Douglas Atkinson – The Material Other in Fashion Making


This paper explores the increasingly digital nature of fashion design development and the parallel trend of offshoring UK based fashion manufacturing (largely to Asia), in relation to increasing detachment from material making experience in fashion practitioners. This has created a situation in which the immaterial digital is such an intrinsic part of the design process that material matter is very much ‘other’. Our opportunity to be ‘historical animals’ in relation to haptic and material knowledge gained through apprenticeship to artisans has been removed. Only artificial memories are left to us as transmitters of material making skills and as Flusser notes, these quickly decay. They are unfit for the precious resource of generations of artisan knowledge.
Understandings of how to artfully work, finish and create complex three dimensional forms in textiles, leathers etc. are very much ‘othered’ both in terms of scarcity and geography. This can be related to Techno-Orientalist discourses of the movement of production and industrialisation as means of othering, particularly as Post-Industrial societies become more multicultural, but more detached from the act of making. An act we are taught it is beneath us to pursue as a vocation, our existential interest having shifted to the data informing production.

Douglas Atkinson is Innovation Research Fellow at London College of Fashion, UAL