Shapeshifting: A Conference on Transformative Paradigms of Fashion and Textile Design

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This publication presents 30 selected papers developed from an initial 47 presentations made at the Shapeshifting Conference held in Auckland in April 2014. The conference explored transformative paradigms in fashion and textile design through four thematic frameworks including Ambiguous & Automated Forms; Surface & Structural Transformations; The Fashion System & The Ephemeral; and Transformational Strategies. Shapeshifting, as a process of change and responsive agency is considered in these papers as a concern with cultures of transformation, navigations of the social and technological and the transversal hacker who unpicks and revises in order to contest what is current and deliver our future.

Editors: Frances Joseph, Mandy Smith, Miranda Smitheram and Jan Hamon

All 30 papers selected for publication were double blind peer reviewed by an international panel of fashion and textile experts and academic reviewers.

The publication has been produced by the Textile and Design Laboratory and Colab at the Auckland University of Technology, February 2015.

ISBN: 978-1-927184-27-1


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Now showing 1 - 5 of 30
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    Re-shaping the process of design & making: shifting the relationship between designer and client in the context of digital knitwear design and production systems
    (Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology, 2014) Farren, Anne; Yang, Sooyung
    New technologies have created a gap in designer knowledge and understanding of the design capabilities and production potential of new CAD software driven equipment. Significantly, within some sectors of the fashion industry, there is an assumption that CAD software run production technologies can eliminate the need for a designer, with production-based technologies “driven” by a technician. Our work with the garment industry supports the emergence of an assumption amongst production machinery manufacturers that CAD software systems can eliminate design input and associated costs (Mohammed, May, & Alavi, 2008; Eckert, Cross, & Johnson, 2000; Eckert, Kelly, & Stacey, 1999). CAD driven production technologies such as the Shima Seiki WholeGarment® knitting system have “predefined garment templates” (preregistered garment shapes in Shima Seiki’s terms) embedded in the software. The manufacturer of this machine claims that these preregistered garment shapes can minimize the creativity gap between the designer and technician. However it is our experience that the system is too complex for cost effective implementation of design innovation. Recent developments in CAD driven knitwear production systems have resulted in changes to the conventional relationships between the client, the designer and the technician. In this context, we have identified a new role, the “designer-interpreter”. Designer-interpreter denotes a professional knitwear designer with additional training in managing computerized seamless knitting machines. Research carried out at Curtin University has identified this as a creative role that is required to optimize design and production using computerized flat V-bed seamless knitting systems. Within current applications of computerised V-bed seamless knitting systems, the textile and garment design processes are fully integrated and cannot be effectivelymanipulated in isolation. There is a current assumption that a knitwear technician can be a design-interpreter. However the designer-interpreter is required to facilitate the creative integration of textile and garment design. This is achieved through the application of their specialist knowledge of knit design, CAD driven software and machine operation. The designer-interpreter can work with either another designer or the end user to develop fully customized garments. With the creative support of the designer-interpreter, a consumer without any design background effectively becomes a “designer”. This system repositions the relationship between designer, manufacturer and consumer. This paper presents research carried out by the Fashion Design & Research HUB at Curtin University into the creative potential of the design process using computerized flat V-bed seamless knitting technology for the client with little or no garment design experience. It reflects on observations made during workshops, of the changing nature in the relationships between designer-interpreter, client, design process and technology.
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    Writing on the transformative and imaginary body
    (Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology, 2014) Ha, Winnie
    "Unable to sense any articulation in your palms and fingers, you realise your arms are now stumps, rounded off where the elbows would have been. All you can feel is clammy, thin film, like loosely stretched latex. You are entirely covered in a milky coalescence forming a semi-translucent, membrane-like film. This new skin stretches over an engorged blob enclosing you like a wrinkly, half-deflated water balloon. Laying there immobilised you think of those whole headless chickens with their appendages neatly tucked under plump bodies, wrapped in plastic bags and sitting in a supermarket cool room along with countless others, their identity registered on barcode stickers, their value calculated in weight." (Ha Mitford, 2012) This article discusses the potential for the literary imagination to extend conceptual and imagistic possibilities of the body in fashion. It posits that writing, as an act of creative production and an expressive tool, can initiate ideation of bodies that are as yet unknown – as potentialities. The narrative form and linguistic devices of metaphor, analogy, allusion and projection are used to draw forth, shape and carry the body from the imaginary (concept or idea) into readable form. The transformative body performs as the subject of imagination, the protagonist in the narrative. It also performs as the agent mediating between the actual and imaginary, who, in this context, relates to both the author (me) and reader (you). This article discusses the author’s writing practice that focuses on “writing the imaginary, embodied and performative.” The intent of the practice is to produce affective sketches of imaginative forays into and beyond one’s own body, coalescing into performative self narratives as well as fictions. "You gasp, in wonder, as you contemplate the forces of collision, disintegration and reconstitution at work. You sense an anticipation growing in you that is so achingly pure – because you expect nothing in return. All you want to know is what would become of you when the transformation is complete." (Ha Mitford, 2012) This article connects Joanne Entwistle’s emphasis on dress as embodied practice, the phenomenological approach of Gaston Bachelard, especially his writings on the poetics of the creative imagination, and the concept of ekphrasis (specifically the use of verbal art to engage a visual one) put forth by literary critics and authors Michael Clune and Ben Lerner. The discussion weaves through a piece of prose fiction entitled Falling which alludes to some of the concepts in this article. Produced as part of the author’s PhD research practice, Falling presents an alternative, narrativebased approach to account for the poetics of fashion, using the transformable/transformative body as the site and subject. The narrative centres on a body undergoing a process of extreme physical transformation, metaphorically referring to the continual disintegration and reconstitution of the self, at the verge of fashion, where fashion is understood, conceptually, as the aesthetic expression of ideas and sensibilities to do with contemporariness and progress (Lehmann, 2000, p. xii), and how this implicates the self. The article mediates literary experiences of what the body could potentially be, and suggests the capacity of writing to account for fashion as an embodied practice and lived experience. Falling performs the propositions put forward in this presentation – to enact, through writing, processes of bodily transformation that drive fashion, stressing the fundamental role of imagination, and the performativity of language in understanding the transformative agency of fashion.
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    Smart textiles as raw materials for design
    (Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology, 2014) Dumitrescu, Delia; Nilsson, Linnéa; Persson, Anna; Worbin, Linda
    Materials fabricate the designed artefact, but they can also play an important role in the design process; as a medium or method used to develop the design. Textiles can, with their soft and flexible properties, be easily transformed and altered in numerous ways; for example, by cutting, folding or printing on the material. This transformative character makes textiles interesting sketching media for surface explorations when designing artefacts. The development of transformable materials; for example, fusible yarns and colour changing pigments, have expanded these inherent transformative qualities of textiles and have opened up the design field of smart textiles. Accordingly, this new material context has created a new area for textile designers to explore, where it is possible to enhance and play with the alterable character of their textiles, and control their transformation through physical manipulation and programming. However, these expanded transformative properties also open up a new task for textile designers; to design "smart textiles as raw materials for design". By this term we mean, textiles that are not finished in their design but that can be developed and enhanced when they take part in a product or space design process. In this article, we explore and start to define what smart textiles as raw materials for design can be, and look at how these materials can come into and add something to another design process. The foundation for this exploration is a number of textile examples from the “Smart Textiles sample collection” and our experiences when developing and designing with them. (The Smart Textiles sample collection is a range of textiles that is designed and produced by the Smart Textile Design Lab, to give students, designers and researchers direct access to different types of smart textiles). The possibilities and limitations of smart textiles as raw materials for design are explored by looking at the textile examples from two perspectives: firstly, by looking at the considerations that come with designing this type of textile design, and secondly by looking at what these transformative textiles can bring to another design process. Each example is analyzed and classified according to what transformable design variables for structure and surface change can be embedded in the textile design, and what design variables this subsequently creates for a design process that uses these materials i.e., describing what type of transformation different examples of smart textiles introduce to the design process/design space; whether the change is reversible or irreversible, and whether the change occurs through physical or through digital manipulation of the material. This article ends with a discussion of how smart textiles in the form of raw materials for design could influence how we design textiles and how we design with textiles. Can transformative materials enrich material explorations in a design process? Can further development and alteration of the material design be introduced or defined by the textile designer? Could smart textiles as raw materials for design open up a stronger connection between the design of textiles and the design of the product or spaces where they will be used?
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    In high heels on shifting ground: fashioning lives in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake
    (Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology, 2014) Cie, Christina
    Clothing serves as a marker of identity, but how do you dress when you have nothing left but the clothes that you were wearing when you had to run? Who are you, when dressed entirely in someone else’s choice of clothes? Does the resourcefulness necessary for self-expression under such circumstances also reinforce our ability to cope and survive on a more than material level? What can losing everything help us to remember? Taking the earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand as its starting point, this article will examine the usefulness of fashion, sometimes dismissed as a “frivolous” concern, during times of crisis. It will consider examples from these and other catastrophic events, considering how individuals and communities have used fashion as an expression of resilience and to defy the devastation wrought by disaster (Howell, 2012; Labrum, McKergow, & Gibson, 2007). The article will be structured to consider the “epicentre” of the effect of the earthquake, as on the individual, the wider social ramifications as the tremors ripple out, and the aftershocks that can continue to disrupt attempts at re-establishing daily patterns. “Habitus” is defined as a state of mind by the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu & Nice 1977). It is what we practice, what has been “preached” to us, and what we have picked up from our surroundings. However, this mental space, a culmination of personal and cultural memory, requires a habitat, a physical place for its expression and evolution. Analysis of the success of the temporary Re:START mall, created from shipping containers, offers a case study on the role of fashion, as retail and spectacle, in the vigorously debated regeneration of this city. Workplaces, offices, bars and clubs serve as venues for interaction, identification and individuality, but if we dress up to go out, what happens when there is nowhere left to go to? If the street is gone, how could a shop serve “street style”, and act as a site for social interaction as well as retail and revenue? What role can fashion play in reinvigorating public spaces and events in a devastated area? From individual efforts to community initiatives, what is the role of fashion in the recovery of a city, and the cultural life of a region?
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    Imaginative voyaging: fashion practice as a ‘site’ for wonder and enchantment
    (Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology, 2014) Chant, Armando
    The aim of this paper is to explore the state of wonder within a transitional and transformative context and its potential to inform experimental fashion practices. In particular it will focus on the emotionally generative possibilities that wonder and enchantment can have on our experience of fashion. Wonder itself can take a number of forms, whether it entails being “wonder struck” by an event or something that has been seen, or to wonder as in to question, to be curious, to harbour doubt. It is this questioning and openness that is the basis of wonder’s connection to the artistic process and this paper examines how it can be applied within a fashion context. This approach to creative practice and its connection to wonder has its theoretical foundations in the work of authors such as Greenblatt and Kosky. The state of wonder itself has the potential to engage our imagination with fashion “encounters”. Familiar enchanting sites for encounter and possible wonder sites within a fashion context include the fashion show, which in recent times has expanded to encompass installation and presentation formats. These shows and their inducement of a potential sense of wonder, owe much to their large scale and performative nature. Examples of this include the presentations and collaborative projects of designers and practitioners such as Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan. Here the fashion “experience” is transient and ephemeral in nature, where those present gain the full impact or experience of the encounter. As Andrew Bolton (Bolton & Koda, 2011), referencing Alexander McQueen’s immersive and sometimes confronting presentations states, “McQueen validates powerful emotions as compelling and undeniable sources of aesthetic experiences”. This paper explores how, rather than the ephemeral fashion experience or “moment” being seen as a final outcome, one which is the domain of large scale fashion brands, it can also have relevance to small scale experimental fashion practices and within this context be present within the design process itself. The paper focuses on exploring the transitional “moments” or potential encounters that happen within the fashion design process for both practitioners and their audience. The paper reframes the fashion design process as a series of potential wonder sites, where further creative exploration can occur, not within the clearly defined areas of a traditional practice, but those that exist in the shadows or void. This reframing is further enhanced within the context of an interdisciplinary approach, where the oscillation between mediums, creative approaches and technologies has offered opportunity for innovation and for traditional approaches to fashion practice to be broken down. In conclusion the paper explores how an interdisciplinary approach to fashion practice provides a destabilized or disruptive experience of the fashion process, therefore opening up possibilities for our engagement with wonder in fashion, thereby potential sites of fashion encounters are expanded and go beyond traditional final outcomes.
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