March 5th, 2013
While some critics may label fashion as purely materialistic or vain, there are others who consider it a powerful and influential force. At Thursday evening’s “Fashion, Hacked: Liberation Through Participation,” a panel discussion at the City University of New York, a variety of guests led a discussion on fashion and its relationship to economics, philosophy, technology, and politics.
“Fashion is the cultural construction of the embodied identity,” Hazel Clark, a fashion professor at Parsons, said to the professors, students, and fashion connoisseurs in attendance. Other panelists included Susan Buck-Morss, Eugenia Wissinger, Kyoo Lee, and Jessamyn Hatcher—all of whom are academics at various New York colleges—along with Sarah Scaturro, a textile conservator at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
Wear it, Don’t Bear it
Clark explained that fashion plays a critical role in political protests, as evidenced by the work of Lucia Cuba, a Peruvian-born fashion designer who developed a collection entitled Articulo 6. According to Clark, the collection aims to draw attention to forced sterilizations committed in Peru under the presidency of Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s, under which thousands of indigenous and peasant women were coerced or violently forced into undergoing infertility procedures. Cuba draws attention to this trauma by printing words and symbols related to the human rights violations upon her clothing, such as political speeches and testimonies of the victims. Despite the fact that her project has been censored in Peru, Cuba perseveres. By combining stylish silhouettes with political messages, Cuba has proven fashion’s potential to function as a vehicle for protest.
A project by Lucia Cuba
Lima, April 2012
Cheap but Chic
Recently, the politics of “fast fashion”—cheap, mass produced clothing—has been garnering media attention with many outlets exposing the environmental and human rights violations that occur all too often occur in producing these clothes. However, NYU professor Jessamyn Hatcher chose to explore fast fashion’s impact upon a group of Nepalese women who wear fashionable new clothing to their service jobs in a nail salon—not the most “fashionable” job. It is both a messy one that can ruin the women’s clothing and pays little. However, Hatcher claimed that it is through these clothing choices that the women maintain a sense of dignity. They “exert some kind of freedom,” Hatcher said, adding that we must keep in mind the fashion industry’s impact on all kinds of people if we are to maintain one that serves our needs while doing as little damage as possible.
Just as technology is affecting every aspect of life these days, Sarah Scaturro, a textile preservationist, spoke about the ways in which technology is also evolving fashion, exemplified by several “hackathons” that occurred during last month’s New York Fashion Week. These tech events assemble coders and challenge them to create the best apps to improve fashion. This year, the winners of one such event created an app called SWATCHit that allowed budding designers to connect with textile manufacturers. These days, the term, “hacker” also applies to how individuals “hack” fashion—or, how they explore the full potential of the garments they purchase. Media outlets such as instructables.com and Make Magazine encourage the deconstruction and reconstruction of all items, demonstrating tutorials, workshops, and other incentives to get you hacking at your wardrobe. “Style is how you wear the fashion,” Scaturro said. “It’s how you hack it.”
By Rachel Mullinax