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Otago Museum’s exhibition ‘‘Fashion FWD - Disruption through Design’’ explores the edges of Dunedin and iD fashion. Fashion writer Katie Day speaks to the team behind this event.
Otago Museum’s exhibition "Fashion FWD - Disruption Through Design" establishes the idea of societal disruption for expansive beneficial change, through the innovative hand, mind and eye of design.
Anchored in Dunedin’s design identity, yet with a global context, "Fashion FWD" presents garments suspended in time, presenting the narrative of Dunedin fashion’s past, present and future.
Each garment possesses the expanse of time, drawn from their position in Dunedin’s fashion past, experienced through our present lens, designed and displayed to disrupt and spark innovation.
"We chose seven themes that we saw emerging in the designs and concepts of our design graduates group, and found plenty of examples from earlier times in the Otago Museum collection that shared those ideas," honorary curator of "Fashion FWD" and dress historian Dr Jane Malthus said.
"Reinterpreting a 19th-century paisley shawl as a tea-gown; reshaping the body to highlight or hide femininity or masculinity, such as a 1950s dress compared to a 1920s women’s suit; producing clothes that make people feel good about themselves, or suit particular situations, such as a man’s nightshirt or dress suit; all point to concepts earlier designers share with their emerging counterparts. Fashion FWD shows the enormous creativity of designers over time.
“I’m excited about this exhibition showing some of the fantastic fashion in the Otago Museum’s collection, which has been donated by Dunedin people, mostly. From an early 19th-century dress with large puffed sleeves to a 1958 bubble-skirted dress, to examples of upcycling and sustainability, the examples show that Dunedin is always in tune with the zeitgeist."
Otago Museum head of exhibitions and creative services Craig Scott said it was not just fashion from the past.
"We have some newer acquisitions that haven’t been on display before. We’ve some Smart Tiki from Joe Te Wharau. They’re 3-D printed, microchipped hei tiki. They’re made out of a rubber polymer; there’s four of them and they’re all digitally activated, so they interact with each other and the concept behind it was around keeping a digital whakapapa and keeping that lineage with you.”
"The 20th anniversary of iD and the 15th anniversary of the emerging designer awards were in 2019, and an exhibit ended up being at the airport and then we thought 21st and 16th, they’re much better parties, aren’t they! So in 2020, let’s do that."
However, with disruption as the guiding compass of this fashion event, disruption is precisely what the team experienced when setting out to establish the exhibit in 2020.
Scott explains: "We are coming up to the one year anniversary of the cancellation. We were one day into production, we’d started to build in the gallery and it was a week before lockdown, but cases were rising and we wanted people so see it, so it wasn’t really a good use of our money to put on the show that no-one was going to see. So we put it off by a year."
Accompanying "Fashion FWD" is a 220-page publication featuring interviews with Robertson, Carlson, Munro, Tulloch and Reveley; essays from Dr Barton and exhibition curators Moira White and Dr Malthus, and photography that captures the expanse of the exhibition.
Dr Barton says "Fashion FWD - Disruption through Design" offers an opportunity to be disrupted and to reframe our relationship with fashion.
"One of the things that I’m always hoping is that people think about dressing more creatively, whether it’s going into Nom*D, Plume or Mild Red or to the op shop, and putting together a whole lot of different looks in a really creative way, thinking about their identity and how the garments were made."