Reconstruction is as synonymous with fashion as smoke is with fire. Indeed, there can be no creation without an ingenious process of construction and reconstruction, of constant borrowing and building.
The most recent effort to create a cultural melange came from British Council, that has managed to bring British fashion to Pakistan with their project ‘Reconstruction: Cultural Heritage and the Making of Contemporary Fashion’. The project’s opening night was held at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture (IVS) on March 10 and featured a cameo fashion show by FnkAsia, a retail brand that has spearheaded the inclusion of ethnic in fashion.
It’s so easy to discredit fashion as a highbrow element of our culture; one that we would like to believe exists at the fringes of society rather than existing as a force that can affect mainstream popular culture. But if the British Council’s efforts are to have any credence, one begins to truly appreciate the power of fashion not only as a medium of art, but also as a relevant, tangible and ostentatious expression of culture.
“There’s a lot of interest in what is happening here in Pakistan and several British journalists have visited the country specifically for the fashion weeks,” says Martin Fryer, the Director of Programmes at the British Council, whose larger interest in this project is to encourage young designers to draw on their own culture to create exciting fashion statements. “The aim of this exhibit is to specifically stimulate a discussion of culture in modern design,” he adds. Thus the choice of FnkAsia to represent Pakistan at the opening night with a flute player romancing the audience seemed like the perfect way to kick-start the exhibit that is due to run from March 11 to 16.
The fashion exhibit features some of British fashion’s most renowned and exciting names such as Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith amongst a coterie of designers who form the Diaspora in Britain such as the Cypriot-born Hussein Chalayan, the Sacandanavian Peter Jensen, the Greek Sophia Kokosalaki and Osman Yousefzada of Afghan roots. This travelling exhibition that began its journey from the UK and showcased in cities like Kazakistan, Bangladesh, now Pakistan en route to Russia, comes at a rather interesting time: a period of reconstruction of British society, where, in the aftermath of the London riots, the issues of identity and immigration have risen, contested and given new dynamics to contemporary art.
Director Fryer further explains this analysis, “Even though London is the quintessential British city, it is still a stimulating place to study design, art and fashion. The interaction of different designers coming from different cultures has resulted in a vibrant contemporary fashion scene in London.”
When asked why British Council chose fashion over ‘art’, Fryer states, “You see an influence and passion for art in all these works. Hussain Chalayan, for example, is a visual artist but he is still embracing fashion, which shows that more and more people are bridging the gap between fine art and design.”
One can see the depth in design philosophies through the designers’ mood boards, visual clips of their fashion show, along with their actual garments that are on display at the exhibition. The showpieces aim to create the ‘feel’ of their work and to show, how each of these individuals brings forth their past to ‘transform heritage into contemporary currency’.
In a nutshell, the exhibit is an excellent tool for young fashion students to understand the meaning of fusion and construction and how to fuse identity to construct a garment that is a social and artistic metaphor.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2012.