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FULL_PAPER_121_Bespoke Past and Future.pdf (7.53 MB)

Bespoke: Past and Future

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 15:19 authored by Caryn Simonson, Cécile Emmanuelle Borra

An invitation to collaborate came through an online lockdown project, The Spiritual Exercises. An artist and designer, designer and artist. Our common ground - we are from several generations of tailors from the city of Pau in the South West of France and from the rural island of Orust on the West Coast of Sweden. Through video calls and flipped screens via WhatsApp, simultaneous co-creation, co-learning and immersion into the layers of our technologies - windows into our living spaces, we embarked on a research journey around heritage, tailoring and gender. 


Charlotte and ‘Alma’ Justina shared invisible labour behind the label – Charlotte as maker and Alma as farmer. Like Charlotte, Alma had to settle for invisible labour, her occupation marked on her gravestone as ‘Hustrun’ (the housewife) whilst her husband was titled ‘Skräddaren’ (the tailor). 


Lockdown gave time and spawned curiosity that increased interest in engaging in family heritage trails through online platforms such as Ancestry and MyHeritage. TV programmes like ‘Who do you think you are?’, archival and census documents, local museums and private attics, shed light on histories of makers in families. These sources and platforms connect past communities to present. Like a ghostly appearance and re-appearance, our work and collaboration conjured up pasts collapsing into futures. 


This paper will share the process of a solely online collaboration whilst sharing our research into the material culture and the role of the tailor in local communities.

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