As the days get colder and festive adverts start tugging on our collective heartstrings, the burning question on everyone’s lips is, ‘forget Christmas, what do I have to look forward to in 2015?’ Well – dear reader – let me enlighten you, as I’ve been invited to guest-curate a series of events as part of the Women, Fashion, Power exhibition at the Design Museum. The series examines how women use dress to negotiate issues around power throughout history and across cultures, from Muslim dress and modest fashion to West African spirituality, and the use of uniforms in western fashion from the 18th century to the present day. Come along!
January 27th: Faith, Fashion & Power in Muslim Dress: Barjis Chohan in conversation with Professor Reina Lewis. The dress of Muslim women continues to spark debates surrounding oppression vs empowerment, but often the question of fashion is conspicuous by its absence. In this discussion, Professor Reina Lewis talks to Barjis Chohan, founder of luxury fashion brand Barjis that fuses Eastern cultural values with Western cut and prints, about issues concerning fashion and faith. Topics will include how Muslim women around the world are finding ways to dress that support and express their growing social power, women’s education and careers in the industry, and increasing trends across Judaism, Christianity and Islam for modest fashion that allows the wearer to cover their body to engage with both spiritual and stylish demands. More info & tickets here.
23rd February: Power, Dress and Spirituality in West Africa – Lorene Rhoomes of Akhu Designs on the textiles and head wraps of the region. Head wraps are an essential part of African history and culture. In sub-Saharan Africa they were traditionally worn by women to prove they were prosperous and spiritual, and elaborate Nigerian gele and Ghanaian duku are worn today for celebrations, religious occasions or as an expression of cultural pride. Lorene Rhoomes, designer behind Akhu Designs, shares her passion for West African dress, looking at the vital role of textiles in the region and finishing with a head wrap workshop. A number of fabrics will be covered from the sacred Kente, dubbed the Akan Royal Cloth; Adire, resist-dyed indigo cloths that historically symbolised wealth and nobility among community chiefs, and Ankara, also known as Dutch Wax, which has a long and intricate history ranging from Indonesia to Holland, Manchester and West Africa, whose stories of colonialism and identity are often used in the artwork of Yinka Shonibare. More info & tickets here.
Lorene Rhoomes, aka Akhu Designs Ankara fabric
23rd March: Uniform, Power and the Sea – Nautical motifs are a perennial on contemporary catwalks, from regimental naval glamour to the square sailor collar. But how did these elements of men’s uniform — created as a spectacular display of sartorial power and military might — cross into women’s dress, and how did their meanings change with this transition? I will discuss the complex relationship between uniform, war, power and fashion, from the development of naval uniform to its appropriation into womenswear, covering areas based on research from my latest book, Nautical Chic (2015): the history of high style on the high seas. More info & tickets here.
1950s hand-knitted cardigan from the Mary Maxim ‘Pirate’ pattern Beyond Retro Archive; and la coéffure à la Belle-Poule, 1778, from the Bibliothèque nationale de France
AND if that wasn’t enough, my Theatre of Fashion lecture series at the Museum of Curiosities continues in the new year with Wearable Art: In Conversation with Sue Kreitzman and Diane Goldie on January 21st.
Born in NYC almost 75 years ago, Sue Kreitzman has lived and worked in London ’s East End for 30 years. After a long career as a food writer and broadcaster she unexpectedly burst into art late in life. One of the stars of the Channel 4 documentary Fabulous Fashionistas, and – in the New Year – one of Selfridges Bright Old Things (where she will have a Selfridges window all to herself), she is well known for her vibrant sense of style, in which she doesn’t so much get dressed in the morning as curate herself. Diane Goldie is an artist who works in collaboration with Sue to create spectacular one-off pieces of wearable art. Her brand c.Art is a reaction to the ostracising of craft from the fine art world, and through the medium of painting, embroidering and appliquéing Diane aims to take art from the gallery walls and bring it to the street, transposed as unique fashion pieces.
We will be in conversation discussing Sue and Diane’s artistic collaboration, the links between fashion & art, their sense of personal style, and why ‘growing old gracefully’ is certainly not on the agenda. More info here.
Hope to see you at some of these events in 2015!