Dear RCDF community,
Before you take a well-deserved (extended) Summer or Winter break, we hope this newsletter finds you well and in good spirit. In October of this year, the Collective is celebrating its 10th Anniversary and we want to take this opportunity to pause and reflect. What a journey it has been. Who would have thought that it would continue for this long after that initial Non-Western Fashion Conference (NWFC) in Morocco in October 2012? This international academic conference, (organised with a very small budget and a lot of good will) was supposed to be a one-off event to gather a small group of researchers working on fashion outside the dominant European fashion capitals. But it turned out to be a ‘coming home’ for academic misfits who had been operating in solitude in the margins for many years.
So a second edition followed in 2013 in the UK, where the initial ten participants were joined by another ninety disrupters of eurocentricity in fashion. This is where the Steering committee was established, including ground-breaking researchers like Sandra Niessen, Leslie Rabine and Jennifer Craik. The Conference became an academic platform for disrupting eurocentric underpinnings of dominant fashion discourse from a post-colonial perspective. As an informal network without any structural funding, we would organise conferences through collaborations with local research centres and university departments like the Centre Jacques Berge in Rabat/Morocco in 2012, the London College of Fashion in 2013, the School of Modern Languages and Cultures in Hong Kong in 2014, the University of Antwerp in 2016, and finally the Bunka Gakuan University in Tokyo in 2019.
But around 2018, Influenced by the work of leading decolonial thinkers like Rolando Vázquez, Walter Mignolo, Maria Lugones and many others, we had been unlearning enough to break free from the colonial academic framework and rethink ourselves as a Collective, as an experimental platform beyond institutional, disciplinary and geographical boundaries that aims to critique the denial and erasure of a diversity of fashioning systems due to eurocentrism, unequal global power relations based on the modern-colonial order and the Euro-American canon of normativity. Despite our best initial intentions, we came to realise how the academic format perpetuates unequal global power dynamics,is not inclusive in terms of who gets to speak, whose knowledge gets acknowledged and validated, is aimed at gatekeeping through eurocentric notions of excellence based on peer reviewing processes and at erasing implication and evading responsibility through the idea of the autonomous researcher.
Therefore, the Global Fashioning Assembly is our own decolonial response to our initial academic platform. Ten years later, we wish to create a different kind of long-term platform and programme that breaks with these discriminating and hegemonic practices. Intended as a biennial, the Assembly will hopefully be a recurring project, based on commitment and trust, aimed at building sustainable relationships with communities all over the world. It is key to our mission to decentralise contemporary fashion discourse and practice, facilitate a worldwide network of sovereign yet connected fashioning coalitions and stimulate self-representation, self-determination and self-governance in fashion. It is aimed at contributing to our mission to engender solidarity across multiple lines of difference according to diverse fashion histories, experiences and practices.
So what have we (un)learned? What systemic changes have we been able to initiate? How do we see the next ten years unfold and where will our focus need to be? To gather your thought and ideas, we are conducting a survey to learn and sense how decoloniality and fashion touch you, how you are experiencing the RCDF and what you would like to see (more) on the topic. Answering the survey takes less than 5 minutes and will guide us moving forward for the next ten years.
Furthermore, we have news to share on our recurring activities, the monthly Conversations, the Annual General Meeting (AGM22) and the biennial Global Fashioning Assembly (GFA22). In the run up to our Annual General Meeting (AGM22) in December, we are launching a call for One-Minute-Videos. On 30 June 2022, six hosting communities from the Global Fashioning Assembly convened a workshop ‘Practicing Decoloniality’ at the international Conference ‘Practicing Solidarity’ and the recordings are now available on the RCDF Youtube channel. We also have some updates from our coalitional partners and some exciting publications, exhibitions, podcasts, courses and calls to share.
If you haven’t yet, please make sure to subscribe to the RCDF Youtube channel, where you can find all the recordings of the Annual General Meeting 2021, the Conversations in 2021 and 2022 and our workshop ‘Practicing Decoloniality.’
We hope you find the time to enjoy the full newsletter on your regenerative break.
The RCDF team