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  • Constructing a Narrative of Fashion Practice as Inquiry

Norris-Reeves, Suzie, 2014, Thesis, Constructing a Narrative of Fashion Practice as Inquiry PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This dissertation is a written component of a thesis, which was developed and articulated over
four years in the construction of a narrative of the fashion designer and their practice. The
hypothesis developed by the fashion designer as practitioner, is that it is both possible and
necessary, by careful notation and reflective practice, to arrive at a better understanding of the
fashion design practitioners cognitive and behavioural reasoning through the creative practice
process than exists in current literature and archive.
In comparison with the archiving of materials that testify to the complexity of creativity in
painting, sculpture and orchestral composition, for example, the archiving of the process and
practice of fashion design is negligible. Collections of designers' ephemera often constitute little
more than ‘the retrospective’ or materials of celebrity culture that further mystify the 'author
function' role (Foucault, 1969, p.113-138) of the fashion design practitioner. This research aims
to suggest a critical visual method for and in support of constructing a narrative of fashion
practice as it is lived towards a new culture of compiling, recording, noting, classifying and
analysing the tacit process of the fashion design practitioners relationship to their practice. The
practice therefore comprises the designing, draping, cutting and making of an eight-piece
collection of fashion womenswear. The research comprises extensive documentation of the
(research) practitioner’s subjective-objective1 dialogues as purposeful acts of thought (Burnette, 2009b) and action whilst developing a body of creative work. In addition to the researcher's
journey this narrative inquiry extends documentation to include the responses of five other
practitioners as willing participants in the project aim: to develop a new research method for
documenting and understanding the fashion design practitioners cognitive and behavioural
narratives.
Whereas there is a significant literature on design theory written by theorists and not
necessarily practitioners, and a considerable literature on fashion as object of sociological,
historical, cultural, anthropological, semiotic, psychological, political, philosophical, economic
study, there exists almost no serious study of fashion design practice from the perspective of
the fashion designer (as practitioner). This research aims, without artificial abstraction of the
creative practice from its cultural and social milieu, to start a serious, scholarly, rigorous study of
fashion practice as design method. It may be that such method will be met with reactions that
it could meddle with the illusion of a designer's intuitive sense of knowing and that it is an
unwelcome complication of what should remain an invisible or tacit (because as yet
unrecognised) process. The aim of the research is to develop a method that can be
customised and adopted by the fashion design and design research communities and fashion
designers in training and in professional practice, to understand more about their creative
practice process in both cognitive and behavioural terms.
To this end I use the forms of auto ethnography to collect data through sketchbook work,
diarised journals, photographic and film reportage and interview in order to consider how a
method of (doing) practice may refer to theories of practice. Literary theory of Bakhtin is
offered as an example of a dialogical method to consider how the process of fashion practice
can be considered as communicable knowledge. The Kantian philosophy of the 'a priori'
knowledge and Foucault’s relational systems of thought and knowledge are also offered as
discourse and a foundation of thought that structures the tacit dialogues in the here and now as a telling of a knowing of a doing of fashion practice. The written dissertation is a text, which
co-exists with the narrative traced through the making and visual realisation of the collection
exhibited and photographed at the viva voce (Figure 1 & Appendix H).

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Material
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2014 12:48
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2017 11:22
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1662

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