30 April 2015
by Kendall Robbins
One of the major cruxes of the British Council’s fashion programme is the theme of cultural heritage in design. In an increasingly globalised world where the internet and digital communication make networks everywhere available to anyone, there is a huge risk of homogenisation in fashion. We often find designers overseas emulating large western fashion houses while neglecting the wealth of cultural history they have at their fingertips. It is this rich heritage that we believe can propel designers and can help them to make a diverse statement which is unique to their own background and country. It has been through programmes like the exhibition Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion that the British Council has explored this theme and prompted young designers everywhere to consider their history.
Building on work with museums and fashion in Macedonia, this programme seeks to bring the two together to encourage the industries to explore how they relate and can benefit each other’s practice. Museums will be encouraged to look at how they can utilise their fashion collection, contemporary methods of presentation and curation for dress and how this can be used to draw in new audiences. Design students will be prompted to look at how their cultural heritage can play a role in design practice and how they can work with historic archives to inform their research. They will also consider new methods of fashion presentation can be used to communicate their work in a different way.
Working the ethnographic collection and curators at the National Museum of Macedonia in Skopje, along with a cohort of fashion, architecture and graphic design students from the European University in Macedonia and with UK fashion curator Susan Postlethwaite, we ran a 3-day workshop in April 2015, which brought together the groups to explore the museum’s collection. Over the course of the 3 days fashion students delved into the ethnographic collection, learning from the curators the stories behing the pieces. From these stories and the objects themselves the students created 1:1 scale objects from paper. Graphics students investigated the collection as a starting point for developing new typographies and represented this research through large scale 3-D letters. Architecture students explored the context of the Modernist museum and how the objects could engage and relate to the setting to support the narrative.
Following the workshop, students were tasked with working with the Museum curators to prepare a presentation for Skopje Fashion Weekend to be hosted at the Museum. This presentation will include the pieces designed by the students alongside the historic pieces from the Museum’s collection.