THREADS OF MEANING
Gene Sherman, executive director of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, and Iranian-Australian artist Nasim Nasr discuss fashion as forms of art and identity.
Art patron Gene Sherman and Iranian-Australian artist Nasim Nasr discuss fashion as forms of art and identity.
VOGUE: THE SHERMAN CENTRE FOR CULTURE & IDEAS (SCCI) PROGRAM LAUNCHES NEXT MONTH, FOCUSING ON CONTEMPORARY FASHION AND ARCHITECTURE. GENE, WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO SHINE A SPOTLIGHT ON FASHION AS ART?
GENE SHERMAN: “When I opened Sherman Galleries, ideas around culture were incorporated into my vision, including talks about contemporary art and its intersection with other topics; the notion of an exchange of ideas has been important to me from the outset. After 21 years I decided to expand the gallery’s remit from contemporary visual art to contemporary visual practice, including fashion, design and architecture, within the context of a not-for-profit foundation. With the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation I commissioned multiple new works and showed existing works and we had an active and engaging Ideas Programme, which encouraged engagement with a wide audience. “I struggled somewhat with the fashion shows and was determined to avoid the mainstream topic of frocks in stores. Instead, I aimed to encourage in people an understanding of fashion as a serious cultural endeavour. I curated one fashion show called Feel and Think featuring a group of Japanese fashion designers whose ‘non-wearable’ creations pushed boundaries. The exhibition was such a success that I grasped then and there a hunger to consider fashion in a different way.” VOGUE: NASIM, YOUR PERFORMANCE,
WOMEN IN SHADOW, IS INCLUDED IN THE SERIES. TELL US ABOUT THIS WORK.
NASIM NASR: “I was always fascinated by the idea of women in Western outfits and it being more liberal and free because you don’t have to wear something because of the rules of your country or the rules of your religion. I was fascinated by this because I grew up in a country where women don’t have the choice of what to wear in public. When I came to Australia my art career was shaped by the fact that I had the freedom to do whatever I liked to do and wear whatever I liked to wear. I was also interested in cultural differences between East and West, which has been a major play in my artwork since 2009. So I thought there must be a way to connect these two with artwork. For me it was always how much an one’s identity can transform when you wear something corporate and when you wear something relaxed or something as a signature of your style, more artistic … So I set up this fashion parade performance based on my major interests and questioning how much you can be controlled by what you wear, especially as women.” VOGUE: DO YOU THINK FASHION IS UNDER-VALUED AS AN ART FORM? GS: “Yes, I feel the focus on shopping might cloud our understanding of fashion, which clearly has multiple additional layers, as serious as contemporary art or architecture. The beauty of the pieces is an important element and often related to the craftsmanship. However, the textiles, the sustainability and the process from thread to finished garment are equally important. Fashion photography, fashion illustration, the role of fashion in film and books are all worthy of attention. Aesthetics versus functionality, fashion and technology, costume and more are all of interest to me.” VOGUE: NASIM, WHAT INSPIRES YOU ARTISTICALLY ABOUT FASHION? NN: “What really interests me is the creative thinking of the designers. When I sit down and talk to designers such as Carla Zampatti, Alistair
Trung and Akira Isogawa, I feel that creative artistic point comes from the moment of design and when I see them put things, ideas and sketches on paper and it’s that that fascinates me.” VOGUE: GENE, HAS FASHION SHAPED YOUR IDENTITY?
GS: “Hugely. In ’85, I discovered a shop run by Rhonda Parry. I saw some clothes in the window and asked her about the designers. They were, in fact, Japanese contemporary fashion pioneers Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto. When I first visited Japan in ’87 I decided to track them down, a decision that started a journey I am still on. I have a wearing wardrobe of 35 to 40 mostly black garments by the same three designers. Fashion is the primary form through which I project my identity.” VOGUE: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON ETHICS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY? NN: “I see everything through an artist’s lens, so for me to place myself in the fashion and designer’s place could be difficult. In my opinion fashion brands can easily lose feeling and meaning unless they have honesty and trust, integrity and continuity within them.”
GS: “I think seriously about ethics regarding fashion. It is important to recognise that people deserve to earn a decent living and are treated as we ourselves would wish to be treated. I avoid fast fashion and have shaped my personal style to enable longevity.” The SCCI Hub Series is on in Sydney from April 5 to 21. For more information, go to www.scci.org.au.
“In my opinion, fashion brands can easily lose feeling and meaning unless they have honesty and trust, integrity and continuity within them”
Gene Sherman (left) wears her own Ann Demeulemeester coat. Issey Miyake shirt. Yohji Yamamoto belt, worn throughout. Sean O’Connell bangle, worn throughout. Karl Fritsch ring, worn throughout. Nasim Nasr wears an Akira Isogawa kimono, $695, worn...
Nasim Nasr takes artistic control in the studio. The artist wears a Song for the Mute dress, $895, from Harrolds. Her own shoes. Gene Sherman wears her own Comme des Garçons coat and Céline shoes.