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Light Studio, Woman & Moon Singapore 1930s,hand coloured gelatin silver photograph.
East-West Chic – A TAASA Symposium. 10.20am to 3.50pm, Saturday 19 August
A visually tantalizing arena of the continuing East-West exchange has been fashion. Across history, different cultures and societies within Asia and Euro-America have shamelessly borrowed motifs and styles to shape their own image of what is chic, exotic or even socially and politically correct. Fabrics, designs, and techniques have been part of the rich exchange as individuals sought to make their own statements and distinguish themselves from prevailing norms.
TAASA brings you a rewarding day on East-West Chic with five acclaimed speakers, each of whom will address just one aspect of East-West interaction in shaping new styles of dress. A morning session will look at Southeast Asia with Professor Barbara Andaya presenting on dress styles at the court of Malay from the 17th century, and Gael Newton discussing studio photographs that capture the fashion aspirations of the well-dressed across Southeast Asia.
The afternoon session will focus on China, with noted China authority Professor Finnane contextualizing the Mao suit, and Claudia Chan Shaw discussing the popular Chinese qipao, as well as the recent luxurious fashion exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, China through the Looking Glass. The session will conclude with new examples of East-West Chic in Hong Kong by practising artist Trish Flanagan.
10.20 am: Welcome and introduction, Jackie Menzies, President of TAASA
10.30 am: Exchanging Fashion: Cross-cultural Influences in SE Asia and Early Modern Europe – Barbara Watson Andaya. The circumnavigation of the globe in 1522 marked the beginning of a new chapter in global history, ushering in a period of everincreasing cross-cultural contacts. While such contacts can be examined in many different contexts, this presentation will focus on the ways in which trade between Europe and Southeast Asia fostered curiosity and emulation in clothing. While fashionable Europeans were intrigued by the unusual fabrics and ornamentation, like feathers and tortoiseshell, that Asia provided, the demand for exotic textiles and jewellery from distant lands is similarly evident in the courts of Southeast Asia. In discussing these influences as they moved between Southeast Asia and Europe. and within Asia itself, the presentation will argue that fashion became part of a network of knowledge’ that helped to provoke curiosity and interest in cultures and societies that might never be otherwise encountered.
11.35 am: Camera Chic – Gael Newton. Surviving studio portraits capture the fashionable taste and aspirations of urban and regional centres across Southeast Asia from the late 19th century. Illustrated newspapers, and later movie stills, served to disseminate fashions globally, resulting in local hybrid styles that filtered modernity through creative mixings of traditional and Western styles and tastes. Studio sitters reflected changing fashions and values when they donned their own or hired dress for their portraits, as well as their individual aspirations to worldly success, recognition and social caché. This talk will examine the revealing insights that Asian studio portraiture presents into the changing self-image of individuals, the dynamics affecting groups and generations, and the fusion of East and West evident in dress, accessories, and studio backdrops.
12.15 – 1.15 pm LUNCH BREAK
1.20 pm: Beyond the Mao Suit – Antonia Finnane. A persistent theme in writings on Chinese fashion is whether or not people in China all dressed the same as each other during the early decades of the People’s Republic of China. The term “Mao suit,” which collapsed three or four varieties of styles, sums up the general consensus on this question. Wasn’t this what everybody wore? But an enquiry into the origins of the term opens up a surprisingly rich history of textiles and apparel in Mao’s China. Technological change in fabric and clothing production and a sensitivity to the demands of international trade had some unanticipated consequences for domestic clothing. In direct and indirect ways, as we shall see, what people wore and what they liked to wear during the Mao years was shaped by China’s world context.
2.10 – 2.30 pm AFTERNOON BREAK
2.30 pm: East meets West in dress – Claudia Chan Shaw. This topic will embrace both the influence of Asian design and aesthetics on Western dress and the impact of Western ideas on Asian dress. The influence of Art Deco on the traditional Chinese qipao in the 20s and 30s will be explored, along with a look at the recent ground-breaking exhibition, China through the Looking Glass at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where designers like Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano for Dior embraced Chinese themes in their Haute Couture collections.
3.10 pm: Crafting post-digital fashion – Patricia Flanagan. Hong Kong has long been renowned as a gateway between East and West, and now aided by digital tools, cultural traditions
are undergoing a revival. In the Hong Kong Umbrella protests of 2014 the Wearables Lab at the Academy of Visual Arts became a 24/7 workshop for the creation of political public art works for activism. In this talk, Dr. Flanagan will present speculative and critical wearable artworks that Hong Kong artists produced in the years leading up to the protests and show how those skills were taken to the streets in radical and political fashion. The presentation will also feature Flanagan’s own artwork, as she reveals the contemporary mash-up of craft traditions and digital fabrication in Hong Kong fashion East-West Chic.
3.50 pm: Conclusion and refreshments.
Professor Barbara Andaya is Professor and Chair of the Asian Studies Program at the University of Hawai’i and former Director of their Centre for Southeast Asian Studies. Her research and teaching specialisations include women and gender in early modern Southeast Asia, and social issues in contemporary Southeast Asia. Her publications include The Flaming Womb: Repositioning Women in Southeast Asian History 1500-1800 (2006), the result of a Guggenheim Award in 2000. Her visit is supported by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.
Based in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne, Professor Finnane’s interest in Chinese urban society has led to major research projects on consumption, with one resultant publication being the critically appraised book Changing clothes in China, Fashion, Nation, History, Sydney, 2007. Her current research, funded by the Australian Research Council, concerns production and consumption in Maoist China, with a focus on everyday life in Beijing.
Dr Patricia Flanagan is a lecturer at the UNSW Art & Design and founder of the Wearables Lab, Academy of Visual Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University. She is also an artist who has been exhibiting internationally since the mid 1990’s, and has won many awards, including The Max Fabre Foundation Award for Environmental Awareness. Her work is represented in private and public collections in Australia, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Japan and China.
Gael Newton is a Curatorial Consultant and Researcher in Photography, Arts and the Humanities. She is the Foundation Photography Curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the former Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia. Relevant publications include Picture Paradise: Asia-Pacific Photography 1840s-1940s and Garden
of the East: Photography in Indonesia 1850s- 1940s.
Claudia Chan Shaw
Claudia Chan Shaw is a fashion designer, television and radio presenter, author and collector. She is the current curator of the City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival, and was co-host and presenter on ABC TV’s popular program, Collectors from which came her 2012 book Collectomania: From objects of desire to magnificent obsession.
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