Lara Torres

PhD Research

PhD Research

Towards a practice of unmaking

The essay film as critical discourse for fashion in the expanded field

By Lara Mendonça Guterres Torres

Under the supervision of

Professor Sandy Black and Dr Thomas Makryniotis

at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London

Keywords Critical Fashion, Fashion Film and Fashion in the Expanded Field 

Abstract Going against the traditional productivist nature of fashion design, this practice-based Ph.D. proposes a strategy for critical fashion practices in a research context at the intersection of fashion, fine arts and film methodologies. This interdisciplinary strategy investigates fashion in the expanded field, exploring fashion practice as a form of critical thinking, questioning the fashion system itself: a practice of unmaking, the purpose of this research is to develop a practice-based method of producing an essay film as an artistic reflection critically discussing the problems of the fashion system, providing new insights into the way a fashion designer develops new approaches that can expand the action spaces available for fashion. Since the etymology of the word ‘fashion’ relates it to the Latin factio, meaning ‘making’ or ‘doing,’ to ‘unmake’ fashion carries in itself a paradox; it is both a metaphorical undoing and a methodological one, a practice of fashion resistance by not producing clothing, a deconstruction of fashion in order to understand what it’s made of – like unpicking the seams of a jacket in order to analyse its construction. It de-constructs underlying assumptions regarding a transition to post-productivism, exposing the limitations of current market-driven fashion design processes. Drawing on Rosalind Krauss’s notion of sculpture in the expanded field (1979),  as used in the discourse on cinema (Bardon et al., 2015), this research documents the development of experimental fashion films since the 1980s and the interdisciplinary fashion practices that stand at the edge of the fashion discipline. It investigates how thought experiments can steer the creative process towards a critique of fashion, drawing from modernist conceptual and de-materialised art practices towards the development of a conceptual fashion. The research methodology developed within the practice extends the potential of communicating through the essay-film format in order to critique fashion within the contemporary context of heightened concerns about climate change and environmental issues induced by mass-production, fast-fashion, and global fashion distribution and consumption. This is developed through a juxtaposition of allegorical images resembling a thought process: the fashion image is used as a thinking-form for constructing a critique of its own systems. The thesis emphasises the importance of taking a critical stance to fashion due to the lack of self-reflection within current fashion practices, synthesising a body of knowledge to inform practitioners of experimental, critical fashion while revealing complexities within the communication of these concerns, proposing fashion as the representation of a deconstructive thought where dress itself becomes ‘immaterial’.

With the support of FCT · Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

PhD thesis submitted in January 2019

PhD thesis submitted in January 2019