chapter  15
12 Pages

“Imagination wove this flesh garment”

Fashion, critique and capitalism
WithKathleen Horton, Alice Payne

Fashion, with its intimate connection to the logic of capitalism, has the ability to absorb all resistance into itself. Fashion makes fashionable what was once subversive. What therefore can we make of contemporary “alternate practices in fashion design”: textiles grown from fermented tea, garments that transform into portable habitats or manuals that teach users how to hack mass-produced garments? Such practices would seem to be speculative at best, operating on the margins of a fashion system that will attempt to feed on their critical content for reinvention as a new trend. In this chapter we argue two points. First, we propose that speculative practices can be seen as part of a lineage of critical practitioners whose work developed in opposition to the dominant fashion culture. Second, we argue that although fashion operates largely through absorbing its own criticism, profound change in fashion is also driven by clothing design on the margins. Through an analysis of the work of nineteenth-, twentieth- and twenty-first-century designers and artists whose practices have hovered uneasily on the margins of fashion, this chapter will explore how critical practice may undesign and re-design fashion.