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neighborhoodies

Your habitus is your habitat, your neighbourhood. It reflects who you are, what you do, how you live your life. Your neighbourhood has an impact on your stride, your gestures, your actions - the tacit signals of your body techniques. How do you dress for your hood and how does it dress you?
The Neighbourhoodies are an attempt to visualize belonging and questions of habitus in contemporary street wear cultures. Participants are invited to reflect their neighbourhood through an image that is printed onto fabric and made into a special hoodie - a neighbourhoodie.
The Neighbourhoodies is a project at the intersection of fashion design and cultural studies that attempts to visualize belonging and questions of habitus in contemporary street-wear cultures, emanating from the today highly contested hoodie garment, considered “intimidating” by authorities.
 
In today's "flat" and globalized world there is a simultaneous stretch of two opposite tendencies, closely interlinked. One is a flattening trans-urban movement seemingly eliminating cultural differences, the other puts emphasis on the urban localities, special spatial haecceities, occasions of particular unicity or of thisness. Both tendencies proliferate in the global media's streamlining of minds, while on the other hand propagating unique "core values" for local event cities.
Moda Neighborhoodie

exhibition catalogue
The Neighbourhoodies was run as a collaborative research and student project in spring 2010 at London College of Fashion, Centre for Sustainable Fashion. MA students from the Fashion and Environmen programt, as well as Fashion Photography students, set off for a shared research examining their hoods and wearable expressions. It resulted in the exhibition "Neighbourhoodies: Courageous Community Colours, Blazing Bling, and Defiant Delight" at Gallery 10 Gales in Bethnal Green. Download lo-res catalogue here [pdf 1.5mb]

fold pattern
Neighborhoodie construction

As we see global "mainstream" culture appear across the planet we can also trace identity politics gravitate towards issues of the local. In the top strata of society people strive to live in the right area and get the right post code. The subversive counterculture fighters try to keep their own "marginalized" spaces free from yuppies who in turn try to gentrify these areas into authentic "bohemian chic" quarters. Out in the fringe gangs protect their areas and even tattoo the hood names as a sign of authentic pride, something that can be lost if one surrenders to the city centre mainstream.
Caught in the line of fire is the hoodie, an average street style garment, usually representing (once local) sports teams or (once local) music styles. Can we reclaim a (once local) sense of dress?


Kim Newall - Kingsland 1
Kim Newall - Kingsland 2

In a biological sense the habitus is the morphologic assemblage that defines the relation between your extended phenotype and your environmental niche. To use a term by biologist Jacob Johann von Uexküll, the neighbourhood is our Umwelt, our subjective spatio-temporal world which defines everything from perception to life values. The Umwelt defines our biosemiotic senses and sets the scene for our life. For Uexküll an Umwelt was an ecological environment of interactions, a specific organized composition, like an accord or a music arrangement where each species or organism played a distinct tone or note. An ecological niche is also a music niche - defined by the specific resonance qualities of the hood.
Many cities and areas have had a special resonance or "sound" to their music. Could we also represent the Umwelt or neighbourhood through special clothes?

Neighborhood Image - Kim Newall
Kim Newall - Kingsland, Auckland

A neighborhoodie is a special form of urban morphology, a phenotype or visible characteristic that defines us in the eyes of fellow spectators. To expand on the ideas of Richard Dawkins in his book The Extended Phenotype, we can argue that the neighbourhood itself is an ecological niche in which our genes reside in close interaction with fellow organisms and the built environment. If we imagine the code of dress, pattern, cut, fabric, brand, etc as the genes or genotype of clothing, the phenotype is the multi factorial combination of dress, wearer and social and environmental factors. The phenotype is the dynamic interface through with identity is cultivated. Let's go back to Dawkins' distinction where he means that phenotype is the,
"manifested attributes of an organism, the joint product of its genes and their environment during ontogeny. A gene may be said to have phenotypic expression in, say, eye colour. In this book the concept of phenotype is extended to include functionally important consequences of gene differences, outside the bodies in which the genes sit." (Dawkins 1982: 292)
When exploring a neighbourhood phenotype we must also take fashion as a meme or cultural/mental replicator into account. The neighbourhoodie is a replicator of the environment, an image of the local phychogeography. But as an item of dress it also affects its surroundings. It duplicates a locality while at the same time constituting its spatial haecceity. A unique person in a unique Umwelt, yet part of a global phenomenon of standard street wear.
Welcome to the world of Neighbourhoodies.

Moda Prototype Print

Moda Hoodie Prototype
Neighborhoodie Prototype - Moda, Istanbul

 

The development of the Neighborhoodies project would not have been possible without the generous expertise of Andreas Mikellis, AUT, and the generous attitude of Peter Heslop and Gordon Fraser at the Textile and Design Lab. The phase at London College of Fashion would not have been made without the generocity of everyone at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion and the amazing MA students at Fashion and the Environment.

 

Then, sad, I went out on to the balcony,
went out to change my thoughts at least by seeing
something of this city I love,
a little movement in the streets, in the shops.
from "In the Evening" by Constantine P. Cavafy 1917

 

references:
Dawkins, Richard (1982) The Extended Phenotype, Oxford: University Press

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