Design and Displacement international conference

Martina is speaking at ‘Design and Displacement‘, the Design History Society’s international conference 6-9 September 2018 in New York.

Here is her theme:

Title: Fashioning Sense: makers and mediators in South East Asia

This paper considers how the fashion design narrative is being shaped in

South East Asia. Its focus is on rural communities in Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. Case studies from recent field research reveal a complex range of ‘displacements’, which in the post-colonial era have affected the development of clothing design and making in this region. The paper examines how, for indigenous makers, shifts in education, economy, resources, markets and technologies have displaced their traditional processes and purposes. Their social systems of spiritual beliefs and customs have also been disrupted, alongside the traditional occupation of time. Labour is being re-fashioned, affecting the practical and symbolic narratives of making. Cheap fashion imports from China undermine the wearing of traditional dress; young people seek better-paid and less backbreaking jobs in cities; global technology opens up new networks of identity and employment.


Festival, Hanoi, Vietnam  image Tenaya Steed
Festival, Hanoi, Vietnam
image Tenaya Steed


The fashion narrative is shaped by designers and makers but also by mediators. Public and private, government and voluntary, national and international stakeholders provide funding, management and entrepreneurship.  Museum curators, academics, collectors and patrons are additionally mediating a revised narrative of tradition and innovation in order to reassert South East Asian clothing as part of contemporary culture, not just commerce. Whilst Marc Auge and Paul Virilio suggested that our shared humanity is experienced in ‘non-places’ – airports, shopping malls and the internet – this paper reflects Richard Sennett and Zygmunt Bauman’s perspectives on togetherness, whereby fashioning sense in society involves re-placing meaningful purpose, and purposeful meaning, by and through design.

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