Rethinking luxury through the handmade
At the very core of fashion, as a system based on the dialectic relationship between the high-end consumer and the mass market, is the notion of the ‘authentic’ as the marker of distinction, the desire for which continuously generates change. Today, however, the authentic is often associated with an abstract commercial value fabricated by designer idolatry and media-driven marketing using the ‘glamour’ of celebrity culture. As contemporary consumers increasingly inquire into the provenance of their purchases, luxury companies place ever greater emphasis on the craftsmanship and heritage, while often sourcing labour in lower income countries. Moreover, the frequent association between ‘hands’ and authenticity is often exploited by both ends of the industry, placing the handmade at the centre of ethical issues in contemporary fashion. In this presentation, I examine the notion of luxury and the handmade less via the finished product, but rather via the experience of production, which subsequently inspires the experience of consumption. With reference to my own experience of making, I reflect on how a garment maker, by way of putting together garments entirely by hand, might create a peculiar and unique value. What are the conditions of making that generate usefulness beyond utilitarian function? Rather than mythologising the handmade – as is often the case in luxury marketing campaigns – this paper focuses on the individual mode of perception in making and using, and potential social links generated through the product. Forgoing the preciousness of material or measurable time invested in the product, this presentation suggests an alternative notion of luxury, one which reflects the authenticity arising from attentive modes of interaction with material objects.
Programme: Panel 1: Valuable Objects Dr Magdalena Zawisza (Anglia Ruskin University). On the mind, body and objects in consumer context – a psychological perspective. Dr Yeseung Lee (De Montfort University). Rethinking luxury through the handmade Panel 2: Emotional Objects / Intimate objects Dr Louise Purbrick (University of Brighton). Attachment and Animation: the life of dead things. Dr Ellen Sampson (Chelsea College of Art). The Cleaved Garment: the maker, the wearer and the ‘me and not me’ of fashion practice. Panel 3: Disruptive objects Annie Thwaite (University of Cambridge) ‘Extraordinary Magnitude': Objects used for healing in early modern England.' Michael Petry (Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, London) The Consumption of Self: sexual objects of desire. Dr Dawn Woolley (Anglia Ruskin University) Still Life, Vanitas, and Ironic Objects, Photography.
Citation : LEE, Y. (2017) 'Rethinking luxury through the handmade’, conference paper presented to Animate Objects: Encounters between People and Things, Anglia Ruskin University, 13 October 2017. < https://www.anglia.ac.uk/arts-law-and-social-sciences/cambridge-school-of-art/animate-objects>.
Research Group : Design and New Product Development
Research Institute : Institute of Art and Design
Peer Reviewed : No
- School of Design