it is one of my life’s ambitions to own a piece by hussein chalayan.
i’m so not high-end sample size and nothing would probably suit me, but by god i would love to be here.
can somebody please go on my behalf please? ta.
Over the last year, i’ve been doing more and more conceptual work, primarily about the process of measuring spaces.
Not being a natural born killer on screen, and not wanting the work to be about ‘me’ per se, i’ve taken to using a fashion device as a costume of sorts: my black st pauli cap and a black hoodie.
It has been interesting to see it creep into my process on a semi-conscious level and to notice the relationship between what i wear when i am doing these process works and how it fits in with what other artists have used when making similar works, primarily joseph beuys, eminen and every graf artist in the history of the world.
I certainly didn’t set out for it to be that way. It just happened to be what i was wearing the first time i documented the measuring and patterning of the RMIT toilets. In fact, most of my friends will attest to the fact that black jeans and hoodie are pretty much my uniform during winter anyway. But the fact that it has moved from happenstance to choice is interesting to me. It has become a symbol of anonymity, comfort and specificity for me now. I step into a mode through this moda and it enables me to focus. Same goes for costume throughout the history of theatre.
The thing with the hat is kind of fascinating and little embarrassing in its obvious (although unintentional) link to beuys. i’m sure that mr beuys used the hat in similar ways- as a screen to hide behind, regular symbol of his process and a personal motif, so maybe it’s unsurprising that there’s a sartorial link.
And then of course there is the uniform of making (often uncommissioned) work in public- the black hoodie. Contemporary fashion device of blending in and hiding- a dime a dozen. Which also also happens to be bound up in political action, as suggested in the pics of G20 protests on flickr and eminen’s cool mosh vid from 2006. The hoodie has become a fashion item of the public space, in terms of interacting with it. It’s the street version of the black cloak and wig of law, or the black polo of architects (i jest).
if i had more time, and i was a fashion grad student, as opposed to half-arsed blogger, it could be an interesting point of research: fashion devices used in public and performance art.
In the mean time, you have this.
this morning at 8am i woke up to a text message:
“lauren, are you an American Apparel M?”
with my fuzzy brain, i was able to realise that my dear friend seb, in germany, was asking me what size clothing i wore, if i had bought it from American Apparel. I’ve not ever bought anything from American Apparel, so i don’t know. I know that i’m a size 10. Ish. Whether that’s a UK or US, I’ve no idea.
which later got me thinking about the standard unit of measurement in fashion. I’m currently measuring up and making patterns for spaces and, as such, very grateful for the invention of the inch (and then of the centimetre) as a standard unit of measurement, and the design of a tape measure.
I know, small things, amuse small minds.
I’m not exactly sure when these came to pass, but in a recent-ish conversation, ex-colleagues of mine and I were surmising that it was probably as the result of the textile trade. not the craft of making clothes, but the concept of trading, customising, selling and economy, using garments/cloth as the primary currency. Presumably, this required people on both sides of the trading table, to understand how long a piece of cloth was going to be. How do you measure that? Well, you have to devise a unit and a tool to measure with.
OK, so as the textile trade booms, , the concept of the prefabricated garment develops, to which you have to develop a sizing system. This seems to work well for a large amount of time. We still haven’t worked out exactly what the difference is between a UK 4 and a US 8, but then again, neither have the supermodels, or the haute couture designers, so it ain’t all bad.
but nowadays, clothes aren’t ‘from’ the UK or the US. In fact, they’re mostly made in china. designed elsewhere, but the industry sizing standard is not strict, rarely adhered to and a little, well, loose. it seems that countries, or whomever runs the fashion industry nowdays, don’t care so much. unlike other areas of industry where a unit, is a unit, is a unit. for instance, a megabyte of RAM is 1024KB worldwide. you don’t get a 1000KB in india, 958KB in italy on a good day and 1055KB in new zealand because they value a little extra room. this would undermine the concept of having a global standard. and well, big global brands like Dell and Apple couldn’t control their market if the unit was a little fuzzy. but no, not for the fashion industry..
[Enter globalisation. ]
what better way to ‘take over the world’ [insert doom and gloom organ dirge], than to create ones own unit of measurement. like American Apparel M (Medium) is now a standard unit of measurement. It doesn’t fit into UK, US, EU fashion standards but transcends (or ignores) it. Other ‘sizes’ I’ve heard of recently: the GAP 10, the H&M Small and the Converse 5. This supposes that one has worn clothes from all of the above brands. which of course we all have, right?. and belies a level of arrogance and or smarts that i can’t quite work out if i despise or admire.
what i find most scary about this whole messy sizing business is that if there is no level playing field within the fashion industry, why are we (mostly women) still playing against the numbers. despite years of feminist mutterings, there is still an aspiration to an 8, 12 or, even worse, small. when small becomes a unit of measurement that we pit ourselves against, things are going to get ugly. more dangerously for some than others.
and, to add to the sickness of us having to ‘measure up’ to an ever-shifting standard of measurement, is that there doesn’t seem to be the impetus to change that. we may boo and hiss at the big designer labels, looking for them to change their sizing, we may whinge at the mega street labels, bitching at how shit we feel that we’re wearing large, when we used to be a 10, but the reality is, that the unit of measurement comes from both sides of the trading table. which means that as consumers of cloth, there has to be the will to know exactly what we’re buying. and perhaps, sadly. we don’t really want that to change yet.
When I was in the UAE, we popped in the Sahara Centre mall in Sharjah to do some people watching and really get a ‘normal’ Emirati experience. (see the previous post about malls in the UAE, if you don’t believe me)
I had been doing a lot of thinking about how different it is (for me) over there and how companies wanting/needing to have an Arabic/middle eastern market need to take lots of different cultural things into consideration. Things like how their logo might read in Arabic (Pizza Hut doesn’t translate well, believe me), and whether their ethos is suitable.
Because Age and I have this regular sparring match about Nike, I made a point of going into the Nike store in the mall and analysing whether Nike were doing what I would expect a sophisticated global brand like them to be doing and adapting their brands to consumers, whatever the country or culture.
Considering that arabic is a major international language and Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, Nike are either slow, mad, or strategic beyond understanding. there isn’t even an option to read the nike site in arabic, which is quite strange, considering the breadth of languages that are available there.
In the Sharjah Nike Store, the first thing that struck me was that there was Just Do It [and the swoosh] plastered on placards throughout the store. Considering that Sharjah is a strict muslim emirate and that a large aspect of islamic life is the restraint of self-control and the cultivation of measure, a passionate and inspiring, but equally as reckless slogan like Just Do It, is not necessarily appropriate for that particular application.
Similarly, the women’s sportswear section was illustrated with images of hot, sweaty, white girls with sports bras and killer abs. Hot to look at, but really only perpetuating the whitey routine of being scantily clad. This isn’t to say that muslim girls don’t like being sexy. Under their abayas, Victoria’s Secret does a roaring trade. But that kind of sexiness is private – between girls only or for their husband, not in front of other men and certainly not in front of them in a huge department store. Nike could easily have rectified this by having a private Nike women’s section, where they could have showed all the steamy ladies they wanted to, but respecting a sense of privacy which is inherent in Muslim women’s public life.
Another area which Nike are really falling behind on is by not selling their baseball caps (complete with Nike symbol) without the peak, replicating the classic kufi hat. They may already produce them, but the fact is that they weren’t in the actual Nike Store in the mall and really, they should have been. It’s only a small detail, but it could really illustrate a true understanding of contemporary Muslim and arabic culture and clothing.
And considering that Nike laud itself on their cultural and customer relationships, this is kind of a big deal for them to be so far of the mark with such a huge possible market.
NB: I know that I’m biased against Nike. I could go on about the unethical nature of them as a company and corporation, but I’ll save it for another rant. This rant is based on my experience and considering that’s how people base their opinions on brands and companies, I’m OK about that. This rant is also especially for Age, with whom I have a friendly Nike rivalry with, so if you have opinions about it, so free to express them, just play nice.