long tradition of critical thinking in subjects such as art and architecture. With this in mind, we can in fashion theory often find a reliance on certain key figures. One such figure is Roland Barthes, whose name reverberates throughout the field.