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The Inventors of Tradition II

The Inventors of Tradition II, photo: Gordon Burnistoun

The Inventors of Tradition II is a new publication that explores Scotland’s recent cultural past and how style can function as part of a broader discourse. Through this publication, Atelier E.B (Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie) and Panel further explore the ideas presented within the collection, exhibition and events programme of the same name, which took place across Glasgow in 2015.

We speak to editors Lucy McEachan and Catriona Duffy of Panel to find out more.

How does this publication expand on the areas explored in The Inventors of Tradition?

The Inventors of Tradition originated in 2011 through a shared interest with Atelier E.B in the ways in which Scotland’s textile heritage articulates a certain sense of Scottish style. The project, a subjective exploration of the industry since the 1930s, came to fruition as an exhibition, an events programme, a publication and an international touring clothing collection, made in collaboration with local Scottish manufacturers.

The Inventors of Tradition II builds upon this examination of Scottish style, this time focusing on Scotland’s recent cultural past. Through the project, we have made connections that bring together art, architecture, design and sub-cultural identities, using permutations of style from our past to explore our current condition and design’s connection to  wider social and cultural issues.

he Inventors of Tradition II, photo: Gordon Burnistoun

How did you approach editing the publication with such a wealth of material to draw from?

The publication is led by the work of Atelier E.B, and their subjective research for The Inventors of Tradition II collection.

The research came together through the personal biographies of both Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie, including their experience growing up in Scotland in the 1980s and 90s. It factors in casual culture and its link to street style, ideas surrounding football as a territory of designated authenticity in Scotland and examining this in the context of artistic production.

The phenomenon of ‘Mockintosh’, originally coined by filmmaker Murray Grigor, who’s documentary films feature in the publication, is also explored and raises questions around how we look at and value craft practices in Scotland.

From Panel’s perspective, we’re really interested in exhibition making in the context of Glasgow’s rich history of staging major events and festivals. We consider Glasgow itself as an evolving site for exhibitions going back to the Great Exhibition of 1938, and therefore the publication also considered ideas of how the city has used design and style to promote and brand itself, including Glasgow’s designation as City of Culture in 1990.

The Inventors of Tradition II brings together these wide and eclectic themes and, we hope, skillfully distils them into a publication, which questions how style can work in complex ways to define identity.

The Inventors of Tradition II exhibition

What do you think are the pivotal moments in Scotland’s recent cultural past where design and style were an inextricable part of the discourse?

What we are primarily interested in is uncovering hidden histories. Within our projects, we mine Scotland’s cultural, social and political past through the lens of the archive and collection. We often work with material that isn’t institutionalised or filtered in order to find stories that may not have been given a public platform in the past or to reinvest a certain history with a new, contemporary perspective.

Particular areas that might leap out from this project are Glasgow’s use of style as a ‘brand’, casual culture, and how Scotland’s music scene permeates through to our wider culture by way of subcultural styling. Our approach is broad and eclectic, and by bringing historic, disparate elements together we are able to create a dialogue around Scotland’s style now that locates current practice within a context that connects directly to our past. We feel this is really crucial to thinking about design, fashion and clothing in Scotland today.

The Inventors of Tradition II, photo: Gordon Burnistoun

What are the commonalities between the work of Atelier E.B and your own work as Panel that makes for a successful creative partnership?

Certainly our shared interests in the social, political and economic changes that have taken place in Scotland in recent history. What is interesting about The Inventors of Tradition II is that it developed while Scotland was being asked to vote on its political future as part of the 2014 Scottish referendum - questions around identity and independence came to the fore during this time, which definitely impacted on the project’s evolution.  

Panel and Atelier E.B also operate independently. Our collaboration has given us the confidence and the platform to use our voice to bring lesser-known and  under-represented histories and perspectives to prominence as part of the project.

In a more pragmatic sense, we have a fruitful partnership because we share a commitment to fashion, textiles and clothing. We work well together in the joint production of programmes that can extend the ideas and provocations that textiles can contain. Our exhibitions, public events and publications highlight style and clothing as refined but complex tools for expressing ideas of culture and of identity.

Image from The Inventors of Tradition II, Glasgow School of Art Jill Bryson 1981

Who is The Inventors of Tradition II for?

The exhibition and a series of events held last year were very much for a public audience and the book has the same ambition. Ultimately it is about the work of Atelier E.B. and can be viewed as a hybrid between an artist’s book, new research, a series of commissioned essays and a collection of interviews. In this way, in addition to focusing on the work of an art and design collective, we feel it very much says something distinct about Scotland and Glasgow at this particular moment in time.

It’s subjective, but we hope it has a wider appeal to those with a connection to Glasgow and anyone with an interest in fashion, textiles and the recent history of Scotland and how those elements connect together.

The Inventors of Tradition II installation view

Why are conversations about the role of style and design in a social and cultural context important?

We’re really interested in how style can function as part of a broader discourse and The Inventors of Tradition II exhibition, events programme, clothing collection and this book, epitomise our interest.

We feel the work we’re doing in this area is vital as it positions design and style as conduits into an understanding of Scotland’s cultural, social and political legacy. We also hope the work brings a level of criticality to fashion, style and textiles as part of those conversations. By locating various different histories, found in archives and collections, and placing them alongside a clothing collection for sale, we are exploring where fashion is positioned: is it a creative industry or a cultural product? Is it in fact an amalgamation of the two, shape-shifting for its audience? This is an interesting tension for Panel and one we will continue to explore through our work.  

Images of The Inventors of Tradition II publication credit Gordon Burnistoun, other images provided by Panel and Atelier E.B.


For more information or to order The Inventors of Tradition II please visit www.wearepanel.co.uk

This article was published on 12 Dec 2016