Exotic narratives in fashion : The impact of motifs of exotica on fashion design and fashionable identities

Craik, Jennifer (2016) Exotic narratives in fashion : The impact of motifs of exotica on fashion design and fashionable identities. In Jansen, Angela & Craik, Jennifer (Eds.) Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity through Fashion. Bloomsbury Publishing (Bloomsbury Academic), London, United Kingdom, pp. 97-118.

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The idea of the exotic has been central to the history of fashion design and its reception as innovative, unique or outstanding. But while there are many references to the exotic and exotica, it is rarely defined especially in terms of how the term is used in relation to fashion and design. The idea of the exotic implies a sense of magic, something that is recognised but intangible - something out of the ordinary. Despite that, an element of the exotic is a central part of how cultural identity is formed and defined. The exotic is also shorthand for the divide between the persistent distinction made between inspiration in western ‘fashion’ and non-western symbolism in ‘dress’ since non-western exotica is the recurring and deeply embedded basis of western fashion. Above all, an examination of the use of the exotic in fashion reveals the mutual dependency and synergies between fashion sensibilities in all cultures and historical moments. In other words, there is a convergence between western and non-western fashion as contemporaneously illustrated in the case of China and India which have demonstrated their success at engaging with western (or Eurocentric) fashion while retaining their distinctive symbolism and stylistic registers as producers, consumers and increasingly as cutting edge designers. This chapter explores the case of the incorporation of the exotic in Australia indigenous fashion design.

Elsewhere I have explored the ways in which three distinctive types of exotica have constructed narratives of national identity in Australian fashion, namely, outback or rural dress, swimwear, and Australiana-themed fashion (Craik 2009). More recently, a fourth type of national identity has recurred as a form of fashion inspiration, namely, motifs of Australian Indigenous culture. Since European settlement, the place of Indigenous culture has been contested with the consequence of ambivalent references in discourses of national identity. This has been reflected in different cultural narratives including tourism, film, photography, art and craft, sport, and music. But it has also featured in fashion and as the assertion of Indigenous identity has become more prominent in recent years so too has the visibility of Indigenous themes in the design of textiles and garments.

Increasingly, references to indigeneity are becoming the leitmotif of discourses about national identity and culture and thus too in national dress codes and fashion. The exotic in Australian fashion is therefore increasingly Indigenous. This chapter explores specific Indigenous fashion narratives and contrasts surface (2-D) references to the exotic – for example in textiles – with structural (3-D) manipulations of the exotic in the design process – for example in the shape, form and construction of garments.

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ID Code: 98358
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Exotic Naratives, Australia Indigenous, Fashion, Identity
ISBN: 9781474229517
ISSN: 2053-3926
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 > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: 2016 Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc
Deposited On: 25 Aug 2016 05:32
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2016 04:30

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