humanity of Fashion

Wei-Chi Su  Feb.-Mar. 2021

MA CriticalFashion Practices
Lecturer_   Femke de Vries, Hanka van der Voet, Chet Bugter

There is no natural link between a garment and a certain gender, but we “as a society and culture value symbols of masculinity”(Cronberg, 2016) have set it all up. Same as in compulsory heterosexuality and racial capitalism. Through Artistic research I, I have found myself deeply interested in the file of feminism, race, gender, and human rights issues within the fashion industry. And while linking them together, they are actually all based on the concept of ‘equality.’ For the course of Artistic Research II, I have deepened my studies and practices in the topics that are mentioned above.

“I cannot now think symbols less than the greatest of all powers whether they are used consciously by the masters of magic, or half unconsciously by their successors, the poet, the musician, and the artist.” (W.B. Yeats, 1903) Gendered colour coding has been used in our society for almost five decades, which has remained or increased the impact on gender stereotypes and gender identity. Symbols such as a colour or a character are much more powerful than we imagined, especially when it is under capitalism and neoliberalism. Fragile and softness which are the symbols of feminine contain a negative impression. Masculine and feminine, strong and frail, blue and pink. Our society works as a binary system, it excludes the people that don’t fit in the box and keep on devaluating the side that is defined as relatively poor.

In the series of field notes, I have approached different methods such as recording and categorising my life or sensory experiences, pattern making, sewing, and photography. These not only link the research with my personal life but also develop unexpected findings. For example, as an Asian female fashion designer studying in Europe, I become more and more sensitive about my race every single day. Yet, my antagonism toward white privilege makes me realise I might be too Asiacentrism. Besides, our interaction between the Han and indigenous peoples in Taiwan might also come from a dominant privilege perspective that we (the Han) don’t realise ourselves.  

Containing my personal value, the reading reports connect with the field notes and discover more specific issues. Neoliberalism as a new technique has changed the way feminism, queer, and anti-racism movements operate. The consumer-driven culture has led me to rethink the visualisation of the politic, and how it manipulates can damage the specific groups, especially in the fashion industry which is powerful and not politically neutral.

This research report contains my doubts about the humanity of fashion in multiple dimensions. The power of symbols strongly impacts the fashion industry in its way of defining and shaping people. However, we seem to ignore it and are used to the rules that are not suited for the community anymore. Equality is the task that we are struggling with within every part of our society. Nonetheless, being the second most polluting and one of the most influential industries, fashion has the responsibility to make things right. Whether to the environment, animals, or our own kinds. Thus, with this research, I hope to bring a wider perspective, finding myself and the industry an alternative way to start freshly and humanely.

© 2022, Wei-Chi Su.