Saturday, October 31, 2020

Participation in State of Fashion: Redress!

This has been very exciting. Last Wednesday evening, 28 October, my recent publication on Fashion was the focus of a 'Whataboutery' organized by State of Fashion in The Netherlands . Here is that writing in English. There is free access to it on the State of Fashion website.

The writing is critical but also constructive. I point out that fashion is damaging to indigenous clothing traditions and the reason is rooted in the colonial understanding of fashion, viz. the West has it and the Rest does not. This explains why non-Western dress systems have simply been erased from the fashion map -- except to appropriate designs and exploit indigenous makers.

The article was informed by my last ten years trying to encourage the Batak weaving tradition. Those years taught me why my goal was so difficult -- if possible at all -- to achieve. I had hoped to make a difference in North Sumatra, but I am now wondering whether having been featured in the State of Fashion may have accomplished more than all my struggles in the field. Time will tell.

No matter, it has been an exciting time and I am grateful for the professional and expert guidance from State of Fashion staff and the thoughtful participation of my fellow speakers on the evening itself: Rolando Vazquez, a leading decolonial thinker; Clare Farrell from Extinction Rebellion; and Monica Moisin of Cultural Intellectual Property & Fashion Law.

In my article, I urge fashion to 'redress'. This goal was inspired by the insights of LEAP in Canada (allied with the efforts of Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis) and their emphasis on 'repair'. I was also inspired by 'regenerative agriculture' and  're-wilding'. In all of these the emphasis is on cleaning up our mess. With the concept of 'redress' in fashion, I would like fashion not just to reduce its ecological footprint, but repair the damage to ecology and cultural systems that it has wrought especially during the last half century. 

We played a clip from MJA Nashir's film to open the evening because it set the scene so well. It illustrates what is dying out. The weaver in this clip, Op Fino, died earlier this month. She was the last weaver in her village. Nashir emphasized the sound of her yarn winder so that it could function as a warning siren. Yet another tradition is dying out. Remedies will have to come quickly and be effective.

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