Writing fashion’s future: the gods and monsters of the Anthropocene

Payne, Alice (2015) Writing fashion’s future: the gods and monsters of the Anthropocene. In 17th Annual International IFFTI Conference, 12-16 May 2015, Polimoda, Florence. (Unpublished)

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This paper identifies two narratives of the Anthropocene and explores how they play out in the realm of future-looking fashion production. Each narrative draws on mythic comparisons to gods and monsters to express humanity’s dilemmas, albeit from different perspectives. The first is a Malthusian narrative of collapse and scarcity, brought about by the monstrous, unstoppable nature of human technology set loose on the natural world. In this vein, philosopher Slavoj Zizek (2010) draws on Biblical analogies, likening ecological crisis to one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. To find a myth to suit the present times, novelist A.S Byatt (2011) proposes Ragnarök, a Norse myth in which the gods destroy themselves. In contrast, the second narrative is one of technological cornucopia. Stewart Brand (2009, 27), self-described ‘eco-pragmatist’ writes, ‘we are as gods and we have to get good at it’. In his view, human technologies offer the only hope to mitigating the problems caused by human technology – Brand suggests harnessing nuclear power, bioengineering of crops and the geoengineering of the planet as the way forward. Similarly, the French philosopher Bruno Latour (2012, 274), exhorts us to “love our monsters”, likening our technologies to Doctor Frankenstein’s monster – set loose upon the world, and then reviled by his creator. For both Brand and Latour, human technology may be monstrous, but it must also be turned toward solutions. Within this schema, hopeful visions of the future of fashion are similarly divided. In the techno-enabled cornucopian future, the fashion industry embraces wearable technology, speed and efficiency. Technologies such as waterless dyeing, 3D printing and self-cleaning garments shift fashion into a new era of cleaner production. Meanwhile, in the narrative of scarcity, a more cautious approach sees fashion return to a new localism and valuing of the hand-made in a time of shrinking resources. Through discussion of future-looking fashion designers, brands, and activists, this paper explores how they may align along a spectrum to one of these two grand narratives of the future. The paper will discuss how these narratives may unconsciously shape the perspective of both producers and users around the fashion of today and the fashion of tomorrow. This paper poses the question: what stories can be written for fashion’s future in the Anthropocene, and are they fated, or can they be re-written?

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ID Code: 91939
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: fashion, designers, technology, Anthropocene, future
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Textile and Fashion Design (120306)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 The Author
Deposited On: 18 Jan 2016 01:34
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2016 06:04

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