I’m really happy to have been invited to show some of my work at the Norwich Science Festival’s Hello Future Fashion exhibition 23-30th October. The exhibition takes place in what was an old toy shop in Norwich (Langleys). A beautiful shop in the Royal Arcade, Norwich, it’s really brilliant to be able to help bring this empty shop unit to life again even if just for one week. I really hope these many empty spaces will be able to be put to uses like this more and more…
With a firm focus on creating imagery and video art in my own work which uses vintage and second hand fashion i.e clothes which already exist in the fashion & style system this exhibition gives me the perfect opportunity to share work from my ‘This is Not Nostaglia?’ project, which I began in 2016 and was started with work which was created for my final project at university.
This is Not Nostalgia?
2016 - ongoing
This project is a constantly evolving work in progress. The world of fashion and style has always changed fast. Now even “slow fashion” has picked up the pace. The way I borrow from the past has little to do with nostalgia; it’s about looking to the future. Perhaps this is because my first experience, in the 80s and 90s, of what was then called “old” and “second-hand” was very different from what we now call “vintage” and “retro”.
On my council estate, a hand-me-down was a thing of shame. At my school, if your clothes weren’t new, you risked a kicking. If you were seen in a charity shop, you would be ostracised. “Did your mum get that from Oxfam?” was not a request for shopping advice. This may seem odd to read in 2021 but it has taken a long time for second-hand and vintage to enter the realms of the mainstream in a way that doesn’t have negative or cliched connotations.
Those with an off-beat approach to style find themselves less and less likely to be ghettoised as “alternative” than before. There’s a tolerance in the mainstream for different approaches in a way that would be unimaginable in the 80s or 90s.
The digital age has democratized access to images and ideas that would once have been obscure or inaccessible. You are not restricted to the grubby dog-eared stock in your under-resourced local library, or on what happens to be flavour of the month in The Face or NME. Today an image maker can be a self-curating cultural magpie in a way their predecessor in 1987 could not have imagined.
The work was initially created to question how we observe and consume yesterday’s fashion. I ask the viewer to consider: does having a vintage influence mean that the imagery is not contemporary; does curating influences from the past mean that the images themselves are “retro”? If these style influences are all around us in the here and now, can this mean the garments of “future fashion” already exist?
From the very beginning the project embraced a genderless approach to styling. At first this was through the influence of the fashion, music and pop culture of the 1970s. Now though as we think more and more about a garment’s length of life, it’s clear that through removing the “label” of what is menswear or womenswear, we can give clothing an extra roll of the dice at staying in the system. In this way, we maximise the life and wear of a garment. We do not need to wait for fashion houses to create genderless ranges for consumers nor to set the “trend”. We can re-wear, re-use and refuse the gender label of items such as a woman’s blouse or a man’s suit etc, right now, today.
As shopping second-hand becomes ever more mainstream and the glossy fashion media declare accessible-to-the-masses pre-loved items as an acceptable and indeed coveted buying choice (not just vintage dresses worn to red carpet events), this project grows and gives me more questions than answers.
This is Not Nostalgia?
To be continued…
The work featured in the Science Festival exhibition includes commissions received from The Norwich Fringe Festival and Norwich University of the Arts.
People featured in these works with links to their instagram accounts:
Amy Ollett, Amy Woodman, Bishy Barnabee, Emma Holt, Eto Badu, Frances, India Aono-Billson/Alex Hill, Jordan Wake, Karen James-Welton.
More details about the exhibition here https://norwichsciencefestival.co.uk/whats-on/hello-future-fashion-2021