Dress History Conference 2019

Fashion, Self-Reflexivity and the Question of Inspiration

The ancient symbol of the Ouroboros offers an apt image for fashion’s self-reflexive character. Like the snake that devours itself in an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth, fashion frequently refers back to itself in its constant process of creation, destruction and recreation. Put simply, fashion itself is a key source of inspiration for fashion designers. Charles Frederick Worth was inspired by the styles of previous centuries; at Dior, John Galliano was influenced by non-European dress, including native American and Japanese; and, more recently, Donatella Versace has drawn from the archives of her brother’s designs.

Issues relating to fashion’s self-reflexivity have become a subject of particular debate in contemporary criticism. Instagram accounts such as Diet Prada and Cashin Copy are dedicated to revealing instances where designers have been inspired by the designs of others, or by the dress of different cultures, both past and present. But what are the underlying dynamics of such exchange and the meanings, significances and consequences of this?

This conference will explore these questions by bringing together perspectives from the history of fashion with those from contemporary fashion. It will consider the nature of inspiration in relation to concepts including appropriation, repetition, copy, homage and, even, collaboration, to examine how these intersect with, or challenge, issues of originality, novelty and invention.

Organised by Leah Gouget-Levy (The Courtauld Institute of Art) and Dr Rebecca Arnold (The Courtauld Institute of Art). 


10.30- 10.40am: Welcome

10.40- 11.15am: Keynote

Professor Judith Clark, Curator and Professor of Fashion and Museology at London College of Fashion

11.15 – 12.15am: Session 1: Copy/Homage

Chair: Dr Agnès Rocamora, Reader in Social and Cultural Studies at the London College of Fashion

Title TBA: Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, Founder and Editor in-Chief of Vestoj and Senior Research Fellow at London College of Fashion

Slimane and the self: Dal Chodha, Editor of Archivist journal and Course Leader for BA Fashion Promotion & Imaging at UCA Epsom

12.15-12.45am: Break

12.45-1.45pm: Session 2: Novelty/Appropriation/Collaboration

Chair: Professor Caroline Evans, Professor of Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design

The Hoodie: Between Moral Panic and Must-Have: Lou Stoppard, Writer and Curator

Self-reflexivity displaced: new modes of (dis)engagement in contemporary fashion design: Aude Fellay, Lecturer in Fashion Studies at the Haute École d’Art et de Design, Geneva.

1.45-2.45pm: Lunch

2.45-3.45pm: Session 3: Sarah Mower in Conversation with Supriya Lele, Priya Ahluwalia and Bianca Saunders

Sarah Mower will be joined in conversation by Supriya Lele, Priya Ahluwalia and Bianca Saunders. This session will explore the conference themes in relation to the work and practice of these three emerging London-based designers.

Chair: Sarah Mower MBE, Journalist and Fashion Critic

Supriya Lele, Designer

Priya Ahluwalia, Designer

Bianca Saunders, Designer

3.45-4.15pm: Break

4.15-5.15pm: Session 4: Concluding Panel on Fashion, Reflexivity and the Question of Inspiration

By way of conclusion, this session brings together academics and industry professionals to discuss some key questions that have emerged over the course of the day.

Chair: Leah Gouget-Levy, PhD Candidate at The Courtauld Institute of Art

Ariana Waiata Sheehan, Brand Manager of Aro and Aro Archive

Rahemur Rahman, Designer

Sonnet Stanfill, Senior Curator of Fashion in the Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the V&A

Andrew Tucker, Journalist and Course Leader of MA Fashion Journalism at the London College of Fashion

5.15-6.00pm: Drinks reception

This event has passed.

10:15am, 11 May 2019

Saturday 11th May 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King's Cross, London