“I love your dress, is it shibori?” said a student, running into her classmate at the LdM cafeteria. It was ikat, but they bonded anyway. Knowledge of these traditional dyeing techniques has become so essential nowadays that you simply cannot have a fashion-forward conversation without someone mentioning “tribes” at least once… Nothing escapes cultural appropriation, not even the shamanic robes of the Innuit
Which is not to say that the study of various treatments one can subject fabric to isn’t captivating. From dyeing, through block printing, to beading – we can travel the world from Greenland to Mozambique and everywhere in between just by studying the different ways of fabric styling. And while we’re at it, we can also deconstruct the myth of male dominance in the (fashion) world by just exploring the who’s who of textile design – from Betsy Ross, through Lucienne Day, to Maija Isola.
On a practical level, fabric styling is an incredibly versatile field. Biographies of the great designers stand to show that transitioning from fashion, to interior, to industrial design (and back) has always been commonplace. For creative individuals mastering these surface-altering techniques might translate into an added layer within their work in a completely different field in the future.
The Fabric Styling class taught by Prof. Carl Joerns at LdM has been hugely popular with Fashion majors, but as more and more students begin to explore interdisciplinary approaches to learning, the student body has grown to include students pursuing degrees in Industrial Design, Performing Arts or even Architecture. And who knows, the next Celia Birtwell might be amongst us, creating her own designs inspired by the Botticellis!