Words by Luke O'Neill
Illustration by Julija Moroz
Material and its Formed Environment
The relationship between client and cloth has become ambiguous territory in an increasingly virtual landscape. In former times, a local tailor or dressmaker would have handcrafted bespoke garments, establishing a close rapport with each patron to suit their sartorial requirements. Today, consumer engagement has become a shallow trend in which the large conglomerates of the luxury market promote a false sense of connection through heritage branding and personalized monogramming. New methods of engagement, through slow movements within gastronomy and interior design signal the demand for a more genuine connection to the tangible experience. Slow fashion, from the perspective of the customer, designer and retailer, provides a framework in which the creative process and expression of the individual is the central focus.
In an attempt to break down the value-for-money mentality, one must consider the ethical cost of choosing quantity over quality and make a conscious choice to buy, not only for longevity, but for a sense of cherishment. To avoid the deception of the trend-based market, an alternative provides the individual with a more personal appreciation of design and a greater understanding of his or her visual identity. Smaller, more niche brands are instilling a level of genuine brand loyalty through a discrete creative outlook and methods for social advocation.
“A small number of influential designers are stepping out of the commercial side of fashion in reaction to the need for constant renewal. They are embracing a slower approach to fashion, more in keeping with their strongly held personal philosophies and approaches.”
— JESSICA BUGG (Assoc. Professor of Fashion and Textiles, RMIT Melbourne)
Danish brand, First Aid to the Injured, offers a selection of jersey basics with a focus on quiet details and subtlety of line that have an enduring appeal. This simplicity and stylistic ease are further enhanced by an ethical vantage point, as the profit from each garment sold is contributed to an existing charity. As their brand name suggests, they aim to fund their own philanthropic ventures, as their company develops to provide ‘first aid to the injured’.
Designers are also conveying narrative based collections to their audience through new modes of fashion communication. Egle Cekanaviciute draws parallels between orthopaedia and tailoring to create an intriguing dialogue with her pieces. Her collection, Artefact, fosters a quaint curiosity that elevates the socially disenfranchised as a form of beautified expression. It is said that a well-tailored jacket can alter your stance and correct your posture. This interaction between structure and skin molds the human figure and brings into question the concept of the formed body and its cultural associations. Cekanaviciute subverts traditional tailoring to envisage a unique perspective of aesthetic composition. Her online presence includes photography, film, text, research and hand drawings to fuse the conceptual narrative with the integrity of the process. The designer’s authentic conception forms a relationship with the viewer that is grounded in signified meaning.
“Current fashion participates in an economic system that is developing very differently from its nineteenth-century origins, which pioneered the techniques of retail and advertising to promote the garment. Now the fashioned garment circulates in a contemporary economy as part of a network of signs, of which the actual garment is but one.”
— CAROLINE EVANS (Professor of Fashion History and Theory at CSM, London)
Retail is an important intermediary with the potential to exhibit a designer’s artistic viewpoint and provide an intriguing insight into their creative practice. The etymology of retail dates back to the mid-fourteenth century meaning, ‘to sell in small quantities’. It originated from the Old French retaillier: ‘cut back, reduce, pare’ and taillier: ‘to cut, trim’ (tailor in English). A return to smaller, more intimate methods of fashion retail are being explored in a modern context.
Discreetly hidden behind a black door, appendaged with a deer’s antler lies Fallow, an amalgam of artisanal offerings in subdued hues. The store’s name and philosophy reflects the period in which a farm’s field lays idle to control overproduction and restore the land’s fertility while patiently awaiting the crop’s yield. The Fallow space is an immersive encounter that cultivates an inclusive, collective dwelling: a place to slowdown, linger, converse and identify with others through a shared sensibility. The arenas of fashion and architecture synergize to facilitate an expression of the self.
“Every touching experience of architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of space, matter and scale are measured equally by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. Architecture strengthens the existential experience, one’s sense of being in the World, and this is essentially a strengthened experience of self.”
— JUHANI PALLASMAA (Finnish Architect and former Professor of Architecture at HUT, Helsinki)
Eastern Market’s obscured location and use of repurposed materials creates a cognitive shift: a slowed pace in which the beauty of decay is expressed through objects that have weathered over time. The eternal longevity of furniture and interior design denotes the store’s perception of quality in clothing and rejects the temporal notion of fashion. Both the form of a garment and the form a room exist as architectures of the body that can create an emotional, transformative experience. They are embodied spaces that inform the structures of experience and consciousness as a phenomenological encounter. Stephen McGlashan, co-owner of Eastern Market describes this precise moment:
"By transformation I mean, the ability to put an outfit on and to see a new or different essence of oneself accessed through the medium of clothing design. Perhaps this could be described as a metamorphosis, even a transfiguration…When this moment occurs in store, suddenly we, the designer and the wearer seem to have arrived at a point of unison in which everything that was intended is being expressed.”
Beyond the digital sphere, a rarified, more specialized array of embodied spaces emerge. They take form in the distinct visions of the designer and in the nuanced atmospheres of the stores they inhabit. These artisanal encounters preserve the basic fundamental human need for corporeal experience and self-discovery. Both designers and store owners have the opportunity to choose methodologies that encourage meaning and substance. It is here that sustainability can exist in the form of connection—to the work, and to each other—through a shared appreciation of beauty and thoughtful expression.