Stuart Hall states messages have complex structures of dominance. In his article “Encoding, Decoding” his central argument is fixed around the medium of tv. He breaks down the various ways in which the process of producing “is not a random moment”.
This is different from semiotic meaning but the two can certainly be “read” or “received” as one in the same. Semiotic meaning tends to be encoded within layers of frameworks both technical and knowledge based. In the context of a tv show there is input, such as the content as deemed appropriate by those in charge and the way in which it is presented...which is influenced by semiotics and the framework of the tv show ...and then there is the output: the audience views the show through the tv, the tv distorts the filmed image and the audience digests the image on various levels.... The thing is I had never considered how a production process could drive or obfuscate the INTENDED meaning.
So the process itself encodes or perhaps formats messages. In the context of fashion design or the sewing industry it is interesting to consider how the process of producing garments encodes and shapes meaning. Sewing industries may be broken down generally into industrial garment making, home sewing and art/ craft sewing. Each avenue shapes and provides a framework of technique and knowledge. This means that the idea and content supported via alternate frameworks may have different outcomes.
Further where fashion is involved there may be multiple levels of industry. A slip from the 1920’s is made of components such as lace banding and manufactured cloth sewn together. The various processes which shape those components, the message intended by the designer and the production frameworks all influence the final result. If a designer has access to cloth that is only 60 inches wide, or can only find 3 inch lace banding where she needs something wider the levels of process, meaning and making are altered.
Stuart Hall goes on to describe dominant ideas embedded in culture as “hegemonic”, they seem natural and perhaps invisible. The fashion process of construction and assembly is a great example where dominant ideas about sewing technology shape the medium of clothing as if the process itself were taken for granted. Few question and seek out alternate production processes.
So what technical and knowledge frameworks are there? What alternate production processes exist? Well, many Modernist designers such as Vionnet and Schiaperelli eschewed dominant approaches and explored humor as content as well ideas about harmonious sewn structures. Balenciaga was another designer who applied knowledge frameworks borrowed from Japan to inform and shape his more western sewing process of producing. Desses, Armani, Gres, McCardell, etc. developed new content, developed alternate frameworks to develop fashion within technique and knowledge frameworks. Looking back we view and read the finished garments in the context of the fashion photo, the fashion runway or in the context of a museum exhibit, these final products of a cultural producers output through the production process obfuscate original meanings.
Gres’ production process included haute couture aspects such as hand stitching and custom fitting. Her design process was also informed by the 3-d modelling of cloth onto actual bodies rather than on mannequins or by using technical drawings. Designs made by Gres’ may not have been possible through alternate forms of production.
Current production processes which have the potential to alter outcomes might be laser cutting, digital fabric printing and knitting (as a way to control and form selvedge and edge structures).
So you see production is really not a “random moment”, it formats, limits and influences the idea.
Anna is a Hamilton based knitwear and textile practitioner blogging about her collection development as well as pre-1950's knitwear technology.
amy lawrence designs