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Preserving Heritage Arts in a Consumer Industry

Preserving Heritage Arts in a Consumer Industry

Research

Kiowa Girl, portrait by Edward S. Curtis

Identity and cultural heritage are two topics I have been intrigued to research. I’ve wondered, how can we continue preserving our heritage in an ever-changing world? Especially, when it comes to fast fashion. I realized how relevant identity is after reading the work of Karl Marx. Although, not all of his predictions have played out yet, some striking evidence of his theories proved true in the film True Cost. The film made me think of my own career goals in the fashion industry. I want to create a way to equip designers and artisans in the developing world to be able to innovate and collaborate with one another.

I aspire to build an online platform for a designer showroom. It could be my way of preserving international artisans by displaying their work. Work in this field is already being done. Organizations like Social Tailor, retailers like People Tree, and a myriad of social media activists already are doing their part.

Then I realized, if we continue down this path of constant work, Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic, is aiding emerging designers in developing countries actually helping or hindering their society? Which internal faults has our society developed due to capitalism, consumerism, and the fetishism of commodities? What affects have consumerism had on our society? If Marx was right about the consumerism, how should social entrepreneurs respond?

I love researching heritage and the preservation of indigenous designs. Many of my career goals are fashion focused, which is why cultural heritage intrigues me. Thus, researching why and how to promote preservation ideals furthers a deeper understanding of my personal goals. Historically, clothing has been worn as a symbol of identity, which is why I chose to focus my research on historic costume.

Photographer in the West

In the early 1900s, photographer Edward S. Curtis created a commercial photography project highlighting the importance on Native American heritage rituals and costume. Curtis said, “The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other. Consequently the information that is to be gathered, for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.”

Curtis was urged to capture on film the great life of Native Americans, because his research predicted their severe loss of heritage. His photographs served as a small way of preserving the Native American lifestyle. Efforts like this happen all over the world, but the driving factor in heritage preservation is the sense of loss. Humans want to remember their history because it gives them a sense of belonging. If we cannot remember our history, we risk repeating our mistakes.



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