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Enrich your experience of ‘Body Embellishment’: Ponder these themes

Mike Watson

We asked our Fashion Sherpa about the ‘Body Embellishment’ exhibition’s themes, and he outlined three for us to take into account:

We’re seeking bigger tribes: Today, we’re seeing once “narrowly segmented populations” forming bigger, “more encompassing tribes,” says Watson, tribes who find and associate with each other because they want to express themselves similarly. Designers who “consciously erase the ‘typical’ shape or silhouette of the human form ... erase the social identifiers.” That “allows a different conversation about what it means to be human” and about who’s in which tribe, and why. That blurs the lines between groups of people, a blurring also happening to the line between art and fashion.

Technology has wide-ranging implications: From global communication tools to processes like 3D printing, technology amplifies our ability to create and express. Designers such as threeASFOUR, interested in unity and cross-cultural harmony, can use technology to create complex patterning, geometries that are sacred across cultures, for example. Individuals can use it in a “DIY” way, leading to more creativity and less passivity, Watson says. And in a world with fewer and fewer face-to-face communications, images are increasingly important. “Early civilizations used body modifications as a powerful mode of communication when language and the written word were not commonplace, and so it is again today,” he says.

Modification, exaggeration and distortion can be more powerful self-expression. “Self-expression is driven by our insecurities and the desire to be seen and heard,” says Watson. “In a world that is 24 hours of nonstop stimulation, it is difficult to rise above the ambient noise ... By exaggerating or modifying our bodies, we can step out and above the noise to be seen and heard... As we become more global, more interconnected, the desire to exaggerate one’s identity will increase and serve as a rebellious statement against ... uniformity.”

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