Issue one: On Material Memories

For our first issue we have decided to concentrate on something that is close to our hearts – clothing and memory. ‘Past things have futurity’, as Walter Benjamin so succinctly observed in his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Whether we use old clothes as a mark of distinction or of authenticity, as a way to connect with a real or imagined past, or simply to toy with characters from our collective remembrance, these are the material memories that ensure that the past is always carried with us into the future. By both literally and metaphorically preserving remnants, residues and symbols of the past, old styles are given new meanings.

In a culture where even the young are jaded and where creators must constantly battle with a ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ attitude, perhaps the reuse of material is the most potent way in which to generate novelty, albeit of the familiar kind. Hence, this issue on ‘Material Memories’ deals with matters such as real, and imagined, nostalgia, historicism in fashion and personal memories of much loved pieces of clothing. It is an account of the intersection of our clothing and our past. Discarded garments reflect our history, becoming tangible material memories of times past, love lost or found, disappointments endured or victories won. These lost objects of desire could then be read as a map to our past, here resurrected and brought back to life once more. And through breathing life back into what would otherwise be fleeting ephemera, mere fragments, we somehow mourn times of yore yet celebrate our own history and the fact that we have lived.

In an age when we have the technological means to mass-produce patina and when popular culture relies heavily on an implicit understanding of cool as firmly ensconced in the mainstream, it appears as if the nostalgic leanings that propelled second hand clothing into the mainstream in the 1960s have thoroughly infiltrated our collective consciousness. In the quixotic stories we so often attach to vintage garments, our imagination is allowed free reign, but in the process the actual historicity is inevitably blurred.

This then is the enigma embedded in the theorizing of vintage clothing. Whilst material memories may not be true, they nevertheless unite us with the wistful notion that, as we all know, time does pass. Textile memento moris are tactile, ever-present reminders of a culture in perpetual flux and of our transience, yet at the same time they provide a comforting aide memoire, reassuring us that, to paraphrase Victor Hugo, history is merely an echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future in the past.

Texts by

Elsa Ahlbom Fischer, Nacho Alegre, Betsy Bloomingdale, David Byrne, Patrizia Calefato, Caroline Evans, Haidee Findlay-Levin, Christina Johnson, Kevin Jones, Lydia Lunch, Carlotta Manaigo, Peter McNeil, Rory Satran, Ganda Suthivarakom, Elizabeth Wilson

Images by

Leslie David, Martina Hoogland-Ivanow, Ruth Hinkel-Pevzner, Katerina Jebb, Jenny Mörtsell, Hanna Wieslander

Design by

Johanna Jonsson, Hanne Lindberg / Bergen