High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion at RMIT Design Hub
- RMIT Design Hub - Curatorium: Professor Robyn Healy, Dr Fleur Watson, Kate Rhodes, Nella Themelios
- Ziga Testen
- StudioBird with Caitlyn Parry
- Sibling Architecture
- WOWOWA with Andre Bonnice
RMIT Design Hub houses a series of exhibition spaces that are co-located alongside the RMIT Design Archives – an extraordinary collection of design artefacts that reflect Melbourne’s rich design history. The recent exhibition High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion drew upon this archive to display, interpret and interrogate the diverse range of materials related to the Fashion Design Council (FDC). In using the archive as a reflective tool, the exhibition opened up ideas promoted by the FDC. The intent of the exhibition was to critically explore the legacy of the FDC, testing its influence and relevance to contemporary fashion practice.
High Risk Dressing / Critical Fashion convened a new ‘collective’ – drawn from contemporary fashion practice yet framed through the lens of the FDC – and asked them to respond to materials in the archive. The outcome was a diverse range of projects – installations, performances, films and publications – which activated Design Hub over the eight-week period of the exhibition. The curatorium approached the exhibition design as a form of scenography, commissioning three local architecture practices to design an environment that referenced the creative, social and promotional spaces central to FDC activities: the office, the bar and the shop.
WOWOWA Architecture and Andre Bonnice’s design for the ‘office’ referenced the idea of the shop front as a point of departure: the way a postal address and a physical space can legitimize an organization or brand. Their ‘fish bowl’ working space was composed of an acrylic decagon in hues referencing the rose-coloured filters of social media and the geometries of the UFC boxing championships, while the handstamped ‘terazzo’ floor recalled the cut-and-paste language of the FDC newsletters. The space suggested that the office of today is like a stage, putting its inhabitants on show within a ‘shop front of stability’.
Studiobird’s ‘bar’ responded to the nightclub as a key site of the FDC’s legacy. It was designed to accommodate interactive program-based activities for the duration of the exhibition, as well as functioning as an actual bar during events.
The selection of materials – aluminium sheeting, LED strip lighting and fans – speak to the rapid and responsive aesthetic of early FDC activities. Part seedy strip joint, part United Nations forum, the deliberate clash of references captured the FDC’s dark and exhilarating nighttime gatherings that were also – towards the end of the FDC’s life – stadium-scale, fashion block-buster events.
Sibling Architecture’s ‘shop’ responded to the major shifts in spaces of consumption in the digital era. The landscape consisting of large, pink foam cubes, orange ceiling mesh and video screens marked out an environment for lounging, mimicking those sedentary places from which we browse, compare, share and confirm purchases from the screens of our phones and laptops. The shop housed a concentration of new works by contemporary practitioners who question how fashion is consumed conceptually, and as a product, by engaging with new forms of technology including film, soundscape and interactive works.
Unlike the office, the bar and the shop, an FDC archive never existed in reality. However, the FDC was highly aware of the value and power of printed matter in forming its identity in the pre-digital age. This material legacy forms a significant part of the Design Archives FDC collection. Žiga Testen’s design for the exhibition’s ‘archive’ is intended to give visitors a sense of the real home of the collection; its materiality and the handling and storage protocols required to transition materials from a personal collection to an institutional one.