A manual for Sartorial Disruption
This practice-based research project critically examines the menswear design process. It proposes that since the late 19th century there have been fundamental changes in most areas of clothing design, yet the elemental visual features that characterise men’s contemporary tailoring have, with the exception of a few periodic surface adjustments, remained in stasis. The work explores alternative design approaches in this field and acts as an intervention in support of innovation. The focus of the research is centered on examining how industrial menswear designers reference the past. Conventionally, this is achieved through a translation of what has existed, conversely this work it is about how ideas can be drawn from ‘history’s potential’, acknowledged in Walter Benjamin’s work as “historical materialism” (“Thesis on a Philosophy of History”: Illuminations, 1940). This concept has been investigated through the study of clothing systems from the past that demonstrate a sense of formality and a distinct visual presence but whose latent design value has been overlooked. The un-bifurcated (a garment that does not branch off into two sections) vraga, from the Eastern Mediterranean was identified as a credible historical model to be re-evaluated. The design principles of the vraga were reworked to create an alternative system of clothing, one based on an all-in-one universal garment that this research refers to as a ‘braccasuit’. It is a garment type that evolved from the concurrence of elements: utilitarian workwear, formal tailoring, dynamic playfulness and sober structure. It is designed to disrupt user expectations, from its distinctive appearance and how it is worn, to the way that it also disrupts, through anonymity and ambiguity, ‘status capital’ value since it has no form of branding or labelling. This research principally addresses the design of a ‘new’ look; future development work will underpin the notion of ‘sartorial disruption’ further by exploring how the system can be socially implemented and commercially represented. Initial research undertaken suggests that this could be achieved through the development of an alternative approach to conventional retailing, where the dynamics of consumer actions could be challenged. One such method is based on the idea of forcing a dislocation of the existing static retail model by creating a mobile depository for innovative, experimental menswear to be temporarily sited in major international cities. It will be formed on the principles of a constantly changing group collective, where individual designers may be asked to join for any number of ‘situations’. This will be supported by the ‘Sartorial Disruption Network’, that will take the form of a website, blog, e-journal and a hard-copy magazine, to encourage dialogue and collaboration.