Who’s in your tribe – why what we wear shows who we are

Studio shots taken by Portsmouth photography students

Studio shots taken by Portsmouth photography students

A group of UK and Chinese students have been finding out if fashion-factions can cross continents by looking at how clothing expresses who you are and which ‘tribe’ you belong to.

The fashion/design students, from the universities of Portsmouth and Wuhan in China, teamed up to co-design and make garments. Working together, they explored how their two cultures send messages and codes about who they are through what they wear and what it says about the ‘tribe’ they feel they belong to.

Sue Noble, Senior Lecturer on the University of Portsmouth’s Fashion and Textile Design course, said that the project had been illuminating and hugely constructive for all of the students.

“Fashion is a primary means of self-expression – it’s an essential social tool in the lives of young people. Research shows that they are skilled and knowledgeable observers of the semiotics of dress and are adept at reading the signals represented in clothing choices. Their own clothing choices are closely tied in to their self-image and self-confidence and used as a means of self-expression and as a way of judging the people and situations they face. It’s been fascinating to see how this has developed as the students worked together.

“Our two groups are from opposite sides of the world yet they quickly found visual ways to communicate and identified common ground. The groups found they had a shared sense of global fashion and enjoyed bringing together their experience and culture to express themselves in new ways.”

The students have been examining fashion trends and the signals and messages given by wearing certain clothes and how all of this can inform the development of dress design. They worked together examining the  coded  messages  of  dress,  ‘modern  tribes’  and  the  cultural   relevance  of  clothing  and generated  mood-boards which they used to design and make a dress and to customise blank white T-shirts.

The Chinese students spent two weeks in the UK in which they learned about upcycling techniques and designed, made and photographed garments with their English counterparts from Portsmouth, who will travel to China in November to visit their new friends and continue the cultural exchange. The project is part of a collaboration that prepares fashion students to work in a global marketplace by exposing them to different cultures.

The students became good friends as well as design partners, some of them working in a team for the first time. One of the students said: “It has been amazing to work in a team and always have another point of view to the design. But we think the most successful element during this experience is the friendships we’ve created and how similar we are!”

The visit also included cultural research trips to London to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Fashion and Textiles Museum, as well as guest lectures and workshops by industry experts. At the end of the fortnight, they organised a photo-shoot using Portsmouth photography students.

The project has been co-ordinated by the British Council (China) and funded by New World China Land Limited, the flagship Mainland China property arm of Hong Kong-listed New World Development Company Limited, one of the largest property developers in Mainland China.

The photo-shoot was generously supported by Tony Wood Hair of Southsea.

One of the students with Sue Noble, Senior Lecturer on the Fashion and Textile Design course

One of the students with Sue Noble, Senior Lecturer on the Fashion and Textile Design course

 

The collaboration prepared fashion students to work in a global marketplace

The collaboration prepared fashion students to work in a global marketplace

 

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