Designers in Plain Sight
Fashion is a powerful medium that influences and transforms society. We don’t always see and understand the cultural impact it has unless it’s documented in history books or presented at art institutions. Even with that documentation it is self-fulfilling, omitting a wide-range of history and artifacts. History shows that creators, contributors, influencers, and events have been overlooked, misrepresented, or hidden in plain sight, as evidenced by my study of Black fashion makers, “A Study of Eight, The Untold American Story”. The omission holds true today as well.
The work of a unique group of contemporary designers, those who hold principles of artistic value, cultural significance, and sustainable practices are hidden in plain sight. They don’t fit the status quo. Their innovative core battles a multi trillion dollar global business that has become a commodity output versus a creative one. Whether they are working in the industry, where commercial mandates are the rule, or run their own independent brand, they struggle with concept over sale-ability. Stories, design details, and quality are stripped away to meet a system built on speed and greed.
What’s ahead? 2023 will be a year of visibility, exposing the work of this elite group of contemporary designers like Ruree Lee, Kyle Denman, Korina Emmerich, and Yun Qu, among others, through our published EDGE talks.
They have created story-driven concepts that make you take notice. For example, Ruree Lee’s collection, “Presence/Absence”, suggests that our lack of human contact, because we are tied to our phones, is fundamentally killing our well-being. Kyle Denman’s “mul·ti·po·lar—ex·ist·ence” explores the interconnectivity and the multidimensionality of the human experience. Slow fashion advocates, Korina Emmerich and Yun Qu, want environmental justice with their anti-fast-fashion practices. Emmerich, whose work reflects her patrilineal Indigenous heritage stemming from The Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup tribe, where sustainability is central to Indigenous culture, has built a slow and ethical brand, EMME Studio. Qu, whose brand is called Videmus Omnia which means We See Everything, studied classical music. Influenced by classical composers, she builds collections as stories, very visual compositions, as classical composers did with each piece of music for people to hear them.
The big news is that we will hit a milestone, marking an inaugural event of exhibiting the work of contemporary designers. I am curating two shows this Fall season from the works of 11 designers who have been featured on EDGE.
- Narci Lee is the guest artist in the show “What’s So Lovely About the End of the World” along with artist Erik ReeL. 28 August 2023 – 28 September 2023; opening reception 7 September; The PLACE gallery, Portland, Oregon.
- “CLOTH, Construct, CULTURE: fashion builds a story” is the first exhibition of its kind with over 50 objects from Kyle Denman, Isabella Diorio, Korina Emmerich (Puyallup), Karen Glass, Ruree Lee, Maital Levitan, Abiola Onabulé, Maryanne E. Mokoko, Yun Qu, and Alena Kalana Sablan. 24 October 2023 – 24 January 2024; opening reception 27 October; Parallax Art Center, Portland, Oregon.
We present EDGE designers in plain sight for your viewing, but mostly to understand that their work serves a purpose in our culture.
Must See Fashion Exhibits
Check out our annual “Must See” editorial on fashion exhibits around the world. As mentioned, EDGE designers will be showcasing their work later this year, but fashion stories that don’t always make it in the history books are on display as well. Victoria & Albert Museum and Portland Art Museum’s Africa Fashion, the influence of the 1980’s freedom of expression at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ 80s Fashion, Design, and Graphics in France and FIT Museum’s Fresh, Fly and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip-Hop Style, are examples of how these distinctive shows (not in the history books) serve a purpose in culture and history.
Anne Cole Lowe was hidden from plain sight at the peak of her career. Lowe’s lifetime achievement and what she is famously known for is designing the wedding party dresses and the wedding gown worn by Jacqueline Bouvier, at the time, the future First Lady of the United States, for her marriage to John F. Kennedy in 1953. The most photographed and iconic wedding dress in American history. Black designers, especially pioneers like Lowe, were not part of fashion media or taught in fashion history classes. Even the Bouviers and Kennedys did not give her the recognition at the time. Now, she gets her moment in history for everyone to see. Delaware’s Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library presents Anne Lowe: American Couturier, in the Fall of 2023.
What’s in Your Closet? A Hidden Treasure Worthy of a Second Act.
Many people are moving towards an environmentally conscious shopping habit. What’s hidden in plain sight are the treasures in our closet. Shopping your closet gives you a look at what you already own, to be reconsidered to keep and wear, or pass along to others. “Future of Fashion? Secondhand. Waste & Ownership Redirected” conveys how the secondhand market is changing the way we look at consumption; in pride, ownership, and responsibility to the planet.
In combating the environmental crisis, we continue to hammer away the urgent need to adopt a circular fashion system. Many things that we do are visible in our day-to-day activities that can benefit the planet. Secondhand is the ‘reuse’ of a circular system. If you need to be informed on fashion’s environmental impact related to the climate crisis and how a circular system is a positive solution, EDGE Fashion Intelligence has done a lot of the homework for you; offering data, resources, reports, and links that can be found in the sustainable EDGE category and Suggested Resources located in the sidebar column. A few popular reads to get started:
- Fashion Industry Environmental, Waste, and Recycle Statistics
- Did You Know? Non-Biodegradable Clothes Take 20 to 200 Years to Biodegrade
- No Exit, No Way Out: Close the Loop on Fashion
For the year 2023, we, at EDGE Fashion Intelligence, hope for Peace in the world. We #STANDWITHUKRAINE.
Updated 31 May 2023
Feature Photo: “mul·ti·po·lar—ex·ist·ence” 001 Detachment, Kyle Denman, designer | model: Amber Nicole, photographer: Riccardo Piazza