Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Changing the Paradigm

I am very tired and feel that I haven't done enough work this week.  I never seem to do enough.  How much is enough?  No practise either.  Oh well.  Haven't progressed any further with Ms Rothstein.  Where does the time go?  Went to the British Library to renew my membership and they would not accept my passport as proof of address (I'd left my driving license in Hotel Saxelhus on my trip to Copenhagen and haven't got it together to get another)!  Argghhh what a waste of time.  So my plan to read Bourdieu in peace has been thwarted.  Can't say I am that disappointed.

This week has been very interesting as I read the most fascinating essay by Kate Fletcher.  I've read it before but like with so many things this time I thought about it differently.    'System change for sustainability in textiles' and it is part of a group of essays in the book,  'Sustainable Textiles:  life cycle and environmental impact'.  Basically, there are many ways to reduce energy, oil, water, packaging but what would really help would be to change our relationship with the whole system.  It is very interesting but where it led me was that I have decided to try and understand historically the system of manufacturing textiles.  How is it that the system of manufacturing textiles and fashion has got to this place?  

I have begun reading a series of essay on 'Textile History and Economic History' edited by N B Harte and K G Ponting. Of course I love it.  Immediately what strikes me is that textiles have always been created  using a variety of different structures in order to pull the final product together.  Silk, the fibre was imported before weaving likewise with cotton.  Even in the period before the industrial revolution when yarn was 'put out' and weaving was a domestic industry, the end product was created from a whole series of processes.  Here we are now in our current situation which appears to be a cumulative extension of what originally started many centuries before.  

The Englishman's clothes, Thomas Dekker claimed (writer of the Seuen Deadly Sinnes of London (1606), The Non Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed.  Alexander Grosard (privately printed in 1885) vol. 2 29-60)  claimed

"An English-man's suite is like a traitors bodie that hath beene hanged, drawne and quartered, and set up in seuerall places:  the collar of his doublet and the belly in France; the wing and narrow sleeue in Italy; the short waist hangs over a Dutch bothers stall in Utrich; his huge sloppes speakes Spanish;  Polonia gives him his bottes; the blocke for his head alters faster than the feltmaker can fit him".

How fabulous is that depiction!  That illustrates fashion but what I am beginning to comprehend is that even before the clothes were made up the fibres very likely were imported, and piece work was everywhere so how can we change a system that has been with us since the beginning of time?  

Beautiful old label, sadly out of focus as it was snapped on my phone 

The interesting aspect is that in my research I am realising that the garments where altered and restructured generally in the home or a work place.  Maybe it is possible to shift the paradigm albeit at a final stage - maybe it was always there but has just been lost in the last 30 years.

And as for bring the manufacturing process back to 'Great Britain'.  I believe so strongly in having a textile manufacturing system in Britain.  About a year ago I watched a documentary on catch up telly (BBC Wales) about the women who had worked at the Burberry factory which  before it was closed was  situated in Wales.  The programme documented what they are now doing 2 years after it was shut down.   Some are employed, some have retired and some were still out of work but what these women missed as much as the money was the camaraderie, friendship, chats, the Christmas lunch. etc  We have now got vast pockets of unemployment in this country but I really do believe that the free market has  left so many people standing in the cold.  The loss of skills, mental and physical health and dare I say it, the 'cultural capital' is being stripped from our society.  That's just me babbling but I really do believe very strongly that we need to support our own people.  There's an interesting article in Eco Textile News this month about the production of outdoor clothing and it being made outside of the US and the lack of control regulations for the workers.  I just skimmed the article but the writer was basically saying what I think but from a US angle.

Man's shoes - photo snapped on the train

Finally, before I sign off, on my way back from CSM the other day, I was sitting on the Met line and this old boy got on the train.  He was in his 70s or even 80s and he had these fantastic shoes on.  They really curled up at the toes and had brass (probably composite) buckles.  He was a very natty dresser and even had stripy socks on.  He didn't look eccentric or over the top you could just tell that in his time he really had loved his clothes and still did.  The shoes are probably from the 70s.

Books that I am Reading.
Harte, N.B. Ponting, K.G (1973) Textile History and Economic History, Essays in Honour of Miss Julia de Lacy Mann.  Manchester University Press
And For Fun
Pidgeon English by Stephen Kelman.  In the end I loved this book.  I think it could possibly have been edited down a bit but it was so well crafted and I loved all the characters.  A really good read.

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