Fashioning Demons

When critically-acclaimed artist Niki de Saint Phalle died in May 2002, we were shocked by the lack of retrospective analysis and dialogue around the pioneering body of work she left behind. It was only after several years had passed that retrospective shows began to emerge.

Fortunately, in the last six years, some of the best art schools in the world have been producing lots of talented women curators.  This means that, at last, the art world is beginning to change.  The narrative, analyses and contexts of female artists, their perspectives and stories are finally de-mystified and freed from the “is she physically attractive enough (if she’s not socially connected) for us to promote her work?” tradition.

In fashion, it has taken the first female designer at Christian Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri (appointed Creative Director in July 2016), to address these questions on the international stage last week asking openly the provocative question on her slogan t-shirt, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (citing Linda Nochlin, 1971) and dedicating her collection (SS18, pictured here) to the inspiration and narrative of Niki de Saint Phalle’s art.

Just as most artists suffer emotional abuse or neglect in their early years, (for instance, Louise Bourgeois and Yayoi Kusama), so too did Saint Phalle. In her many illustrated poems, she wrote, “As in all fairy tales, before finding the treasure, on my way I met dragons, witches, magicians and the angel of temperance.”

For anyone familiar with Dante or RD Laing, they know that ‘dragons’ are not just attractive watercolours in a bedtime storybook but experienced as very real agencies in adult mental health. Of course, the western cultural tradition has been to put women who experience hallucinations and hear voices into workhouses or set them alight.

Maria Grazia Chiuri evidently identifies with these questions of female cultural anonymity and deprecation through the work of Linda Nochlin and Niki de Saint Phalle. The beauty of Chiuri’s creative expression here is that her thoughts are made performance in the theatre of fashion. This is a sign of progress as it allows the anonymity and silence at the heart of this collection to be seen, discussed and worn.

In the photo shown above, the porosity of the skirt shows us the vulnerability of boundaries expressed in Chiuri’s fabric. The green dinosaur represents the demonic symbol that can ambush the artist’s mind at any point and the fishnet top echoes a similar porosity and susceptibility to disruptive influences. The shattered mirrors covering the cavernous walls, floor and ceiling of the catwalk environment symbolize the perceived fragmentation of Niki de Saint Phalle’s Self. The effects of the artist’s suffering and the open manifestation of its symbols in this fashion house’s collection can be seen clearly and this, we believe, is a step in the right direction. It has taken a woman designer to bring this dialogue into high fashion where other designers may have kept the underlying complexes oblique. For an analysis on ‘autistic sites’ and destructive chaos in the fashion industry, see our essay in Sandy Black’s most recent book.

For further dialogue, why not link up with us and the Royal College of Art and London College of Fashion at the Freud Museum this week for their Fashion & Psychoanalysis conference taking place on  14th – 15th October 2017?

Here’s Vogue’s analysis of the Dior SS18 show.


Edeltrud Hofman Refashions Old Silk Stock

It’s summertime and we’re still loving Masayo Kishi’s silk blouse collection made from deadstock. Timeless fashion from deadstock silk…silk for summer, silk for winter! DISCOVER MORE!  Maybe you feel inspired to create your own? You can always ask for help from our resident Textiles Hub London award-winning seamtress, Annalisa Middleton. Feel free to contact her through the form.

Colour, Pattern & Containment

Slowly but surely the international community is coming up to speed with the relationship between colour, pattern and containment with the new retrospective of Fahrelnissa Zeid coming soon to the Tate Modern in London, UK.

Slow Textiles Group members will be familiar with our CEO, Dr Emma Neuberg’s analysis of modernist abstraction in art and its relationship with psychology.  We have yet to read about this in other people’s publications but at least we can now live it in this exciting new exhibition! Message us if you’d like some seminars on the subject. TATE MODERN exhibition details here.



In yesterday’s show, 21st Feb 2016 in London, we were presented with a mix of evening party glamour, moonlit boudoir and punk constraint. Less evident was the exciting and irreverent mood that we came to expect from Lee McQueen with his take-your-breath-away collections. Instead, beneath the embroidered threads and sequins is a melancholic space that reminds us of the pre-Raphaelites’ world (1848 – 1920). May be this is no wonder in view of Lee’s legacy. The bigger picture suggests that fashion, so often construed as fleeting, can really be seen as a reflection of the on-going cultural symbols of its time and geographic and cultural location.



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