Since the birth of fashion in the 19th century, counter-fashion—the practice of dressing to signal political solidarity—has been a site for critical intervention and utopian experimentation amongst activists, artists, and designers. Fashion is often mobilized to effect political change in moments of unrest. Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, continues this tradition, suggesting clothing for “end times.” In Omega Workshop, our clothes are reconceived as an act of resistance in dark times—a collective reimagining of our relationship to dress.
For Omega Workshop, the members of the Rational Dress Society bring together artists, designers and activists who mobilize the language of clothing to critique the existing fashion system and offer alternatives. The exhibition will function as an archive and a laboratory, intended both as a tool to spur the production of future counter-fashion, and a resource for artists and designers interested in pursuing alternative dress. Omega Workshop features experimental garments that represent a variety of approaches. Included in the show are Andrea Zittel’s Personal Panel Uniforms, 1994, a uniform for daily wear based on the flat geometric designs of Soviet Constructivist fashion. Fawn Krieger’s 2016 project OUTFIT is a line of modular, unisex garments informed by the history of East German and Soviet mail order catalogues. Sky Cubacub’s Rebirth Garments represent a new movement in QueerCrip dress reform, gender-nonconforming wearables for people on the whole spectrum of gender, size and ability. Marloes ten Bhömer’s experimental footwear critiques the fetishistic portrayal of the high-heel shoe in cinema and mass culture; her work Bluepanelshoe, 2013, employs kinematic and anatomical studies of the female foot in motion, producing a new design that rejects traditional gender stereotypes.
Presented as a flexible studio, the exhibition and display will be combined with workspace and public discussion. Participants are invited to attend workshops to make their own experimental clothes and learn about the politics of the fashion industry (see list of public programs below.)
Omega Workshop coincides with New York Fashion Week, offering a necessary counterpoint to the consumer-driven spectacle of the industry in New York’s historical Garment District. The diminishing footprint of the Garment District, once the largest employer in New York City, is a direct result of the fast fashion economy. Dominated by fast fashion conglomerates such as H&M and Zara, producing massive amounts of cheap clothes at a rapid pace, contemporary fashion has become an industry whose labor practices and environmental impact are unethical and unsustainable. Clothes are the interface between the individual and society, and, as such, Omega Workshop proposes fashion as a site for critical intervention within consumer culture.
Artists: Carmen Argote, Elaine Byrne, Nick Cave, Sky Cubacub, Frau Fiber, Friends of Light, Abigail Glaum-Lathbury, Ruby Hoette, Project KOVR, Fawn Krieger, Jennifer Moon, Marloes ten Bhömer, Marisa Williamson, Andrea Zittel