The summer of 2015 meant the start of a new part-time job and the imminence of my final semester in college. The latter meant working on a graduation project for the mandatory Portfolio course. I took the advice from fellow senior art students to start early: brainstorming for ideas. One thing I was adamant on: it has to be textile–clothing–using Igorot eten. After all it would be the first textile–clothing project I ever worked on and my very own conception.
Late August arrives: the fall semester begins and so does pressure that comes with it! The first half focused more on university applications as well as building a portfolio by compiling your best artworks from previous semesters. Mid-October was the official start of the Integrative Project. As I have mentioned in the beginning I already had the briefest ideas to work with during the summer break. I just needed to work on a project proposal for the teacher, Henri, which will better describe my ideas in a formatted manner. After submitting the proposal, several individual appointments to discuss further on the project details and needed modifications proved to be crucial later on.
At first, I planned to make a contemporary unisex piece that drew inspiration from Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania collection of Autumn/Winter of 1993-1994 and her use of Harris Tweed. However I also wanted to be kimono themed clothing, which is usually more traditional. Clearly, I still had no clear vision of what I wanted to do and spiralled furthermore into uncertainty.
“For the garment, I intend to sew a piece that suits a unisex aesthetic, reflecting my interest in a relatively genderless aesthetic–also appealing to a broad audience. […] For my independent project, I would like to incorporate similar thematic of cross-culture through the usage of tribal textiles, Igorot inabel, from the Philippines and traditional Japanese dyeing techniques.” –excerpt from my project proposal.
How to unite a bunch of loose ideas and inspirations to create a solid and coherent cross-cultural themed statement piece?
I was wrecking my brain to find a way to weave all these ideas, but to no avail. Ultimately I decided to scrap the idea of making a contemporary piece, shifting to traditional clothing. Still determined to sew a kimono ensemble and use Igorot eten as textile; I also wanted to add elements of Ainu clothing pattern as another cultural element. I explain more in detail about Japan’s aboriginal people in my Ainu Culture in Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda article. With three cultural elements: Japanese kimono, Ainu attus and Igorot eten I immediately started sketching pieces.
CROSS-CULTURE TO BEHIND THE TIMES
Eventually I still decided to maintain the idea of unisex clothing by referring to traditional Japanese garments worn both by men and women. The results: an outer robe–a haori, a top similar to a jinbei piece beneath the outer robe, and a pair of Japanese loose pleated trousers called hakama.
A significant change also meant reworking on a thematic that still evokes cross-culture through the title of the artwork itself. It was just a matter of connecting a mutual element. Gradually, it became clear that all three cultural elements I selected lacked valuable information, as if the Ainu and the Igorot are inexistent to online and the craft of traditional kimono is as though obsolete.
I mean just looking up references on the Ainu, Igorot and traditional kimono proved to be very challenging. In fact, I had to refer from my mother about the Igorot culture and costumes. The Ainu were, for hundreds of years, either disregarded, subjected to discrimination, or forced to assimilate to conventional Japanese culture. These factors obviously deteriorated the propagation and awareness of Ainu culture. The results of such actions led to a culture and language on the brink of extinction. The craft of making traditional kimono–too– is slowly dying due to western clothing being in favour. Renting or buying secondhand kimonos is an affordable alternative.
Now that I have managed to find a commonality in all three cultures’ reference, I just needed to come up with the title that coins well to the concept of “something forgotten”–“almost forgotten”. I then asked for my mother’s reference if she knew an equivalent expression of the former statements. Not sure if she was certain of what she had mind, my mother called my aunt (yes, she did call my aunt who lives in the Philippines) to ask if she knew of such an expression. To both our delight, she did know and loudly said “Yeah, Naling lingan”. Feeling accomplished, I began writing my draft for the artist statement.
THE OUTER ROBE–HAORI
A haori is usually worn over the robes, just like a jacket and donned both by men and women. I chose to use the Bontoc eten for the outer robe material due to striking similarities of the textile used for most men’s haori. However, making the pattern for the robe was more challenging than sewing the pieces together. I had to refer to images to make a simplified pattern and also refer to my own measurements. I decided much later to add Ainu embroidery on the red band, and once again I was fortunate enough to find an image guide to Ainu symbols.
MAKING THE INNER TOP
The inner top is similar to the haori, except for cutting the fabric on a 45-degree angle (the bias grain). The front, too, is different as it wraps with the right collar band inside and the left band outside. Due to working on very limited amount of fabric, I had to make the sleeves shorter in length. Thus, I chose to base off the top of a jinbei set–a summer cotton set comprised of matching short-sleeved shirt and a pair of shorts (and not the character from One Piece)–for pattern making. Jinbei are worn as either night wear or as house clothes and worn by men, women and children (women’s jinbei are recently becoming popular). Coincidentally the Apayao eten has a similar appearance to fabrics used for men’s jinbei.
PLEATED JAPANESE TROUSERS-HAKAMA
Once I was done with the outer robe and inner robe, I had to find a pattern of a pair of hakama since it is an intermediate-advance level garment. This proved to be very challenging, as I had to refer to an existing pattern from a simplified contemporary pattern found on Pinterest and modify by using my measurements. Though, I still used an image of a traditional hakama pattern to consult.
Unlike the other two garment pieces, I did not use the eten for the pleated trousers due to not having enough yardages to make it. It will also clash with the motifs of the other fabrics and not produce great results for the pleats. Therefore, I chose to make the pleated trousers with a synthetic material that is similarly used in traditional Japanese sports like Aikido, Kyudo and Kendo. I chose a solid blue coloured fabric that will match the inner top, but also complement the outer robe’s material.
Unfortunately I had to abandon making a vital piece of the hakama called the koshi-ita, a trapezoid piece attached to the waistline that supports the back and holds the belt. Not only did I miscalculated the yardage I needed to make the pleated trousers, but I also was running out of time.
Around the end of October I had to find a mannequin rental that listed their prices for a decent fee for renting. I did manage to find a place via their online website and sent an email to verify if their rental fees are up to date from their website. I figured it would be better to visit the mannequin rental studio to look up the different models/poses they offered and to inquire more about their rental fees and methods of payment. The manager was kind enough to I picked up the mannequin at the studio the week before the submission deadline (end of November). I rented one for a span of two months (the gallery show lasted for two months). This happens to be the highest expense I have made for this project, but I had planned and saved for a budget ever since I started working during the summer break.
COMPLETION, GALLERY GROUP SHOW, AND THOUGHTS
“November 30: Bring over the completed piece, mannequin, and sewing kit (in case of emergency).”- 2015 planner
I had to take a taxi to transport everything, as carrying a mannequin inside a 20” x20 “x60” box would be too bulky and heavy for public transportation even when attached to a foldable box trolley. The taxi driver was very kind to take the fastest route to campus (to lessen the cab fare) and even help me bring out the large box out of the trunk.
Luckily, there is an entrance (veranda?) for those with limited mobility and wheeled the bulk inside. I forgot the entrance leads to a narrow and busy corridor in the basement of the campus. I had to drag the large box to the staircase–hiding it in the corner– and bolted upstairs to the teacher’s office to help me carry the cardboard casket. I did not end up lifting one end of the box; Daniel (another classmate, also in the Portfolio gallery group show) lifted the boxed mannequin with Henri.
Once there, I asked the gallery art director (also a friend) that I would be the one to assemble the mannequin and the garments, to which she agreed. In exchange, the gallery staff will be the one to decide the placement of the dressed mannequin. I stayed at school the entire day so as to see the completed gallery show placement. Let’s just say I was proud to see my work displayed in the school’s gallery. I just had to finish typing my project statement and wait for the opening show on Wednesday.
Gallery Show, Presentation & Evaluation
The Portfolio gallery show, though coincided with the school’s Film Fest, still managed to be a hit. It was really great to hear great response and feedbacks (constructive criticism too) on all three artworks presented in the group show. Some were astound to see a full costume in the gallery since most mediums are mostly drawings, paintings, photographs, digital illustrations and videos. A fellow art student (and friend) later told me that the last clothing-costume artwork displayed in the gallery was five-six years ago.
Unfortunately, I still had to go through a class presentation (IN THE GLASS DISPLAYED GALLERY!) Mind you, presentations are the bane of my existence to this day. Though I still managed to focus on presenting everything I have mentioned in this page.
Conclusion & Thougths
Overall, the Integrative Project is probably one of the best experiences I have gone through in college. Although I did succumb to stress, it is still proof I can work in a medium that is rather self-taught and overcome any obstructions that came along the process. If I have to offer suggestions, it is to jump-start with the slightest ideas you have in mind, even if it may or may not work out later on.
A planner is quintessential for time management since you have to find and squeeze in the most hours to commit on your project. During the month of October, there were strikes going on that severely affected the overall schedule of the semester. It was a domino effect; students and teachers lost a month-equivalent worth of classes. I do recommend using a planner as a logbook to record the entire process from drafts/sketches, expenses, progress, deadlines, etc. This practice will be very helpful when finalizing your project statement but also later on in any creative field.
Creating a mood board proved to be more effective, especially when factual information is very sparse. Sometimes, you might resort to creating or modifying patterns when there are no examples on making a piece.
eten: (pron. eu-teun) textile made of cotton and other natural fibers woven in pedal frame looms
Igorot: An (or a collective of) ethnic group(s) in the Cordillera region of Northern Luzon, Philippines.
BIBAK: An acronym of the five main provinces of the Cordillera region, based on ethno linguistic regions of different tribes:
Bontoc (also known as Mountain Province)- Ifugao – Benguet – Apayao – Kalinga
Ainu: An ethnic group of Hokkaido, Japan; Northern Honshu; the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands. (Please refer to Ainu Culture in Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda)
Attus : (literal: Bark Clothing) Cloths made from fibres of the Lobed Elm
Vivienne Westwood: English fashion designer, known as one of the pioneers of punk fashion in the 70’s. Received on OBE (Order of the British Empire)
Harris Tweed: (trademark) Handwoven tweed made in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, especially on the island of Lewis and Harris.