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Date 24.09.2015
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Kevin Hunt & Yvonne Trew

THE FASHION RHIZOME: AN ALTERNATE VIEW OF FASHION HISTORY AND EDUCATION

Kevin Hunt & Yvonne Trew, Nottingham Trent University – UK

Our presentation for the Fashion Colloquia Milano focusses upon the concept of “the fashion rhizome”. We want to open up a discussion about design education and fashion history by exploring a theory that encourages creative, lateral and fluid thinking.

As a philosophical concept the ‘rhizome’ was developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1980) as a way of perceiving the unpredictable changes that shape and reformulate the world around us. It metaphorically uses the organic development of a mass of botanical roots as a way of thinking that embraces multiplicities and rejects the notion of a clear beginning, middle and end. This approach provides a conceptual model for mapping the cultural terrain of fashion as a self-defining creative process.

We believe contemporary fashion is questioning itself, demonstrating a sense of self-reflexivity. In particular, self-reflexivity in relation to the desire for fashion; for what is fetishized. Li Edelkoort has indicated that ‘for the first time in its history, fashion, supposedly ahead of the times, […] is unable to react to the period’ (EdelKoort in Dewintre, 2015: online). As part of this self-reflexive process, we want to challenge how we think about fashion history and the cultural ideas that shape design.

Within design education, conventional fashion history tends towards the linear. It follows a progressive model based not upon creativity but upon chronology. And yet, when we speak of fashion it is always as cyclical, non-linear, unpredictable and transgressive. Why should our approach to fashion history and design be limited by an imposed system of thought that assumes continual and logical progress, when the reality is driven by serendipity, experimentation and subversion?

We want to encourage students in the fashion sector to immerse themselves in fashion history by pursuing cultural concepts rather than approaching the past chronologically; to construct personally informed cultural ‘maps’ as part of their creative process, understanding ideas from the past in order to be innovative, informed and free thinking in the present. Taking a rhizomatic approach enables deep learning and personal engagement within a fluid framework that embraces creative thinking.

The most compelling narratives within fashion history are not found within a conventional chronology but are situated on the periphery. It is on the edge of culture where fashion develops and evolves, idiosyncratically excavating the past to define the present. We want to see cultural depth and historical knowledge driving individual creativity within fashion history and design education.

Fashion has never been linear. It may no longer even be cyclical. Fashion is rhizomatic in its awareness of how ideas blur and cross-fertilize as a means of innovation. A rhizomatic approach to fashion sees history as a fragmented map – a network of creative and cultural associations intuitively pieced together, much like the saccadic movements of the eye construct an image. It is an approach free from the limitations of outdated academic conventions: the rhizome offers an alternate vision of fashion history and design.

 

Kevin HuntKevin Hunt is Senior Lecturer in Design and Visual Culture in the School of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University.

His research relates to alternate ways of seeing and the creative mapping of concepts, spaces and ideas.

Kevin has published articles and reviews in Eye Magazine, Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, Visual Communication, Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty, Huffington Post and various other cultural and academic journals.

 

 

 

Yvonne TrewYvonne Trew is an educational entrepreneur. She is Masters Course Leader and Principle Lecturer responsible for the management of MA Fashion Futures courses, Fashion Marketing & Communication and Fashion Business Futures at Nottingham Trent University.

Her role is to manage a diverse group of international students and academics to facilitate a globally facing student experience. A special aspect of her role is to develop and manage cross disciplinary masters projects that are collaborations with external institutions, industry and are student led.

These include, The Cultural Olympiad, Mode Museum (MoMu) Antwerp, Belgium, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham Castle Museum & Gallery, Robert Violette Publisher, Paul Smith, Dance4, Joules and Li Edelkoort’s Trend Union Paris.

Yvonne and her collaborators run the MaModeInc publication that is managed by MA Fashion Futures students and published for the end of masters Expo.