Against Durability — A wardrobe made of paper
This non-paper submission takes the form of a text, video and photo essay which tracks a series of garments made from paper over a period of time. It builds on our technical research on paper clothing in the studio, and on historical research we have undertaken over many years in Japan, studying how paper and paper garments have been made and used for many generations, and across diverse contexts.
Our design and research practice deals with the history and use of paper clothing in Japan — a history of usages that traverses the boundaries between durability and ephemerality and high- and low-value. For this project we propose to produce a wardrobe of paper garments (jacket, shirt, pants, dress) and wear it every day for a set period of time, ending during the conference. We will document our experiences of use, and the material changes to the garments. The aim of this work is to discuss a major contradiction in contemporary fashion design — that it is designed to be socially ephemeral, yet made using materials and construction techniques that last much longer in the landfill and waste systems than its social lifespan. This project invites closer attention to garments and how they change over time, as the material carries traces of wear visibly — it promotes an aesthetic of ephemerality, and rejects the contradiction of durable fashion design.
This work builds on the work of Adele Varcoe (2016) and Joanne Entwistle (2015), who examine the public, phenomenological and experiential perspectives of dress, as well as that of Alexis Shotwell (2016), whose work “Against Purity” opens pathways for thinking about materials and design objects as having no perfect or pure state. The methodology for this experiment will be as follows: Every day we will produce visual (video and photographic) and textual documentation of the garments. We will consider the following questions: How are the garments changing during wear? How do we need to adapt them to suit everyday life? How does it feel to wear these garments? What changes are occurring in our behavior? Did anything of note happen while outside the house? The outcome of the project will be a web-based series of short texts, moving and still images that will be updated live during the conference on the website www.dnj-paper.com.
...in other words, we want to wear all of our paper clothing prototypes and samples for a few weeks to test the designs, and see how they can be clothes.
— October 11 2021 —Daphne
Today I wore a Cardamom tea-dyed striped paper strip top. The paper was dyed with tea, which made it a very light caramel colour. The strips I dyed blue with chemical dyes. They were left over from another project.
I made this top in May 2020, in the most boring, weird, beginning part of lockdown, when I didn't have all my tools.
I've had a hard time finding the right outfit to wear it with, but making it made so much sense.
It was a test to see if I could make a top without wasting any materials by cutting the sheets of paper lengthwise and stitching them, alternating between strips of cotton ribbon and paper. The size and crop of the top are dictated by this incidental process.
It's soft and crispy. I liked wearing it over a hoodie and with a long cream-colored skirt, but I can't figure out what the look reminds me of. A clown-themed antique shop I visited once in Amsterdam?
These paper clothes are so hard to place.
It involved a lot of handstitching.
I wore my hat to the park today and threw a frisbee with my partner. My hat blew off a couple of times in the wind, I think I’ve made it a little shallow. It’s starting to soften now, as the fibres in the paper wrinkle and fold.
— October 12 2021 —Daphne
I wore the same striped top again with a different outfit to see how it felt.
It feels good over a mesh skivvy, and high-waisted floppy pants.
It might be scratchy if it didn’t have anything underneath.
I’ve worn it a lot, but it hasn’t started pilling much.
I wore a paper samue (Japanese workwear jacket) at the studio today. The sleeves are quite wide and caught on a couple of things as I moved around the space, and I was worried that the paper would tear, but it didn’t. I caught a few glances from passers-by when I wore it to grab my lunch, and on the walk home from the train station. Not sure if it was the colour, or the shape, or the material, but it’s probably all of the above.
I didn’t have my headphones on as I was walking home, and I could hear a little crinkle with every step I took, accompanying the birdcalls of Currawongs, Wattle-birds and Magpies.
— October 13 2021 —Daphne
Today I wore a top with paper sleeves that I made in 2017. The body is a deadstock crepe chirimen fabric I bought in Nakai, Tokyo from a kimono maker.
It’s cut so as to not make any waste. I dyed it with Madder root after moving to Australia, which made it a beautiful smoky brown pink colour. I wear this top a lot. It makes me feel like a child at a birthday party - the shape and the drinkly little paper sleeves.
Later I wore a pink paper bomber. I drew on it conte crayons I bought in Tokyo, I made it while listening to a Kendrick Lamar album over and over and there is line “what happens on Earth stays on Earth”. It’s written somewhere on the jacket. After wearing it, I realized the fit is horrible. The pattern needs to be trashed and started again. It’s a beautiful object that needs the right body to wear it — that body isn’t mine.
— October 14 2021 —Daphne
Today I wore a t-shirt I made during the lockdown in 2020. I could only work in small parts - some at home, some in the studio in the Nicholas Building. I bought the t-shirt during a few days that shops were open between lockdown. Low quality. Extremely low.
The paper is from Mino. High quality. I’m not sure what colour I dyed it. It’s a few different dyes all leftover in the pot - made it kind of mottle grey purple.
The Swarovski crystals are leftover donations from my Masters project in 2012.
The lettering — “SILK” — comes from a gravestone in the Central Cemetery in Melbourne.
I love this shirt. It wears well. I haven’t washed it many times, so it’s a bit yellow in places. It’s softened a lot over time - both the paper and the tee. I should probably wash it.
— October 15 2021 —Daphne
Today I wore a t-shirt that I made as a sample for the “Stationary/Stationery: A Paper Clothes Making Workshop” ︎︎︎that Jake, Bea and I put on for Mpavilion in January 2021. It was a weird moment in time, because people were still careful about attending public events, and we wore masks the whole time. The workshop invited people to take a second hand fast fashion t-shirt on its way to landfill and slow it down, take time to think about where it came from, what it is, where it’s going, and why they have it. They then could use paper to make a ghost shirt, and also to amend the shirt they were planning to get rid of.
This was one of the samples/examples of what people could do. The black paper applique was low-quality handmade paper that we had cut and dyed to be the front right panel of the first black bomber jacket sample, but it ripped while I was dying it, so I sewed it to the front of the shirt instead of throwing it away.
Then I used a few words I found in different places (“Silk” from the local cemetery, and “Fantasy” from the cover of “The Book of Fantasy”, a collection of 81 short stories edited by Jorge Luise Borges, Silvina Ocampo and A. Bioy Casares). I drew them on with chalk, conte, markers, and glued a crystal over the “i” in “silk”.
It ripped while I was wearing it, so I stitched another patch of paper on. It will always be patchy and rough.
I’ll need to re-draw the words eventually. The paper hasn’t been treated with stengtheners. I hand-wash it.
It ripped in another place at the end of the day, so I’ll fix it again next time I wear it.
Trying to decide how to patch...
— October 16 2021 —Daphne
Today I wore my paper ballcap again.
When I take it off, my head smells like beeswax.
The paper fibers are starting to loosen and form a kind of halo around the crown of the hat. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s like in a year or so.
People might actually want to buy this, and I think the design is good.
— October 17 2021 —Daphne
Today I used a paper tote bag sample.
It’scoloured with green gouache, with hand-drawn blue wax pencil stripes.
It’s a beautiful object, but a failed idea.
It’s too light or the straps are too fat and set too close together (or something) — it kept falling off my shoulder, which was really annoying. I was also too worried to put anything in it, so I only put my water bottle, phone, and keys in it.
The design needs some work, but I’ll keep using it to see if the whole thing should be scrapped. Maybe a smaller crossbody bag would be a better idea. I’ll give it a few more days. There may be a way to adjust the design for it to work, but I don’t know what the issues could be yet.
Can a bag be an object d’art?
— October 18 2021 —DaphneToday I used the green tote sample again.
The straps left little green fibers on my jacket. I need to put more starch on it to stop it from doing that.
Maybe the straps are too fat.
Maybe they are too long.
They keep slipping, so I twisted them. Bu they still slipped.
It was very annoying, but surprisingly enjoyable to hold, as a bag. This delicate thing with my keys and wallet and a bag of chips inside. I was so aware of it, nervous.
I’ll keep trying with this to see what happens over time. Whether I change, or the bag does (or I change the bag).
— October 19 2021 —DaphneToday I wore the pink paper bomber sample again.
It's painted, drawn on with gouache and chalk pastels.
It rained a bit while I was wearing it, having a post-work beer in the park. Soft rain, like a mist.
I've worn it a few times and it's already gotten softer. It's getting slightly hairy.
The paper is backed with a fabric that will eventually be visible as the paper wears away. It's puffy and warm, but the fit is VERY BAD AND WEIRD.
Why did I make myself a jacket with the arms too short?!? Why does the neckline choke me when it's zipped?! The reason was to minimise paper waste and get maximum yield from one sheet.
Pattern needs to be scrapped and re-cut, but the paper and the finish is beautiful.
Jake I wore the paper samue home again today, paired with my ballcap. There was an icy breeze on the walk from the train station, and the jacket felt like a windcheater, preventing the cold air from touching my skin.
It’s started to pill a little where my backpack rubs up against it on my back. I might wear my pack a little tighter tomorrow so it doesn’t rub so much.
— October 20 2021 —DaphneToday I wore my paper hat again. It was sunny, the day before lockdown ended, and I met some friends in the park. I wore it with a top made an artist named Alexandra Nemaric, and a skirt my mom bought me from a second-hand store.
I got lots of compliments on my look (likely because of the top, but maybe the hat, too?).
The hat is going strong! Just feels softer and more shapely every day. And somehow stronger, which is counterintuitive.
— October 21 2021 —
Today I wore my paper ballcap again, with a totally different look. It seems to go with everything, but maybe I should try it out with a very different kind of look than I am used to — maybe normcore, or something else, to see how it speaks.
Jake I wore the samue on a long walk with a friend today. It was cool when I left the house, but was meant to warm up later so I was only wearing a t-shirt underneath.
We walked and talked for 2 hours, along a creek. It was a harder walk than I expected, along some rough trails by a creek. I got quite hot in the sun around half-way through, and had to take the jacket off and carry it in the crook of my arm. It got me thinking about how I would make garments from paper that could be worn in the summer.
— October 22 2021 —DaphneToday I used my paper pencil case.
I've been using this paper pencil case for around 5 years. One side has gesso painted on it as a test and the other doesn't. It's really durable. It got wet in my bag once, and a pen punched a hole through the wet paper, but I patched it up with starch and paper and now you can hardly tell there was a tear.
I love how it's changed over time.
I don’t throw it in my bag any more.
— October 23 2021 —Daphne Today I wore my paper ballcap, and spent a luxurious day listengin to really loud music alone in the studio.
Wearing a cap, making more caps.
Learning with each one how to make them, asking the thing on my head. Each sample gets more resolved.
Learning now while making ten more, what will they be like one hundred from now?
I wore the black washi bomber today. The combination of paper, wadding, and smooth lining was delightful. It’s a little short, like a classic MA-1, so I wore it with some high-waisted pants. It’s very warm to wear, warm enough to wear in the middle of winter. I’d like to make one without any wadding for a silhouette with less bulk. I forgot to take a photo so here’s one I took in a studio last year.
— October 24 2021 —Daphne
I forgot to take photos today. I wore my paper ballcap.
I changed my outfit three times today, and wore it with each one. Went out to see a friend, came home, changed, went to the grocery store, changed, came home, forgot something, went back, changed again.
Each time with the hat. It’s friends with everything.
— October 25 2021 —DaphneToday I wore my pink madder-dyed paper-sleeve kimono silk top.
I’ve worn this top with so many other garments in different arrangements, and the paper sleeves are so durable. I boiled and dyed them, so I did something right in the construction. The sleeves are starting to release small fibers, but they are still going strong. No pilling after years of wear.
I trust this top.
JakeToday I wore my hat to meet with my extended family today. It attracted some curiosity and compliments. They noted that it didn’t seem like paper at first glance, and that the texture was unique. I am loving the character that this hat is building over time, as it wrinkles, and the hairs from the kozo fibres become more prominent as the wax thins. Sometimes it feels like a living thing. The cats seemed to like it a lot too.
— October 26 2021 —DaphneI wore my paper ballcap today.
Even on camera online, which I would never normaly do with a ballcap, but I really like wearing this one.
I also wore it to the park to sunbathe and do some work on my laptop. It liked lying in the daisies.
I wore the bomber jacket in the studio today. The crinkly sound it makes is so wonderful, so unlike any sound my other clothes make. It’s starting to pill wear the sleeves rub against the body of the jacket. I don’t feel as worried about this jacket, possibly because the majority of the jacket is made from orthodox textiles, and the paper is the shell. I also don’t catch the sleeves on anything, as the ribbed cuffs keep the sleeves close.
— October 27 2021 —