From May 17 to 19, the RESEARCH FOLIOS exhibition at the Mona Bismarck American Center showcased the projects of the 2019 graduating MA Fashion Studies students. Visitors were invited to observe folio-posters presenting a visual archive of students’ research process mixing primary and secondary sources. In correspondence to these folios, printed, audio and film documentation are showcased documents of students’ thesis projects that show the variety and diversity of topics and methodologies within fashion studies.
SHARAÉ N. HAMILTON
The Culture of Black Hair: Exploring the Society of Black Hair Shows and Conventions
Sharaé N. Hamilton holds a BA from The University of Texas in Austin, with a specialization in African Diaspora Studies. She has conducted Ethnographic work in Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA and now Paris, France, focusing on the culture and evolutions of Afro American communities in America. Her thesis explores black hair shows including the Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, Curls, Kinks & Culture Atlanta Pop-Up Festival and The Natural Hair Fest: NYC. In her work, she analyzes hair in African cultures and its journey through slavery and emancipation, while investigating the growing industry of black hair shows. Moreover, the thesis explores black hair shows as safer spaces for the black haircare industry to alleviate growing racial tensions that are prevalent within the mainstream beauty market.
OLIVIA LOUISE JOHNSTON
The Intra-Expressivity of Fashion on Instagram: Assemblage and Digital Technology in the Reproduction of Professional Fashionable Identities
Olivia Johnston graduated from the Institute of Technology (TAFE Ultimo) in Sydney, Australia in 2016 with a BA in Fashion Design. Her research over the last two years has focused on fashion and philosophy. Olivia’s thesis uses an original term, “intra-expressivity”, to identify and define the process of conscious conforming in association with the successful performativity of the self through digital content on Instagram. This thesis analyzes the digital platform as an interconnected “fashion assemblage” through case studies of three influential fashionable identities. This research evidences the personas these individuals adopt, while claiming agency and negotiating power in social structures.
Designing Identities: The cases of Contemporary Pakistani Fashion Designers
Sunniya Nadeem was born in Islamabad, Pakistan and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She completed a bachelor in Political Science with a minor in Religious Studies. The inspiration for her thesis topic, exploring Pakistan’s national identity through dress, comes from growing up with two very distinct cultures and finding the art of merging both. She uses nine case studies to explore the ways in which the Pakistani identity is reenacted in contemporary fashion design through cultural heritage, tradition, Americanization and globalization.
(Un) Gendering the Runway: Non-Binary Models and New Representations of Identity in the Fashion Industry
Philippa Nesbitt was born and raised in Calgary, Canada and holds a bachelor degree in Sociology and Critical Studies in Sexuality from the University of British Columbia. Her thesis explores the experience of transgender and gender non-binary models at a critical moment of perceived acceptance toward diverse identities in the fashion industry. Questioning the authenticity behind this increased acceptance, Philippa interviews six transgender and non-binary individuals currently working in the fashion industry and examines existing popular media publications to reveal the complexities of participating in this burgeoning cultural phenomenon.
EMMA GRACE SHOUSE
Under the North African Sun: Identity, Interpretation, and Yves Saint Laurent
Emma Shouse is from Macomb, Illinois and graduated from Truman State University in 2017 with a BA in Art History. Her past research focused on Iranian art and dress history, which evolved into current projects studying the effects of Western colonization within the fashion industry. Her thesis analyzes garments and writings of Yves Saint Laurent inspired by North Africa seen through a postcolonial lens. The research involved archival studies at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris where she interned from January to March 2019. The thesis aims to highlight, in the work of Yves Saint Laurent, the spaces of negotiations between institutional power, nationality, and personal identity drawn within the post-colonial French and North African context inherited from French imperialism.
The Politics of Transparency: Fashion, Sustainability, and the Blockchain
Clarabeth is from Orcas Island, Washington and has previously worked in elementary education and business management. She currently serves as director of a non-profit organization and is establishing a “slow factory” to produce school uniforms for girls in the Majority World. For her thesis, Clarabeth researched how sustainability is manifested within specific fashion systems, particularly focusing on discourses on “transparent” practices. Her thesis explores how blockchain technology can be employed as a tool for increased transparency within fashion supply chains. Using as a case study the collaboration by Martine Jarlgaard London and Provenance, Clarabeth presents how incorporating blockchain-based “smart labels” into knitwear can become an alternative method to reveal the garment manufacturing process.
The Rhetoric of the Monographic Fashion Museum
Ariel Stark holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations and Advertising from Chapman University and is a native of Southern California. Her thesis was developed at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris, and places the museum’s prêt à porter and haute couture collections in dialogue with one another. In her research, Ariel explores the ways in which garments from these two methods of production and consumption are collected and exhibited in the fashion museum. The aim is to interrogate methods of representation in the fashion museum and propose a path to rethink the exhibition of the ready-to-wear legacy of Saint Laurent.
ABBY GAIL TALAO
The Social Lives of Politicized Hats in the Age of Trumpism
Abbygail Talao is a congressional legislative assistant and political organizer based in New York City. She holds an undergraduate degree from Eugene Lang College in the New School in Global Studies, specializing in Human Rights and Humanitarianism. Her thesis traces the trajectory of the Make America Great Again hats and the knitted pussyhats which both followed the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016. By critically analyzing the significance of the hats in events that defined the first two years of Trump’s presidency, she explores how a trend is created outside of the presumed institutionalized fashion system and delves into what these objects reveal about contemporary American consumerism, gender expression, national identity and historiography.
Statement vs. Slogan: Dior’s 2017
“We Should All Be Feminists” Campaign as a Case Study for How Luxury Fashion Co-Opts and Capitalizes on Sociopolitical Causes in the 21st Century
Katherine Wilkes holds a BA in Media Studies from San Diego State University. After working in the fashion industry throughout her undergraduate studies, she decided to move from America to Paris to pursue her MA at Parsons. Her research over the last two years focused on the intersections of sociopolitical activism and luxury fashion. Her thesis uses Dior’s Spring-Summer 2017 “We Should All Be Feminists” campaign as a case study for how luxury fashion capitalizes on and commodifies sociopolitical causes. Specifically, she focuses on issues of diversity, origin and representation to problematize Dior’s use of feminism as a branding tool.
MELISSA ZULETA BANDERA
The Discourse About Sinbol Jeans: From Colombia’s Narcoaesthetics to Best-Selling Export Product
Born and raised in Barranquilla (Colombia), Melissa Zuleta Bandera is a journalist with a passion for telling stories around fashion. Her thesis focuses on ‘sinbol jeans’, the colloquial term for a particular type of blue jeans initially popularized by women involved with drug traffickers during the height of the criminal business in Colombia in the 1990s. For her research, she conducted a discourse analysis to identify the statements creating the knowledge around the jeans, from their depiction in literary and television productions, advertising material, general and specialized media and export figures. The analysis raises issues of class distinction, subcultures theory and the relation between fashion, sexuality and the body.
TALA S ALFARHA
Fashionable IDs and the Instagram Mirror: Undressing the Mind and Body Online
Tala S. AlFarha graduated with a BFA in Fashion Design in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia before moving to Paris to pursue her MA in Fashion Studies. Over the past two years, her research has focused on media and identity with a focus on the appearance of the Middle Eastern identity in popular culture as well as on Instagram. In her thesis, she analyses fashion influencers and digital artists, drawing from sociopsychology theory and politics of the body.
The Metamodernist Body: Reconsidering Time, Space, and Free Will through 21st Century Fashion-Dance Performance
Angelene Wong was born and raised in Singapore where she received her BA in English Literature from Nanyang Technological University. Her research investigates the 21st century intersection between fashion and dance through the lens of metamodernism to answer a larger question – what is the experience of the body in the metamodern space and time? Simultaneously, it conducts a theoretical speculation to test the current definition of metamodernism. This study not only foregrounds the spatio-temporal body politics evident in the relationship between fashion and dance, but it also underscores the interdisciplinary potential of bringing fashion studies into dialogue with dance studies and philosophy.
Photos : Anael Boulay