Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Louise Tahiraj

The artist I am collaborating with for this project is Brisbane base emerging artist Louise Tahiraj.
Louise's work reflects an autobiographical exploration, reflecting identity as a process by engaging in intuition and body and form. Her art practice constantly renegotiates her day-to-day physical and psychological experience through a combination of video and drawing processes. Using web-cam technology and hand drawn elements Tahiraj creates a ‘lo-fi’ aesthetic, which stems from ‘spaces of boredom’ that she experiences commonly on the Internet. This experience arises out of excess possibilities at her disposal coupled with a self-limiting inability to access all of these possibilities.

Louise Tahiraj, Total Flip Out, 2009

What is appealing about Louise's work is her experimentation with new techniques, such as collage, drawing, blu-screen technology and video performance. There is a clunky, playful aspect to her work which reflects the pursuit of self-exploration and revelation in her art, and Louise incorporates boldily exploration by staging conventions like dress up and body paint. Louise's work also conveys themes of cyber jargon, and challenges positive-negative relationship between hearing and not seeing or vice versa, which is interesting. In this sense a lot of her work is monochromatic in colour, so not to detract from the concept...or if there is colour or sound, it is very natural and intuitive, based on Louise's current state of emotions or action.

Louise Tahiraj, 2009. Analogue Dialogue, video still.

Louise Tahiraj, 2009. Totally MyFace.

Louise Tahiraj, 2010. Body Collage, video still.

When we met as a group, I think I was really lucky in that I didn't actually pick Louise (I was happy with the original group allocation) and yet we all really seem to be in tune with what to take from Louise's work and where we want to take the project. As a group collective, we're quite interested in experimenting with some of the Blu-screen techniques Louise uses, which will be the thematic tie to all our work. But personally, what I will take from Louise is her intuitive processes of uncovering oneself, and taking that literally by taking and experimenting with body shapes and layers to create something which sort of reflects the self-exploration and acceptance of the diverse aspects, layers, which identify an individual. I also really would like to maintain a black and white, or minimal colour tone aesthetic to this creation so as not to distract from the concept behind it.

I think one of the best things Louise said right from the outset about intuitive practice is feeling rather than seeing; her work is so interested in exploring the naked eye perspective, and afterall much of the work is born out of naturally the process is about not being afraid about an unfinished product, or something that is a little bit clumsily put together. The exploration of oneself uncovers many complex layers and nothing is perfect.

Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Intelligent Textiles

"Intelligent textiles are fabrics designed to be programmable in order to produce data about the exchanges they facilitate and the changes they effect. They often have interwoven circuitry and technological parts, embedded sensors and conductive fibers, or coatings of sensory materials, that is, materials capable of transmitting and receiving information about the wearer’s surroundings, and that effect a deliberate transformation while worn on the body. Known variously as techno textiles, technical textiles, e-textiles (electronic textiles), and i-textiles (interactive textiles), they are related to a variety of cultural practices and academic disciplines. Their applications within clothing are widespread: the futuristic silhouettes of techno fashions; the diagnostic, monitoring, and contaminant-aware fabrics of the health care industry; and the protective combat uniforms of field soldiers.

Kinetic materials and high-performance sports fabrics are often considered to be intelligent textiles. Although they are seldom used to gather data, they are programmable, because they were engineered scientifically rather than developed through traditional textile processes alone. Many are able to harness energy or morph biomimetically (that is, to mimic biological functions such as, for example, the transpiration of plant leaves) into new shapes, then revert back to their original form.

The first intelligent textiles are generally considered to be the advanced fabrics created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the first spacesuit. Since then, breakthroughs in fiber technology and new manufacturing processes have resulted in other high-performance fabrics with heightened insulation and absorption. In the early twenty-first century, these textiles are more widely used in protective clothing. They provide firefighters with a barrier against heat and radiation, shield welders from molten metals, and offer police officers and soldiers protection against stab wounds, explosions, and bullets, as well as being used for wet suits for divers and spacesuits for astronauts.

Textiles interwoven with digital impulses, which are mediated by software and transmitted by circuitry, can be programmed to change colors and configure themselves into new patterns, to pulsate, and to illuminate, introducing a new aesthetic to fashion. Tectonic fabrics reveal new colors, textures, and motifs through wear and tear, redefining use as a factor that completes the design process rather than destroying the fabric. These textiles give wearers a new role as they engage with the design process in consuming fabric, heightening garments’ interactive potential.

Intelligent textiles can also contribute to well-being. Certain colors are believed to stimulate the body’s innate healing ability, while textiles constructed from encapsulated fibers can medicate the wearer through his or her skin. Embedded sensors can record the temperature and movements of a patient and diagnose changes in his or her medical condition. Sensors in undergarments can register secretions that signal changes in cervical cells. Intelligent textiles are used in hospital gowns to reduce discomfort and promote improved circulation, while wicking away perspiration and medicating the patient’s skin to accelerate the healing of wounds. Ionized fibers (fibers encapsulated with ions) have antimicrobial properties, protecting the body from deadly bacteria and simultaneously resisting odor-causing bacteria, while sterile “contaminant-aware” textiles change color if germs or environmental toxins contact the textile’s surface.

Medical researchers are developing new types of hybrid textiles that combine biological and engineering parts. Fiber-based heart valves, cardiac-support devices, artificial muscle tissue, arterial filters, and bioimplants are often produced using knitting and embroidery techniques, while implants for cosmetic and reconstructive surgery are woven from electrospun fibers (which are created from polymers spun into continuous fibers by an electrospinning technique). As researchers explore the role of textiles in new medical processes, fabrics are slowly beginning to define body ideals rather than to be shaped by them. Historically, fabric has sculpted and molded body shapes through corsetry, padding, and layering. In an interesting reversal, the surgical textiles used in cosmetic surgery are fashioning the body from within.

The category of intelligent textiles includes other nonwearable fabrics, such as those used for automotive applications, interior design, building construction, and agricultural purposes, including geotextiles (fabrics engineered to be strong enough to hold boulders in place, yet porous enough to allow water to pass through) and agrotextiles (geotextiles made for agricultural applications). Of these, intelligent interior textiles are the most relevant to fashion, because eventually the functions of household technology may be controlled directly from the inhabitant’s garment. As furnishing fabrics are reconceived as technological interfaces, acoustic exchanges, or the absorption or deflection of sound, light sources, and portable environments such as inflatable tents, enclosures, and screens, they will be interwoven with “soft,” that is, nonrigid, circuits, sensors, switches, light-emitting diodes, minicomputers, and microprocessors that will engage with remote systems and interface with audiovisual technology. For example, triggering a sensor on one area of an upholstery motif could change the television channel, while another area could switch the television off. As intelligent textiles begin to make items such as light switches, speakers, antennae, and hard drives redundant, they highlight a process described as “the furniturization of textiles,” whereby intelligent textiles would begin to assume the functions of household objects and replace them altogether.

The intelligent textiles used in health care, sportswear, protective clothing, interior design, and architectural systems could perhaps fuse with mainstream fashion. The now-defunct research organization Starlab claimed that the clothing of the future would combine many different types of intelligent textiles in a single garment, describing it as a “fabric area network.” From their base in Brussels, Starlab conducted research on intelligent clothing as well as nanotechnology, medicine, artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, quantum physics, time travel, and consciousness.

For example, a shirt could have various layers or tiers that interact with the wearer. A diagnostic inner layer could medicate the wearer, while a communicative layer could enable the wearer to interface with Internet and intranet platforms. An external data layer could function as a wireless personal computer, storing and retrieving data via a wearable textile screen, while also providing armorlike protection.

Many leading researchers in the twenty-first century are based at companies such as Kanebo, DuPont, Invista, International Fashion Machines, Phillips Design, Cute Circuit, Infineon, and Eleksen, and at research institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Textile and Fiber Engineering, the Virginia Tech E-Textiles Lab, and the Hexagram Research Institute created jointly by Concordia University and the Université du Québec à Montréal (Quebec University at Montreal). The sales of wired clothing are estimated to exceed US$100 million by the end of 2010, contributing to a growing market with a net worth of more than US$1 billion."

BradleyQuinn (n.d.). Snapshot: Intelligent Textiles. In Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Volume 8 – West Europe . Retrieved 24 Aug. 2010, from

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

a² + b² = c²

I had an interesting discussion the other day about fashion designer and it's linear processes.
I think that is what is the scariest bit about this project, is that everything we've learned is kind of being turned on it's head. There is no right or wrong anymore, which is a bit of a mindfuck to get your head around.
The main issue with this at this stage of studio is that, after experimentation in first year and being taught the foundations of fashion design, you come into second year learning to appreciate commercial viability and the practices of the industry a lot better in preparation for third year when your collection is suppsoed to sell yourself. Whilst I think this is a fantastic project, I'm wondering whether it is better to be introduced to first years students when they can have more of the creative freedom and choice of linear direction to guide them for the rest of their studies.

Textile Breakdown.

The starting point of garment construction is consideration of the fabric to be constructed from, and so in consideration of the sustainable properties of textiles, it figures I should go to the root of fibre production.

So in the linear system we have become accustomed to, as a designer Ihave always selected a fabric based on how it has felt, or looked, or the level of technical difficulty involved in working with it. And even when I measured out how much fabric I would need, it would be measured down to factor in how much more expensive it would be to purchase excess fabric.
So yes, I am a guilty, ignorant designer.

In researching textile waste for an assignment last year, I referred to the 2009 discussion paper on Sources of Textile Wast In Australia, and I've pulled out a few extracts to start at the root of the issues of textile sustainability.
And it starts before it even reaches the consumer:

2.2.1 Pre-consumer textile waste
Pre-consumer textile waste is manufacturing waste that is generated by processing fibres, (be they
natural or synthetic fibres) and the production of finished yarns and textiles, technical textiles,
nonwovens, garments and footwear, including off-cuts, selvages, shearings, rejected materials and/or
B-grade garments. Whilst “cabbage” (over estimated fabric meters and off-cuts of saleable size) has
for many years, been resold into markets or made-up into smaller items, most pre-consumer textile
waste in Australia is simply sent to landfill.
(Sources of Textile Wast In Australia, 2009)

The thing which speaks to me the loudest about this is the point about textile 'cabbage' going straight to landfill. I.e all the fabric roll cut offs and excess fabric scraps that designers like me dispose of when we've bought too much fabric to start with.
I refer back to my previous post, You Call It Drab, I Call It Innovation where I uploaded an image of Colin Firth's wife, Livia Giuggioli’s Oscars gown this year. It was made from pre-consumer waste of high-end Italian design manufacturers: end-of-roll fabric, discarded silk and organza offcuts, as well as silk chiffon plucked from unfinished petticoats and other cutting process leftovers, designed by Orsola de Castro of From Somewhere.
The following is the vision statement from From Somewhere's website, to explain their efforts in sustainable fashion:

"From Somewhere is a creative sustainable fashion label run by Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci. All womenswear collections are made with lucyru designer pre-consumer waste such as proofs, swatches, production off-cuts and end of rolls - upcycling high-end fashion and textile surplus into beautiful clothes that take into account the balance beetween consumption and disposal."

In reflection of this, I have made a concious decision to regulate how much excess fabric I waste in the initial stages of garment construction. Even thinking about other things that can be made out of scraps, like accessories or shoe coverings, bags....button coverings, it all comes down to consideration.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wastesthetics by Laura Lynn Jansen
source: WGSN 2010

Womenswear: 360° Materials autumn/winter 2011/12

Grainy pattern weave with random dust-effect surface created with needle-punched and felted wool
Naomi Jane Foot
source: WGSN 2010

The Stone Masters: California Rock Climbers in the Seventies
By John Long and Dean Fidelman
Publisher: T Adler
ISBN: 0984094903
source: WGSN 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You call it drab, I call it innovation.

A massive aspect to this studio brief is addressing the issue of Sustainability when we refine our fashion practice, aesthetic and design philosophy.
It is more than jumping on the eco-bandwagon; the issue of sustainability isn't just concerned with using eco-fibres and practicing ethical manufacturing. To challenge us and actively engage in the cycle of clothing, the brief entails a garment to be constructed out of pre-loved textiles, a term often reffered to as 'up-cycling'.

With that term considered, I did a sneaky google search on up-cycling to work out what it was, and what it wasn't:

- "Over the last 20 years re-using old garments in new creations is a common phenomenon. But to call the haute couture techniques just recycling is a bit of an understatement. The process of up-cycling is more than just use old and raw material. By this kind of re-use the raw material is augmented into an object of higher status than the original object. It is about upgrading used material and making it more desirable than it was at the start." (Amfibang, Upcycling Fashion:Maison Margiela, 2008)

Maison de Martin Margiela, jacket made with soccer balls.

- "Upcycling receives extra street cred by addressing the many social challenges that the fashion industry faces. As the material is readily available it slows down the factory’s supply demands. And there is an immediate gain of longer lead times for delivery, thus minimising issues such as unpaid overtime of garment workers, which is one of many criticisms from organisations campaigning for labour rights.
Elegant upcycling does not only lower textile waste, it is one potential solution to the future challenges of finite raw materials as the Earth’s population increases by an extra 1.3billion people by mid-2020 – if UN predictions hold true." (UK Metro, Eco-fashion takes over the high street, 2010)

Colin Firth's wife, Livia Giuggioli’s choice of gown for this year’s Oscars was a dress designed by Orsola de Castro of From Somewhere from pre-consumer waste of high-end Italian design manufacturers: end-of-roll fabric, discarded silk and organza offcuts, as well as silk chiffon plucked from unfinished petticoats and other cutting process leftovers.

- (just something interactive to amuse oneself with using fashion as an excuse to present concept-less, "eco-designs")

Sustainable fashion isn't about making a princess dress from the thousand aluminium cans you scavenged from your bin (which would have gone to recollection anyway). It isn't about stating your ethical choice of fabrics by using cotton as your premium fibre content. Sustainability entails the acknowledgement of issues about origin of fabrics, longevity of garments, technical and labour production, carbon footprints, mass consumption, quality, enduribility. I have decided to research one of each aspect and present an exploration of the place sustainability has in the industry worldwide, and in Brisbane. And through this come to conclusions on my own sustainable appreciation within my design philosophy.

And Now For Something Diffferent

Studio briefs, up until this semester, have been fairly structured and coherent...creative freedom limitless, but on reflection, highly absorbed by traditional media conventions that influence fashion. We have accepted WGSN as our bible, and have delved into the history of styles and sillhouettes to regurgitate class-old pieces of inspiration.
It could be considered that, up until now, we have not really excercised our full potential of creative realms.
So when initially briefed about the project and change of direction for this half-year of studio, there were of course mixed feelings of apprehension, excitement and anxieties. These feelings aside and after deeper reflection, I have decided that the project for this semester entails a reason and priviledge to exploit the cultural spectors hiding in Brisbane.

For Us By Us is a collaborative project between the second year BFA Fashion students at QUT and 6 locally practicing artists. It is a fused concept brought together by media/arts enterprise RaRaCurio and local arts initiative Vegas Spray.
The purpose for the collaboration was to challenge the traditional ideas about funcion, aesthetic and context in both art and fashion. It is about merging the influences of art into the practice of fashion, to boost fashion's creative and innovative credibility and art's commercial viability. This dialectual fusion will push students and artists to find the median between the co-existing practices, and has the potential to really place Brisbane on the cultural map if it explodes into community with success. The process will be documented and the end outcome of the collaboration will be showcased in film and exhibition format.

I personally feel as though this project is bigger than Ben Hur, and finally something tangible for Brisbane's perceived lack of cultural substenance. I was talking to a Brisbane ex-pat in Melbourne recently, who claimed that (in terms of cultural potential) "Sydney (was) the mistress who you could get good use out of every now and then, but Melbourne (was) the wife you just wanted to stay with. Brisbane (was) the gangly, awkward tween in the middle." I don't agree with this statement, but I also don't totally dis-agree. True, Brisbane is a young and developing town...but we have the creative talent, we have the resources. Up until now it has just been very hard to find an avenue to bring it all together and make something happen. So I am considering this project not only as something for me to exploit in terms of the people and resources I have access to, but also I endow it to my pursuits and will to justify what this town has to offer.

Let the collaboration begin.