This issue includes papers presented at the enjoyable TAASA symposium East West Chic held at the UNSW School of Art and Design on 19 August 2017. The symposium offered insights into the exciting historical, theoretical and technical ideas emerging from cross-cultural studies. The designation ‘chic’, originally a French word absorbed into English in the mid-19th century, represents the ultimate in style and artistry. As writers in this issue demonstrate, the materials, techniques and styles necessary for maintaining the designation ‘chic’ constantly evolve through infusions from the novel and the exotic. The resultant attainments are tailored into expressions of identity, wealth and modernity.
Amongst several recent museum shows presenting cross-cultural exchanges, the sumptuous 2015 extravaganza China through the Looking Glass, Fashion, Film, Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York set an attendance record, reportedly passing 800,000. In his article Adam Geczy, who wrote the lead essay for the China catalogue, quotes the words of Andrew Bolton, the exhibition’s curator, when writing that the show was ‘not about China per se but about a China that exists as a collective fantasy. It is about cultural interaction, the circuits of exchange through which certain images and objects have migrated across geographic boundaries’.
Beyond China, the leitmotifs of fantasy, play and cultural interaction also mark the culture of the kawaii (cute) fashion communities of Tokyo, as insightfully covered by Megan Catherine Rose in her article. Carol Cains presents a Western-inspired facet of East West Chic in her coverage of the sartorial aspirations of Meiji Japan, in the context of a woodblock print by Yoshitoshi held at the NGA.
Alongside the luxuriant fabrics and individual creativity evident in designer gowns in China through the Looking Glass was a humble, military-style Red Guard uniform (lent by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney). This garment also features in Antonia Finnane’s review of Chinese fashion in the Mao years when a small team of artists and theatrical costume designers, charged in 1955 with improving the sartorial image of New China, launched a range of designs more in keeping with a global 1950s look. Their ideas for the dress reform campaign, spread through magazines and exhibitions, were garnered from visiting delegations, foreign films, printed matter, including pattern books, and rejects from the export industry in garments made of imported polyester which became a hot consumer item in China.
Cinema as a means of stylistic transmission emerges too in Gael Newton’s exploration of its impact on studio photography as sitters sought to project their identity or trial a new one. She advocates further surveys of fashion magazines, movie programs and stills to see what correlations can be traced between film and the rich trove of 20th century Asian portrait studio photography styles.
Reviewing earlier cross-cultural influences in Southeast Asia and early modern Europe, Barbara Andaya demonstrates how long clothing has indicated social standing, ethnicity and marital status, whilst also discussing how clothing allows the wearer to assume different personalities. One of her deliciously unexpected examples: the popularity in 17th century Europe for long curling wigs was adapted thousands of miles away in eastern Indonesia by the Muslim Sultan of Ternate who ‘put on a wig when he drank beer, a cultural ploy that enabled him to adopt a new persona and thus step outside the restrictions of his religion’ (p5).
The impact of technique is a theme throughout the issue. As presented by Maria Wronska-Friend, a contribution of Southeast Asia to modern Europe came with Javanese batik which resulted in a kind of a ‘batik fever’ during the years 1905-1925 when the batik technique was practised by thousands of amateurs, artists and designers. In the case of India, the decline of the skills of weaving, embroidery and block-printing among traditional textile artisans is movingly articulated in Deborah Emmett’s article. Patricia Flanagan outlines a future that lies in the confluence of technological innovation, nanotechnology, biosciences and electronics, resulting, for example, in garments that change colour in reaction to the wearer’s mood by way of thermochromatic inks and conductive thread.
The late Carole Muller, whose obituary by Kathy Golski appears in this issue, was a great collector of, and enthusiast for, Indonesian textiles and Balinese art, as well as a writer on Bali. Carole has bequeathed $1 million each to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for the acquisition of a Nepalese work of art, and to the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney for PhD scholarships and research grants on Balinese culture. It is with such generosity that our community’s knowledge and appreciation of Asian culture continues to grow.
3 EDITORIAL - Jackie Menzies, Guest Editor
4 EXCHANGING FASHION: CROSS-CULTURAL INFLUENCES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA AND EARLY MODERN EUROPE - Barbara Watson Andaya
7 NOT JUST THE MAO SUIT: CHINESE FASHIONS IN THE MAO YEARS - Antonia Finnane
10 CAMERA CHIC: ASIAN PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY - Gael Newton
12 ‘MY HEART FLUTTERED’: AFFECT AND EMOTION IN KAWAII FASHION COMMUNITIES - Megan Catherine Rose
15 CHINA THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: LOOKING BACK - Adam Geczy
18 BATIK IN ART NOUVEAU AND ART DECO FASHION - Maria Wronska-Friend
20 CHANGING EDUCATION MODELS FOR TRADITIONAL TEXTILE ARTISAN COMMUNITIES IN INDIA - Deborah Emmett
22 CRAFTING POST-DIGITAL FASHION IN HONG KONG - Patricia Flanagan
24 POSTSCRIPT: ENVISAGING THE FUTURE SELF THROUGH WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY - Patricia Flanagan
25 IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: YOSHITOSHI’S LADY OF THE MEIJI ERA AT THE NGA - Carol Cains
26 CAROLE MULLER (1936 – 2017) - Kathy Golski
27 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
28 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: MARCH – FEBRUARY 2018
29 WHAT’S ON: MARCH – FEBRUARY 2018