( 09 )
The Yarn (zine)
Call for Papers
'On Colonial Violence in the Fashion School'
Ed: Pierre-Antoine Vettorello (PhD Research Fellow @University of Antwerp) link
Over the past decade, there has been a notable expansion of fashion education worldwide (Mensitieri, 2018: 21), providing a haven for students seeking to explore wearable visual arts and express their unique perspectives. Some fashion educators have begun to critique and question the existing system, evident through recent conferences and symposiums like "The Future of International Fashion and Fashion Education" initiated by Istituto Marangoni London in November 2022 and the upcoming "De-fashioning Education: A Critical Thinking and Making Conference" initiated by the Berlin University of the Arts in September 2023. Active participation in these working sessions has involved the development of methodologies and proposed changes to a system that no longer adequately addresses the new challenges emerging in society, where the act of othering and differentiation is increasingly normalised. However, the experiences of students who encounter violence within fashion schools are often overlooked and unaddressed. Although there are numerous aspects to consider when discussing violence in fashion schools, this anthology predominantly centres on the violence stemming from the exploitation of class, race and gender within the capitalist framework of European fashion education. It acknowledges that mental health and physical strain are significant issues caused by the immense pressure for hypercreativity and productivity in these institutions. The objective is to highlight how the fashion education system functions to produce compliant individuals who serve creative studios worldwide, perpetuating a cycle of endless product production. Instead, the emphasis should be on nurturing intelligent, creative minds capable of addressing climate change and countering neocolonial cultural extraction.
In a broader sense, European art schools attract students from diverse social backgrounds. These disparities range from students who must work part-time jobs to afford their own living spaces to those who comfortably reside in luxurious apartments. While some students might cover up their social backgrounds, others would already blend in with upper social classes. Additionally, some students face isolation and displacement, while others enjoy the support of family and friends. Students go through different stages of identity exploration and voice development, with some still searching for their identity while others have found stability in their gender, sexual orientation, and personal identity.
Upon leaving the fashion school environment, all students, or at least the majority, are thrust into the same competitive pool, which generates additional violence. Fashion schools, however, fail to adequately prepare students for these upcoming challenges, leaving them vulnerable to a capitalist system that imposes hierarchies based on class, race, gender, ableism, normative bodies and sexual orientation when seeking employment. This gathering of texts aims to shed light on the ethical and educational concerns surrounding the violence imposed on generations of students aspiring to enter a field whose primary objectives are categorization, differentiation, and the establishment of hierarchies and dominance. What would be ways to overcome colonial violence? We believe The Yarn can shed light about violence within institutions by sharing personal narratives, conducting investigative research, using artistic expression, featuring interviews and testimonials, providing educational content, fostering collaboration and inspiring calls to action.
This issue of Zine The Yarn #1 was motivated by the writings of Françoise Vergès, the practice of maroonage, anti-imperialist and decolonial resistance (Vergès, 2023: 203), Sara Ahmed call-for-action to find other killjoys in her chapter Killjoy survival tip n°3 (Ahmed, 2023: 56) and Frantz Fanon's concept of collective catharsis as a process to counter violence (Fanon, 1952:145). Furthermore, a special issue of the French magazine AFRIKADAA titled "Racism, Silence, Reshuffle... "How do art schools fare?" (AFRIKADAA, 2023), a collection of texts from art schools in France, Belgium, and Switzerland. This issue aims at creating a space of freedom to highlight what is happening behind walls and find some ways to counter an oppressive fashion system which is described as the “the showcase for capitalism” (Mensitieri, 2018).
This anthology of texts forms part of a wider research endeavour focused on exploring the intersections between colonial hegemonies and the Western fashion system. The study involves an examination of the modes of canonization of designers and hierarchies within the Western fashion environment. The research delves into the dynamics of colonisation and their impact on the fashion industry between the Global North and South. It also considers how these dynamics are established, propagated, and the ideologies they disseminate.
Some examples of topics related to colonial violence in fashion schools:
Personal accounts of displacement to a Western environment
The violence inherent in hiding a class background
Racism and discriminations within the fashion school
Challenges faced by individuals with non-normative bodies
Financial stress and the violence associated with survival
Post-fashion school violence and industry indoctrination
Competitiveness leading to violence and physical exhaustion
Curriculum violence and teaching methods
Navigating the dream versus the reality after the fashion school
Any other type of violence not mentioned above
Texts may be submitted in any vernacular language, as long as they are translated into English (the editor may do this if you are unable to do so). A physical publication will be released in September 2023. There is no requirement for academic writing in the text structure: the text could be an article, a letter, an interview, a poem, etc. Because some topics are sensitive and controversial, we understand some people are afraid of the repercussions, you can also remain anonymous. This call is open to students, former students and also educators who wish to share experiences.
- word count: maximum 2000
- extra image or illustration with your text (300dpi).
Please send your contribution before the deadline 1st September 2023 to:
pierre-Antoine.vettorello @ student.uantwerpen. be
The advisory board is constituted with:
- Audrey Bartis (body semiologist), Lion Blau (designer), Mi Medrado (researcher and editor), Naomi Lilith Quashie (artist & performer), Paweł Androsiuk (designer) and Virgile Demo & Karolina Dema (artists).
- Ahmed, S. (2023) The Feminist Killjoy Handbook. London: Penguin
- Fanon, F. (1952) Black Skin, White Masks, Markmann, C.L. (trans.) Chippenham: Grove Press
- Mensitieri, G. (2018) Le plus beau métier du monde. Paris: La découverte
- Vergès, F. (2023) Programme de désordre absolu. Paris: La Fabrique