Unraveling the hidden complexities of clothing: A tailored fashion experience
By Madison McClelland, Staff Writer
Consider the outfit you’re wearing right now. Whether it’s conscious or not, each article is a reflection of you, your taste and your preferences. In its essence, that’s what makes fashion so exciting. Yet rarely when you get dressed in the morning or pick up a new outfit at the mall you likely consider the significance behind these everyday decisions. Yes, your clothing is an exciting method of self-expression, but behind each stitch, there’s always a deeper meaning to consider.
Starting Oct. 5th, 2023, Calgary’s Swallow-A-Bicycle Theatre presents Clothing— an interactive opportunity to explore the excitement of self-expression while considering our consumerist tendencies. While the event has held privatized presentations along the same lines, this will be the first time the event is open to the public, marking it as the official premiere of this interactive experience.
Bianca Guimarães de Manuel, one of the show’s creators, explained the duality of this fun, yet insightful experience.
“Clothing and the impacts of the clothing industry is something that implicates all people, even if we don’t think about it,” she said.
There’s a lot that goes into the products that allow for our own self-expression and as such, this event seeks to shed light on these importances, while still staying true to the fun that fashion can be.
The experience starts right when you sign up. Prior to your arrival, you’ll be required to fill out a form indicating your different clothing-related preferences. Ensuring that the experience has a strong aspect of customization was important for the creators and as such, these personal details set your experience up for success. As the event commences, each guest will then receive 50 “presents” curated to their personal style based on what they provided on the survey. You then open the presents and choose to either keep or discard what you receive – but choose wisely because these decisions will influence the rest of your journey.
“I think the whole thing is just to reflect about your relationship with items of clothing, and then as the experience evolves, maybe you get to think through things in a way that you wouldn’t have,” said Guimarães de Manuel.
With so many different brands and options at our fingertips, it’s hard to stay on top of making conscious decisions as consumers. Thus, what Clothing aims to do isn’t intended to shed a negative light on your consumption, but rather instill a deeper relationship between you and the clothing you wear.
“I think it’s complex,” Guimarães de Manuel explained. “We’re inviting you into a more profound relationship with the hidden complexities of clothing, while also trying to balance the aspect that it is important to express yourself with textiles”.
This sort of balance seems to be key in this equation. The “contradictions of consumerism” as Guimarães de Manuel would put it, force buyers into hard positions at times, making it difficult to navigate both sustainability and self-expression.
“You know, certain brands are bad, but then at the same time you want it and then there’s a little bit of that guilty pleasure,” said Guimarães de Manuel.
Another one of Clothing’s co-creators, Mark Hopkins, explained that their curiosity with this show was to explore “all the hidden and invisible aspects of clothing.”
“If I buy this shirt,” Hopkins explains, “I might buy it because I like the style.” What you may not think about, he continues, are details such as “where that material was harvested — how many places did this shirt travel before it got to me— what labour was attached and what environmental impacts were there.” Just when you think there can’t be more, Hopkins goes even further with considerations such as, “if I donate it, what happens to it then?” On paper, it may all seem so simple, yet rarely are these considerations made when we purchase new additions for our wardrobes.
Clearly, this event approaches awareness around the fashion industry in a fun and thrifty way. Yet in its essence, the goal of the show isn’t to overwhelm viewers with the stress of seemingly insignificant decisions, but rather to combine the pleasures of textiles with an appreciation for why we can have what we have.
“Hopefully by the end of it, they’ll have a deeper relationship with the clothing that they already have, and maybe as they go forward in the world, might think differently about clothing,” said Hopkins.
Tickets are available at a sliding scale rate with a suggested $20 price and can be purchased on the Swallow-A-Bicycle Theatre website at www.swallowabicycle.com.