What began with a curious thought in the shower amidst the stress of job-hunting during a global pandemic is now Wearers Festival, a multidisciplinary platform that inspires the wearer (if you wear clothes, that’s you!) to celebrate its roots to culture and the identity it offers. MA Fashion Curation Graduates and Festival founders, Nao Zaragoza and Nessa Recine brainstormed on bringing this space to life by way of a permanent programme of digital live events that launched in April of 2021.
A team of five University of the Arts (UAL) graduates benefit from the knowledge and experience of their small but growing advisory board, Jeffrey Horsley, curator, academic and course leader of the MA in Fashion Curation and Joanna Wiltcher, arts and museum consultant and MA Fashion Curation alumna.
Nao and Nessa found there was an obvious gap in the cultural market for dress-related conversations. It seemed like you either had to be an academia-savvy individual to join and comprehend the seminars and symposiums of Higher Education institutions and art research centres, or you had to be a fashion enthusiast with a taste for fashion magazines and platforms. The co-founders wondered how they could create a place where everyday people, that is, people who may not necessarily have studied fashion at an academic level or sustained an interest in fashion trends or the business of fashion – could be stimulated to reflect on their relationships with their clothes and maybe come to the daring conclusion that dress is not superfluous but actually deeply relevant, meaningful and embedded in all levels of culture.
2021 is a year of strategic experimentation for Wearers Festival. The focus is put on research, building a community, implementing activities and testing the response of the audiences to demonstrate the potential and social need for a project like this and hypothesise its possible futures. The event programme includes monthly digital conversations on diverse topics of dress featuring specialists and underrepresented voices, book clubs, a summer series of live events on the practice of visible mending in partnership with creative studio Something™, book presentations, discussion panels and clothes swapping sessions. An exhibition staged at Borough Market in November will highlight the sartorial style of members of the market’s community through the creativity of local illustrators.
At this initial stage; the project has been attracting fashion academia enthusiasts as well as artists, activists and creatives from different disciplines. In the next five years, Wearers Festival aims to grow into an internationally-known dress festival through partnerships with already established institutions, as well as to become a financially sustainable organisation, improving the quality, innovation and dimension of its events as well as providing job opportunities. Project Manager and Space Designer and third MA Fashion Curation graduate Leticia de Toledo hopes to see the project develop to a point where it can have a special emphasis on exhibition-making.
Join Wearers Festival for this month’s panel discussion, Wearers Rocking their Disabled Bodies, 28th July 18:00 BST: a conversation with Monika Dugar & Usha Dugar Baid from RESET adaptive, a sustainable adaptive clothing brand that empowers people with disabilities, Caprice-Kwai, a London-based disabled fashion student and model represented by Zebedee talent along with Andrea Ruano, a cancer survivor and amputee.More information about this event can be found here.