Oct 18, 2022 Metro Arts
IMAGE: Kaitiaki with a K, Pacific Sisters
Kia ora dear readers–
This week I’d like to highlight a forthcoming event in the field of fashion. Putting to one side the minutiae of where my remit as arts editor begins and ends, Fashion Assembly Aotearoa 2022’s participation in the Global Fashioning Assembly is something exciting and worthy of attention for specialist and non-specialist audiences alike — and I’m looking forward to it!
Once upon a time I wanted to work in fashion. The editor and writer Tim Blanks, during his days at the now defunct Style.com, was something of an exemplar for how I wanted to write: evocative but clear, expansive yet precise, stylish but not too mannered, erudite but not too bookish. He encompassed the ways in which I wanted to put words to an aesthetic sensibility and distil how it made me and others feel with a simple turn of phrase. I was impressed by how Blanks could locate a collection’s historical points of reference (the origins of a silhouette, for example, and its best-known adopters and iconoclasts) with encyclopaedic ease. I found his facility for language thrilling — it brought garments and accessories to life in ways expensive campaign videos often struggled to. And then I found out Blanks is an expat New Zealander and the attraction was made even stronger.
I took up art history by distance learning at my small town high school as a means of arriving at that sartorial end. But, as you might’ve guessed, I never reached that destination. I was waylaid at my art historical pitstop, lured by the promise of something purer (whatever that meant) and more high minded than what fashion could offer. Despite my sense at the time that I’d picked a worthier path, I could never shake the feeling that my sanctimony was a little bit unearned — and now, after several years in the arts brushing up against arms dealer donors and benefactors whose history of sexual violence has been an open secret for years, the feeling has intensified.
But why is it that fashion often seems to get a worse rap? There’s been talk of its perceived disregard of the more profound issues facing the world, but now that it’s become, like most other industries, aware of the cachet and money to be accrued from being Social Justice™ adjacent, we’re complaining that it’s thrown itself into some hamfisted and glib attempts at addressing those very issues. Maria Grazia Chiuri’s EUR800 ‘We should all be feminists’ tee and AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ dress have been accused of empty sloganeering or at least blithely disregarding the context in which they appear. Then there’s the lower hanging fruit of high fashion labels perversely absorbing symbols of war, famine, disaster, poverty or working class life into designs for obscenely priced garments as social commentary. Just last week, @1granary, the Instagram account associated with Central St Martins fashion students, posted its criticism of Balenciaga SS23, writing that “Demna [Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s creative director] might be an artist expressing his vision but that doesn’t make the company he works for an NGO.”
It is true that large brands owned by billion dollar multinationals are not NGOs — I’m not sure they’d want to be, given the reputational hit NGOs took in the ‘90s and 2000s — but what they do have in common with them is an outsize presence in the public imagination, one which overshadows so much else that is going on in their respective fields. In the ‘90s and 2000s when a lot of people thought of redressing colonial harm and its effects in the Third World, NGOs came to mind, just as the word “fashion” is so often equated with luxury brands.
The so-called art world — often spoken of as a single unit — suffers from a similar image problem: many of us have too-narrow and caricaturish a view that consists of prestige auction houses, big name biennials, and private foundations sponsored by oligarchs. This comes as no surprise given this is where most of the money flows through. Too bad this myopia curtails our conversations to the immediately visible spectacle and bluster (and faux pas) of the elite at the expense of the modest operations out there in the world making enduring structural changes in these industries.
This is part of the reason why I was intrigued to learn of Global Fashion Assembly (GFA22) Hosting Community/Coalition coordinated by Doris de Pont (New Zealand Fashion Museum), a project that expands our view of what fashion is and what it can be. (You can also catch Doris in Metro’s summer issue as the subject of My Life in Clothes, sharing some of her most treasured pieces and the stories behind how they were made and how they came into her possession.)
So what exactly is Fashion Assembly Aotearoa 2022’s participation in Global Fashioning Assembly and how can you get involved?
Over 3 days, 36 hours, 6 continents, 12 coalitions, 14 countries, the Global Fashion Assembly 2022 is a gathering of global fashion makers that reaches out beyond institutions, disciplines, and geographical boundaries to radically rethink fashion. Stepping outside the eurocentric dictates of what is fashion, the Global Fashion Assembly opens up a world of diversity. Starting in Aotearoa and moving through Kazakhstan, Ghana, Morocco, et al, closing in Peru, it invites you to participate in the radical decolonial act of listening across race, gender, age, histories and ways of knowing, and to rethink fashion as a multitude of possibilities.
GFA22 is a hybrid online/offline series of events taking place globally from 21 to 23 October 2022. The project was initiated by the Research Collective for Decoloniality & Fashion (RCDF) and on Friday 21 October 2022, you can attend from 1–6 pm live at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero (Auckland Central City Library) or register to attend on Zoom. The four-hour live Fashioning Assembly Aotearoa programme will be open to the public and recorded for sharing internationally with the Global Fashion Assembly 2022.
Aotearoa’s programme will consist of short live or video presentations by 12 participating creatives including Dan Ahwa; Jeanine Clarkin; House of Iman; Jessica Jay/Whitecliffe repair studio; Bobby Campbell Luke; Kiri Nathan/Kahui Collective; Pacific Sisters; Rowan Panther; Steven Park; Moko Smith; Ataraiti Waretini. Participants will share their work processes and outcomes, including film footage from shows, live workshops and performances, documented demonstrations of a making process, slideshows of photos, and shared stories. Themes will include ‘crafting culture’ (re-addressing, reclaiming, and renewing indigenous making); ‘fashion rethought’ (fashioning the whole person — hair, accessories, tattoo, etc); ‘connective threads’ (embracing group work, collaborations/collective making practices); and ‘fashioning the future’ (access to market and economically sustainable models of fashioning).
For more Aotearoa information follow:
For general GFA22 updates, follow:
For any upcoming events you’d like to share (and general comments and feedback), email email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
Flying Fetu Festival Giveaway
On November 5th, the inaugural Flying Fetu Festival will take over Basement Theatre to celebrate writers and writing of the Moana. Over 10 sessions, the likes of Tusiata Avia, Nathaniel Lees, Michel Mulipola, Teremoana Rapley, Victor Rodger, and Jahra Wasasala (to name a few) will grace the multiple stages to talk form and feels, and to share dispatches from their respective areas of expertise.
Flying Fetu Festival is brought to you by Flying Fetu an organisation committed to building abundant futures for artists of the upu (word), co-directed by former arts editor Lana Lopesi and Grace Iwashita-Taylor.
We are giving away one double pass to a festival session of your choice. Just email us here and let us know which session you want to go to, winners will be drawn midday Thursday.
For the full festival line up and ticketing information see here.
Claybenders 2022: Together – Apart
Arthaus, Ōrākei Village
19 October – 6 November
A Great Yawning Gap:
Sophie Guilford, Julia Johnston, Felixe Laing, Theo Macdonald, Elisabeth Pointon, Cindy Tan
21 October – 12th November
Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve, Devonport
24 – 30 October, 2022, 12-6 pm each day
North by Northwest
ASB Waterfront Theatre
25 October – 19 November
Tracey Tawhiao: Taputapu Ātea
28 October, 6:30 – 9pm
Tracey Tawhiao: Taputapu Ātea (artist talk)
29 October, 2pm
The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom
Q Theatre – Loft
3 – 27 November
Topp Class: A Topp Twins 40th Anniversary Tribute Concert
7 November, 7pm
Music Therapy Week 2022
14 – 20 November
Aotearoa Art Fair
The Cloud / AKL Waterfront
16 – 20 November
Te Auaha at 16–19 November, 7pm;
19 November, 1pm