Review: Fashion Cities Africa, Brighton Museum by Lindsay Parker

Situated in Brighton museum, Fashion Cities Africa focuses on four African Cities and the key agents involved in their fashion scenes, from designers and stylists to photographers and bloggers, a diverse and vibrant representation of fashion and style is presented to the visitor opening with the exclamation that “The time for Africa is now. The world is looking to us for inspiration” (Tiffany Amber, designer.)

The exhibition is made up of a selection of garments, interspersed with photography, video and sound which are displayed across three rooms and divided into different sections – with each of the fashion cities (Johannesburg, Casablanca, Lagos and Nairobi) made distinguishable through the use of different coloured backdrops. A series of platforms, line the edges of the space and statistics and key information for each city are also provided. Each platform is dedicated to a “fashion agent” and contains a selection of three or four outfits along with information about the agent and the garments on display.

A range of women’s and menswear, couture and street style are displayed with pieces ranging from the androgynous styling of Sunny Dolat (Niarobi) to the elegant formal wear of Lagos fashion week, craft centred pieces created by traditional Moroccan artisans (Amina Agueznay, Casablanca), to the politically aware collection of The Satarists (Johannesburg), serving to create an impression of the diversity and depth of African fashion. It is clear that the agents themselves were involved in curating the “looks” that appeared in the exhibition and that they hold meaning for them.

What makes the exhibition particularly engaging is the choice of subjects; the overarching theme being that the agents are all advocates for enterprise and creativity. They represent the burgeoning fashion scenes in their respective cities, and give candid opinions about both its growth and uniqueness, and the challenges that they face.

Historically, the study of Fashion and dress has been decidedly Eurocentric, with a focus on the global North resulting in the “othering” of fashions from elsewhere, and despite more recent publications beginning to address this imbalance a divide still exists.

Although this exhibition may not directly reference the hegemonic underpinnings of fashion systems, it is successful in demonstrating to its visitors that contemporary African fashion is diverse and exciting enough to merit its own exhibition, in offering a new perspective from the voices of that continent and in going some way towards addressing the balance through visual language.

Featured Student: Joanna Karagiorgou

joanna-karagiorgouWhat is your background?
My background consists of a mix of various fields. I have a Bachelors in Business Administration while at the same time as my studies I was also studying Ballet and Contemporary Dance. After that I studied Fashion Styling, before coming in the UK for my Masters.
What made you decide to study MA Fashion Cultures?
I knew that I wanted to study at the London College of Fashion, so I started researching what course would be the best for me. I’ve always curious in exploring why people wear what they do, what drives them and how that tells about culture and society. This course proved to be the best choice.

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Nijinsky in Scheherazade, by Georges Barbier

Is there a particular project you have enjoyed working on during the course?
I enjoyed my essay on the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, which inspired me so much that I continued with the subject for my dissertation. My focus was on the concept of masculinities and how his performances pushed the boundaries. He was the main dancer for Ballet Russes from 1909 until 1916, and while there are many writers that have focused on Ballet Russes in relation to its influence on female fashion, few have written about Vaslav Nijinsky.

 

What are you writing your dissertation on, and how did you decide upon this subject?
My dissertation focused on masculinities, by analysing Vaslav Nijinsky and two other male dancers of the early 20th century: Jean Börlin, who was the main dancer for Ballet Suédois, and Ted Shawn, who was an American dancer. Those three dancers were of great importance not only because of their performances, but because each one of them pushed the limits of the accepted masculinity of that time.

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Nijinsky in Scheherazade, 1912

What’s next?
Throughout the year I’ve been working on my portfolio as a Stylist which is what I want to do. The knowledge I gained from my course gave me valuable insight on several aspects on fashion, a fact which I think will be important to my styling practice.

 

Click here to read Joanna’s posts on Intangible

Find Joanna online:
Instagram: @joannaa_kr
E-mail: joanna_kr[at]windowslive.com

 

Featured Student: Anushka Tay

Anushka Tay PortraitWhat is your background?
I have a Bachelors degree in performance costume (1st) and worked for several years in the theatre across a variety of roles: designing shows, making costumes, and working backstage. I am also a musician, so my background is essentially in storytelling, whether through clothing or music.

What made you decide to study MA Fashion Cultures?
Costume is a powerful medium because it conveys everything written and unwritten about a character onto a body; but it is often overlooked. I wanted to give more consideration to the conceptual and communicative powers of clothing, and discovered that Fashion Studies is a fast-growing subject. It’s an exciting field in academia, and I wanted to be part of it.

Is there a particular project you have enjoyed working on during the course?
I enjoyed learning about a vast array of social theory and philosophy in the first term, and the challenge of applying these complex intellectual theories it to fashion and clothing – so often deemed superficial and unimportant. I was also fortunate to be the first student to do the Erasmus exchange with Stockholm University, where I loved writing a paper on costumes in Hitchock’s films.

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What are you writing your dissertation on, and how did you decide upon this subject?
My dissertation researches the samfu suit (AKA ‘Chinese pyjamas’) during the mid-20th Century. I was keen to explore and apply post-colonial theory to fashion and dress history, in an attempt to ‘look back’ from the Orientalist gaze that I’ve been feeling quite fed up with. A literature search demonstrated a distinct lack of writing on this style of clothing; and even less has been written about the dress history of Chinese people living in diaspora. So I decided to fill a gap.

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I won the Costume Society’s Yarwood Award and the Pasold Textiles Research Grant, which funded a trip to Singapore and Hong Kong. There, I discovered the archive of a brilliant mid-20th Century Chinese women’s magazine called The Young Companion; and carried out oral history interviews as part of my research. I also discovered that my great-grandmother had really great clothes in the 1950s, which was quite surprising since she lived in a village surrounded by rubber plantations in rural Malaysia.

What’s next?
I’ve truly enjoyed studying MA Fashion Cultures, and am planning on continuing the academic route. I hope to research, write and teach, and would like to contribute towards the continued diversification of Fashion History.

Click here to read Anushka’s posts on Intangible

Find Anushka online…
anushkatay.co.uk
Blog: Dress Me Up, Drag Me Out
Twitter: @AnushkaTay
E-mail: byanushka[at]gmail.com

Featured Student: Siân Hunter

Sian Boudoir (3 of 153)What is your background?

My background is fashion marketing, via a strange route of bespoke tailoring and pattern cutting. It took me a long time to realise that I loved writing about clothes far more than I cared about fashion.

What made you decide to study MA Fashion Cultures?

Once I’d had my realisation that writing about clothes was what I wanted to do, I decided to find a course that would allow me to explore not just the history of fashion, but why people wear the clothes they do. As a student on the Fashion and Film pathway, I was pleased that my love of cinema could feature in my research and was eager to learn more about the study of film to build upon my uneducated enthusiasm

Is there a particular project you have enjoyed working on during the course?
Writing a 4000-word essay on ASMR videos was not something I expected to do on this course, but I am so happy that I was given the freedom and encouragement to do so. My film tutors were all very excited for me to write about something that is only beginning to be studied and I felt supported to take a brave step into the unknown

mackenzie_08
What are you writing your dissertation on, and how did you decide upon this subject?

I’m writing my dissertation on teen movies! Particularly the ways in which makeover sequences in teen movies echo the constant search for ideal feminine beauty that women embark upon from a younger and younger age. I am very passionate about women, and I believe it is important to hear their voices. Particularly young women, who are the future, and sadly often dismissed. Also, because I wanted an excuse to write about Clueless.

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What’s next?

I don’t want to leave LCF (don’t make me!), but while I figure out what I would like to spend several years writing a PhD on, I’m planning on returning to fashion marketing to tell some more stories about clothes

Click here for Siân’s posts on Intangible.

Find Siân online…
www.sianhunter.com
Twitter: @siankayehunter
Email: siankayehunter[at]gmail.com