The Research Collective for Decolonising Fashion (RCDF) was established to end the stubbornly persistent euro – and ethnocentric underpinnings of dominant fashion discourse and to construct alternative narratives. The RCDF acknowledges that fashion systems are diverse, whether independent of (historically), or influenced by (more recently), Western-dominated fashion. It encourages critical investigation and dialogue into that commonly denied, forgotten or otherwise hidden diversity, and explores interconnections among fashion systems outside the dominant ‘world fashion city’ network, by providing a multidisciplinary and multicultural forum where new critical paradigms can be developed from cross-cultural perspectives.
The RCDF recognizes that ‘fashion globalization’, far from representing a remedial development, perpetuates Eurocentric biases in fashion description and fact on a wider geographical stage. Consistent with its goals, the RCDF strives to be inclusive and welcomes participation from academics, curators, designers and industry professionals who are creatively and critically involved in fashion systems everywhere in the world.
European fashion history remains hegemonic in discourse and in business. It comes packaged with persistent narratives and set areas of debate such as the consumer revolution in the 18th century, the birth of couture in the last third of the 19th century and the importance of subcultural style in the mid – to late 20th century. These conventions continue to inform how the history of fashion is written and taught. Fashion histories beyond Europe, consequently, are often described in comparison to these hegemonic narratives and are defined accordingly. While Euro – and ethnocentric frameworks of thinking inherited from the Enlightenment have been fruitfully confronted by other disciplines such as anthropology and art history, they have remained stubbornly rooted in fashion studies – a problem that in itself begs for scrutiny.
Angela Jansen is the initiator and chairperson of the RCDF. She is a cultural and fashion anthropologist who did her PhD research on the Moroccan fashion industry (Leiden University, 2010). She is the author of Moroccan Fashion: Design, Tradition and Modernity (Bloomsbury, 2014) and co-author with Jennifer Craik of Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Modernity Through Fashion (Bloomsbury, 2016).
She is currently an independent scholar based in Brussels and working on a manuscript for a reader on fashion anthropology. Her research focuses on disrupting conventional Eurocentric notions of fashion, facilitating/encouraging a new, decolonized fashion paradigm whereby fashion is considered as a multivalent, pluralistic worldwide phenomenon.
Her research interests are fashion anthropology, fashion theory, eurocentricity in academic practice and postcolonial studies.In addition to publishing and lecturing on the Moroccan fashion industry, she is involved in fashion events and museum exhibitions.
* Jansen, M.A. ‘There Was No Fashion in Morocco Before’: Decolonizing Moroccan Fashion History. In Creating African Fashion Histories: Politics, Museums and Sartorial Practice, edited by JoAnn McGregor, Heather Akou, Nicola Stylianou and Lou Taylor (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2019 in press)
* Jansen, M.A. and Jennifer Craik (Eds.) Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity Through Fashion (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)
* Jansen, M.A. ‘Defining Moroccanness: Aesthetics and Politics in Contemporary Moroccan Fashion Design.’ Journal for North African Studies, vol. 21 (2016): pp. 132-147.
* Jansen, M.A. and Jennifer Craik (Guest eds). International Journal of Fashion Studies. Volume 2(1) 2015. ‘Special Issue: (Non)Western Fashion.’
* Jansen, M.A. Moroccan Fashion: Design, Tradition and Modernity (London: Bloomsbury, 2014)
Sandra Niessen earned her PhD cum laude at the State University of Leiden, in The Netherlands.
She was Associate Professor in the Department of Human Ecology at the University of Alberta, Canada, until 2002, where she taught Material Culture, Cross-Cultural textiles, and the anthropology of fashion. In 2002, she became an independent scholar in The Netherlands working primarily on repatriation projects (Back to the Villages), writing, exhibitions and film projects. Her research has focused on the textiles of the Batak people of North Sumatra, Indonesia. From 2014 until 2019, she was part of the Queen Sirikit Textile Museum team to research and exhibit the batiks collected by King Chulalongkorn at the turn of the 19th century. During the past three years she has invested her energies in textile revival in North Sumatra.
* Niessen, S. “Interpreting ‘Civilization’ through Dress” in the first international (10-volume) Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion Vol 8: West Europe, Part I: Overview of Dress and Fashion in West Europe (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2010, pp. 39-43)
* Niessen, S. Legacy in Cloth: Batak Textiles of Indonesia (Leiden: KITLV Press with Bergoord Publishing Assistance, 2009)
* Niessen, S., Ann Marie Leshkowich and Carla Jones. Re-Orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress (London: Bloomsbury, 2003)
* Niessen, S. and Brydon. Consuming Fashion: Adorning the Transnational Body (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1998)
Jennifer Craik is Professor of Fashion at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia and formerly Professor of Fashion and Textiles at RMIT University, Melbourne.
She has also been Professor of Communication and Cultural Studies at the University of Canberra and Adjunct Professor of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, Australian National University, Canberra. She also worked at Griffith University, Brisbane, and taught and researched in areas of media and cultural studies, cultural policy, tourism studies, and arts funding. She researches cultural understandings of the meaning of fashion and dress. Currently she is editing a book on Australian fashion futures.
* Craik, J. and M. A. Jansen (Eds.) Modern Fashion Traditions: Negotiating Tradition and Modernity Through Fashion (London: Bloomsbury, 2016)
* Craik, J. Fashion: The Key Concepts (London: Bloomsbury, 2009)
* Craik, J. Re-visioning Arts and Cultural Policy (London: Bloomsbury, 2007)
* Craik, J. Uniforms Exposed (London: Bloomsbury, 2005)
* Craik, J. The Face of Fashion (London: Bloomsbury, 1994)
Toby Slade is a lecturer at Bunka Gakuen University in the Global Fashion Concentrate.
His research focuses on Asian responses to modernity seen through art objects of the everyday like fashion and popular culture. His 2009 book, Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History from Berg was the first in English to cover the entire historical sweep of fashion and clothing in Japan. It focused particularly on the modernity of Japanese clothing and the implications of that unique sartorial history for contemporary theories of fashion. His recent book Introducing Japanese Popular Culture from Routledge presents a wide range of the latest scholarship on contemporary Japan.
* Slade, T. Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2009)
* Slade, T. and A. Freedman (eds) Introducing Japanese Popular Culture (London: Routledge, 2017).
Leslie W. Rabine
Leslie W. Rabineis Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies and French at the University of California Davis, USA. Leslie received her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She published several books and essays on French literature and history before turning to the field of African studies. Author of The Global Circulation of African Fashion (Berg, 2002) and co-author/editor of African Print Fashion Now! (Fowler, 2017), she is also co-curator of the exhibition of the same name for the Fowler Museum at UCLA, as well as museums in Memphis, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Professor Rabine has also published several essays on graffiti artists, multi-media practices and youth fashion designers in Senegal, West Africa. In addition to her work as researcher, curator and photographer, Professor Rabine as held the administrative posts of Associate Dean and Department Chair at the University of California, Irvine, and Director of Women and Gender Studies at UC Davis. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association.
* Leslie W. Rabine, Global Circulation of African Fashion (Oxford: Berg, 2002).
Kim Jenkins is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute, Part-time Lecturer at Parsons School of Design and amongst the pioneering cohort of graduates from the MA Fashion Studies program at Parsons.
As an educator and independent researcher with an interest in social psychology and justice, her work draws upon the interdisciplinary nature of fashion studies to examine the implications of ‘race’ in fashion history, business and image-making. In 2016, she developed a course at Parsons, Fashion and Race, and in 2018 she received the award for ‘Outstanding Achievements in Social Justice Teaching’ from the New School. Through her pedagogy on fashion and race, Kim is developing a digital humanities project (made possible through a grant at The New School) that will provide a research repository that decolonizes fashion history, and will present her first exhibition, Fashion and Race: Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities, at Parsons in the fall of 2018.
Kim is an advisory board member for the Model Alliance, advisor for the Inclusive Pedagogy Scholars Program at Pratt Institute and Co-Chair of the Curriculum Committee at Pratt Institute. Her expertise has been called upon in commercial media such as New York Magazine, ELLE(Canada), Racked and CNBC, and she has also written for QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, International Journal of Fashion Studies, The Fashion Studies Journal, Art Jewelry Forum and advised the exhibition, A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, curated by Sofia Hedman. Aside from teaching, Kim hosts a series of talks around New York City that progress the discourse of fashion studies and co-founded The Fashion & Justice Workshop, which is facilitated in various cities across the United States.
Erica De Greef
Erica De Greef has been recently appointed as Senior Curator at the Zeitz MOCAA Costume Institute (launching end-2018), which is the culmination of years of dedicated work on the framing, developing and showcasing of South African fashion within a global network. She aims to share the powerful potential of exploring stories of a fashioned Africa in the 21stcentury, through ongoing, interactive and publically engaged exhibitions and events that introduce not only the objects of fashion, but the subjects of fashion, the methods of fashion and the continually diversifying, expressions of fashion.
Following a Masters in Fine Arts (Wits University, 2012), where Erica explored the conceptual and creative role of history and memory in the work of designer Clive Rundle, she began a PhD in African Studies at the University of Cape Town (2014-2018), in which she which investigated the conditions, politics and ideologies that informed (and continue to mark) the dress/fashion collections and exhibitions of South African public museums, with a focus on the recently merged, Iziko Museums.
* Greef, E. de. ‘Tracing the Quiet Cultural Activism: Laduma Ngxokolo and Black Coffee’ in Kerstin Pinther and Alexandra Weigand (eds.), Flow of Forms|Forms of Flow: Design Histories between Africa and Europe (Germany, 2018).
Sarah Cheang joined the RCA in September 2011. From 2005 to 2011, she was Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Historical Studies at London College of Fashion, where she established courses on fashion, race and the body. She has a special interest in the role of Chinese material culture within histories of Western fashionable dress and domestic interiors, a subject on which she has published widely and lectures frequently. Her co-edited collection, Hair: Styling, Culture and Fashion (2008), and continued research and publishing on hair, fashion and identity have also led to contributions to magazines, exhibition catalogues, festivals, radio and television.
Since arriving at the RCA, she has led the AHRC Network Project Fashion and Translation: Britain, Japan, China Korea (2014–2015), as well as convening events on global design and cultural translation. She recently co-edited a special edition of International Journal of Fashion Studies on East Asian fashion, and is preparing for publication a book entitled Sinophilia which is a new study of twentieth-century chinoiserie and fashion.
Sarah’s teaching interests reflect her passion for and commitment to the broadening of curricula to include the nuanced study of non-Western art and design, and embodied feminine responses to material culture, topics that have historically been considered outside of the canon. Issues of gender, race and ethnicity are often uppermost in her work. She works actively to challenge the Eurocentricity of fashion studies though her teaching, writing and in association with the Non-Western Fashion Conference series, for which she is an advisor.
Christine Tsui is an independent fashion researcher, commentator, writer and consultant. Her most recent publication is a journal article titled with “Socialism and the fashion business: The case of China and Hong Xiang” (International Journal of Fashion Studies) and a book chapter “ ‘Fashion’ in the Chinese context” in Modern Fashion Traditions (Jansen & Craik, 2016).
Christine Tsui was a Fulbright scholar at Parsons the New School for Design in 2013-14. Her research was about the comparative study of American fashion system and the Chinese fashion system. She obtained her master’s degree in Fashion Marketing & Management from London College of Fashion in 2003.
Tsui taught the course of China Fashion/Nation with Professor Hazel Clark at Parsons the New School for Design. She was also a visiting associate professor at the Shanghai Design Institute- China Academy of Arts from 2004 to 2010.
Her primary publications include China Fashion: Conversations with Designers in both English and Chinese (Bloomsbury, 2009; Hong Kong University Press, 2013; China Textile Press, 2014) and Work Book for Fashion Buyers (Chinese, China Textile Press, 2011). Work Book for Fashion Buyers won the Best Book of the Year award in the Textile & Clothing Category in 2012, and has been reprinted multiple times.
Allison is an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Africana Studies at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She earned her Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan and her M.A. in the History of Art from Indiana University. Allison’s research, teaching, and curatorial projects focus on art and visual culture of Africa and the African diaspora, and she is especially interested in fashion and textiles in Ghana. Her current book project traces the cultural evolution of adinkra cloth from its use in the early nineteenth century as royal dress among Akans of Ghana to its expanding roles today as a global icon of Africa. Allison’s research has been supported by fellowships from Fulbright-Hays and the American Council of Learned Societies.
Ellye van Grieken
Ellye Van Grieken is a second year History of Design (MA) Student at the Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art in London. She completed her undergraduate degree in Art History at the University of Sussex. Her MA research focuses on how identity is represented and constructed through dress and performance. Her current research examines the global phenomenon of trousers for women at the beginning of the 20thcentury. She is also interested in translating her research into an interactive medium that can render it more accessible to a wider audience. Her undergraduate research focused on the photographs of Seydou Keita and the issue of agency.