Current Research / Affiliated Research: cloTHING(s) as Conversation

cloTHING(s) as Conversation: Clothing and specific combinations of articles worn on the body are often understood and referred to as a statement. The notion of clothing as a statement is prevalent in catwalk culture as the fashion statement. It is equally evident in the clothing choices of individuals who do not participate in the fashion schema, be it through regulated attire, uniforms and professional garb, or as part of a counter culture.

Why look to conversation? There are links between mechanisms of conversation and the way we use clothing. Clothing and the act of wearing, the statement, and being in public are inherently linked to the social. The propensity to imitate our contemporaries’ vestiture can be viewed as a visual and embodied desire for mutual understanding. A link exists between clothing habits and contemporary psycholinguistic insight into conversation, it is our proclivity to reiterate and re-interpret information. We reuse and reformulate clothing based on the visual cues in our daily life. The clothing we wear can also be seen to create conceptual pacts via physical forms such as: collars, epaulets, topstitching etc. As hierarchical and cultural references these visual cues can be seen to indirectly underpin and denote a conceptual model that promotes unsustainable modes of consumption. Switched up and rejigged they could have profound effects on views of consumption. Using conversation as a focal point provides a unique approach to design research that is relevant to sustainability in the garment trade, social innovation and developments in wearable technology.

Concurrent with traditional clothing systems are applications and explorations introduced to textiles and fashion. 3D printing, additive manufacturing, open-source wearable hardware and social media afford new platforms for shared local solutions and cultural expression. Developments in these areas have the potential to significantly change our concept of, and interaction with, clothing. To date they are most often applied within the current consumption paradigm.

Canada’s creative economy has the capacity to integrate and act upon social media driven material production and processes. This project is situated within this context of innovation. By addressing contemporary clothing consumption patterns in conjunction with novel applications for social media and shared open source technology for local solutions research assistants will be trained in a range of topics key to art and design disciplines. The project will be a platform for shared multidisciplinary expertise and research in the fields of human factors, computer engineering, fashion and social innovation. To date we have the support and commitment of experts in the domains of Design, Computer Science, Fashion and Sustainability.

We posit that insight and potentials will result through reframing clothing from a unilateral entity, to one made up of multidirectional interchanges. Our goal is to affect the manner that clothing is consumed, to use conversation as a medium to explore and seed new modes of production, use and expression for the clothing we wear. Methodologies from creative research will be used in conjunction with insight from psycholinguistics, sociology and human computer interaction. We propose to develop prototypes for new clothing propositions, novel mechanisms for clothing construction, and systems for shared expression on the body. Artifacts and didactic content from practice-led inquiry will be applied to empathy studies, an interactive exhibition and two co-creative events. As mechanisms for engagement of local communities they will serve in dissemination and provide for critical feedback loops.


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