Imaginative voyaging: fashion practice as a ‘site’ for wonder and enchantment

Chant, Armando
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Textile and Design Lab and Colab at Auckland University of Technology

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.

Wonder , Disruption , Transformation , Interdisciplinary , Transitional
Shapeshifting: A Conference on Transformative Paradigms of Fashion and Textile Design, 14-16 April 2014, Auckland, New Zealand
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