An international fashion research project exploring the 'craft of use'

Patina of Use

With our garments, as with our bodies, the passing of time leaves its mark. Our relationship with these imprints is complex in both domains. With clothes, we sometimes discard pieces because they are ageing, dated, jaded or worn; at other times we buy vintage or pre-distressed pieces, coveting that which looks old. Yet these both overlook the power and pleasure of marking the passing of time as it is recorded in our clothes; the forging of memories, building of knowledge, evolution of appearance.

A true patina

"I don’t really know how old this is. I suspect it’s very old. It might be 150, 200 years old. This is from Japan. It’s silk and, I mean, just poetically, I want to cry when I see this piece. This is my favourite piece, if I was only able to have one piece… It’s a bit yin-yang. It’s a boat. We’re all in a boat. We’re all flowing around in the sea of life. And then there’s sort of this reverse. There’s a boat upside down. And then there’s the sky but is it the sea? …In fact, I ought to mend this. It’s falling apart. I would want to because I value this so much. I would want to preserve it in some way and I would insist on carrying on wearing it, even if it’s in threads. And actually if you look at a lot of what fashion has done for the last thirty years, we do this thing like we try to make our jeans wear out to acquire this patina. Why don’t we just calm down? And let every garment we have, have the patina it has?"

London - January 2010
Photograph by Sean Michael