RMIT on Tour, Introducing Program Changes and New Staff

2019 has gathered momentum early with students and staff on tour in Japan and big changes happening across the Fashion and Textiles Programs. In this Houndstooth Wrap, we profile the first in our series of program changes, the Bachelor of Textiles, Sustainable Innovation, and introduce new staff member Dr Stephen Wigley, Associate Dean Fashion Enterprise. We also update you on growings in the Brunswick Garden, including exciting new planting!


Global Study Tour – Japan

30 Jan – 12 Feb 2019

At the end of January, while the sun was still baking the Australian landscape, a group of third- and fourth-year Fashion and Textiles students, along with Pia Interlandi and Sonya Kraan, visited Japan for a two-week study tour. The trip included visits to Bunka University in Tokyo and a Shibori dye workshop in Kyoto. Three students, Isabelle Matthews, Faith Bailey, and Sarah Brereton gave us some insights into the highlights of the tour.

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Photograph by Isabelle Matthews

Isabelle tells us: “We spent the first days of the tour in Tokyo, where we saw the Bunka Graduate fashion show. Then we travelled to Kyoto, where a few of the girls and I went on a tour to a collection of temples in a monastery called Daitoku-ji, once belonging to an influential tea master. These temples were relatively small and simple, unlike many I had been to before that were bedazzled in gold trimmings and teaming with brightly coloured flowers and decadent gardens. They were beautifully calming and peaceful, a place for contemplation for the monks who live there and the tourists who visit.

While in Kyoto we also did a Shibori dyeing workshop, got dressed up in kimono, went to a tea ceremony and wondered around the streets of Gion, where geishas once lived. After Kyoto we travelled to Nagoya where we slept and ate traditionally on Tatami mats. We also went to the Onsen, which is the Japanese communal bath. This was quite an experience! After Nagoya, we travelled back to Tokyo where we did a collaboration with the Bunka fashion design students, and some retail therapy and “market research” at places like Comme de Garcon, Issey Miyake, and RagTag (great second hand shop). A highlight for me was going to the 21_21 Museum (building designed by Issey Miyake) where I became aware of a crafts movement called Mingei. This beautiful movement about craft and creation being intertwined into the everyday life was so inspiring and definitely something I will be researching further this year.”

For Faith: The Japan study tour wasn’t just a trip overseas; it was an experience I’ll never forget. I learnt so much about my own fashion style and practice, Japanese fashion culture, traditional Shibori and weaving techniques, and also about myself.

One of the highlights was our workshop at Bunka Gakuen University in Tokyo. For the design collaboration task, I was paired with Saki and together we produced a design using fabrics we had modified before the tour. Despite the language barrier, Saki and I quickly bonded and became friends. I found it surprising just how easily we communicated with our Japanese peers and hosts. I came onto the tour expecting to find it much more difficult to communicate but people were so kind and were more than willing to try and help us.”

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Faith Bailey and her collaborator Saki at Bunka

The tour was also an inspiring experience for Sarah.

“We travelled to a little town called Arimatsu, which has a rich history of practicing traditional Shibori. We did a workshop with the Murase family, who were so kind and generous. They taught us the Sekka Shibori technique and afterwards invited us to a beautiful traditional tea ceremony.

The TeamLab ‘Borderless’ digital art exhibition was incredible. You walk through this enormous building with many separate rooms, each as breathtaking as the last. The title ‘Borderless’ is fitting, as you become a part of the artworks as you move among them. The light projections constantly change and with the use of mirrors you often can’t work out where the walls are or where the artworks start and finish.

I could go on forever! Every day was a highlight.” 

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Photograph by Isabelle Matthews


(Re)thinking Fashion Globalisation

Bunka Gauken University, 15-16 February 

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Delegates at the (Re)thinking Fashion Globalisation at Bunka Fashion College, Tokyo

In mid-February, Dr Harriette Richards attended the (Re)thinking Fashion Globalisation Seminar, co-hosted by the Research Collective for Decolonising Fashion and the Trans-Boundary Fashion Seminar at Bunka Gakuen University in Tokyo. The event bought together scholars, curators and practitioners from across the globe to discuss questions of decolonising fashion and re-thinking our approaches to the binary distinctions between fashion/costume, traditional/modern, past/future. The two day event provided an inspiring and thought-provoking opportunity to discuss and debate the changing shape of fashion studies. Stay tuned for the resulting publication!


Changes to Fashion Higher Ed Programs: Bachelor of Textiles, Sustainable Innovation

There are a lot of changes afoot in the School of Fashion and Textiles. Over the coming months, we will be profiling some of the new programs and courses that will be introduced in 2020. In this issue, we introduce the Bachelor of Textiles, Sustainable Innovation, a truly exciting development in the future of RMIT Fashion and Textiles. We spoke to Senior Lecturer in Textiles Dr Rebecca van Amber for some insights into this offering.

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“We are very excited to be developing Sustainable Innovation because it’s an area that we are extremely passionate about. Currently, there are very few courses offered anywhere in the world, and certainly none in Australia, that bring together Sustainability and Innovation in a single undergraduate degree. The delivery will be multi-disciplinary in its approach, meaning graduates will have a broad range of diverse, applicable skills, and will be well prepared for collaboration within the dynamic textile, fashion and related industries. Innovation in this field is critically needed not only to develop new products, but also solve industry problems. We plan to produce graduates who have the skills to impart real industry change.  

Students will develop hands-on, critical thinking and communication skills, with the freedom to shape their degree and focus on what really interests them – whether that is technology, sustainability, materials exploration, or applications related to the human body. This is the sort of degree that many of us wish we could go back and do again ourselves; when we attended University, this type of course just didn’t exist. We hope it is as exciting to prospective students as it is to us.  It’s not every day you get to design your dream degree!”


Introducing: Dr Stephen Wigley 

Dr Stephen Wigley grew up in Glasgow and Frankfurt, Germany but has most recently been based in the Department of Fashion & Textiles at the University of Huddersfield in Leeds, Yorkshire. He has moved to Melbourne with his wife and baby daughter to join us in the School of Fashion and Textiles as Associate Dean in Fashion and Textiles Enterprise. Welcome Stephen!

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Welcome Dr Stephen Wigley!

We asked Stephen a few questions to help us get to know him better…

What is your expertise in Fashion?  Although my BA was in Politics and History, I was always interested in fashion and especially the marketing side of the industry. When I graduated I began working with House of Fraser in a management role before becoming Brand Manager for DKNY.  After a few years, I enrolled in the Fashion Marketing Masters program at Glasgow Caledonian University, at the end of which I was offered a role as Research Officer with the University, working on a variety of commercial and industry research and consultancy projects covering the fashion and wider consumer/ lifestyle markets. As my academic career has progressed my research and consultancy interests have focused on interpretations and applications of the brand in fashion, and how the brand interacts with the corporate and creative decisions of a fashion business. 

What excites you about working at RMIT? Quite simply, I’m thrilled to be joining a university which is globally recognised and leads the way in fashion education, and to have the opportunity to work with a brilliant team of people in Fashion Enterprise, the School and the broader college and university.

What’s been the most surprising thing about moving to Australia? Coming from -3 degrees in the UK in January to the recent heatwave was a shock to the system! There’s nothing super-surprising about the move, it’s more the little things: the cashier packing your bag at the supermarket, traffic giving way to pedestrians, people showing an interest in who you are. Overall, so far I’ve found the approach to life more relaxed in Australia and although in the School we’ve all been working hard on our new programs, there’s always a sense of humour and personality in my colleagues – I really appreciate that.

We hear you’re a bit of a fan of the Grand Prix… I’ve always been a fast car fan and have been into F1 for as long as I can remember. Although I don’t follow as closely (or fanatically and noisily) as I used to, I can’t wait for the race in Melbourne. In fact, F1 gave me a ‘fashion moment’ back in 1999, when my friend and I went to the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy and in the course of our adventures managed to crash our rental car into a truck. Not just any truck, a truck owned by Prada – the driver told us, “Miuccia, she not ‘appy….” So ever since then I’ve looked over my shoulder when approaching a Prada store…!


‘Brunswick Plant’ Garden Growings

We are now in late summer, Kooyang. February is Dry Season and March is Eel Season. Plants which suffered from lack of water during the hottest months of summer are now able to renew growth. The Warrack Banksia or Honeysuckle, Long-leaf Box and Silver-leaf Stringybark has come into blossom, providing sweet nectar, and attracting birds. March is called the Eel Season because the female short-finned eels are moving down the streams to the sea; the male eels have been leaving in smaller numbers during the spring and summer. Birds begin to flock before heading north for the winter, to be replaced by other birds which will soon start to arrive from Tasmania.

We have new planting for Autumn! On Tuesday 12th March, Michael, our trusty horticulturalist, delivered our VegePod plants for the coming cooler season. We have an array of herbs, including basil, mint and oregano as well as fruiting chilli.

Some of spring planting still remains after the heat of the summer, the Swiss chard and a couple of angelica’s have managed to hold on. We are excited to have the beds replenished for the months to come.

Next week is Sustainability Week. The Brunswick Dye Garden will be hosting an Autumn working bee, including live composting and dye workshops, on Tuesday the 26th March. Look out for details on the RMIT Sustainability Week schedule. See you there!

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– Compiled by Dr Harriette Richards, Research Assistant for the School of Fashion and Textiles