Yuen Wa Tse (Katherine)

Permeable Barrier: Making Underwear with 40 Silkworms

MA Design Critical Practice


This project has two distinct but overlapping foci. The first is ‘slow’ fashion (contrasted with ‘fast’ fashion) and the second is gender identity (fluid contrasted fixed and specified gender). The fashion industry promotes a fast turnover of ‘looks’ (and attendant ideas of gender (and other loci of identity construction)) in order to promote consumption, and, thus, profit. It is, as consequence, one of the most polluting industries in the world (second to oil). Cynically, gender classifications and de-classifications are co-opted by the fashion world to push a ‘look’ and are wrapped up in the acceleration of manufacture, consumption and associated waste production; the world of fashion is engaged with these issues of ‘identity’ in a way that catalyzes market-ability rather than a real concern for an authentic identification of an individual’s gender, sexuality and sense of self.This project aims to communicate the need to decelerate movement in a fashion cycle and raise awareness of the way the industry exploits the world about us as ‘standing reserve’ (Heidegger). The intention is to make silk underwear that is uncoupled from the fetishization of gender identity and produced in restricting production to a‘singular’ rather than a ‘mass’ industry. The quixotic task of an individual making silk underwear using resources cultivated, gathered and held at home is here calculated and communicated to make one aware of and care about the investment of time, energy and materials that go into even the most ‘modest’ clothing.