This project has focused on the clothed body as a site for production of meaning, performance and communication through design. It exposes the role of clothing design as a generator of performance and communication through design. The project has explored the clothed body as visual and embodied narrative and the outcome of the work is three short ‘fashion performance’ films produced in collaboration with a dancer Fukiko Takase (Wayne McGregor’s ‘Random Dance’), filmmaker Timothy Keeling and myself as the designer. This work has enabled me to take into account how the emotional and physical factors as well as the location and site of the body itself contributes to the making, intention and reading of work in the context of hybrid fashion and performance practice.
The project has extended through design and analysis an exploration of memory, emotion, psychology, embodied and haptic experience drawing on interviews with a wide range of participants to record personal histories, experience and recollections of wearing clothing. Design is informed by this research into how the memory of clothing effects behavioural and emotional response and seeks to engage and communicate with wearers and viewers through this shared embodied understanding of clothing and emotion.
From these interviews the most common emotional associations and retelling of embodied experience of wearing clothing were in relation to the feeling and sensory aspects of clothing, for example comfortable clothing, restrictive clothing, movement and freedom of movement some of these particular stories are designed into the Blue Air dress and film. Aesthetic aspects were evident in all the interviews but varied hugely, the aesthetic of the work comes from the particular emotions and memories and through the design process. The garment tells a story of being dressed up, feminine and desirable but feeling uncomfortable and wanting to feel the air between the body and clothing, to achieve freedom and a different form of sensuality. The garment references a range of cultures and experiences from the stories told.
The Black Point Dress draws on a significant recurring theme emerging from the interviews that related to the look and signification of clothing. Many of the interviewees spoke of the need to express personal identity within generic garments such as school uniforms, to make clothes their own. Conversely many also discussed finding a sub cultural identity through clothing. These memories were particularly strong in almost all of the interviews undertaken. The garment reflects the potential for physical exploration and a multitude of possibilities in an abstract and repetitive form. The garment reflects many of the issues raised by the interviews such as personal space, acceptance, struggle with femininity, rebellion, difference etc.
The garments were explored physically before the final film shoot in improvisational situations where the performer was not aware of the themes and narrative fragments that had informed the designs. The dancer found her own meaning in the garments through physical exploration and then analysis of her experience was recorded as was the designers and film makers responses. The collaboration towards the films from this point drew on a shared emotional and experiential reaction that was informed for each of us by our own memories of wearing clothing and in response to the dancers physical and emotional responses.
Blue Air Dress: Roulla Silver
Black Point Dress: Marc Craig