CFA - An International Fashion Project
From 2002 to 2007 the CFA - Contemporary Fashion Archive was an international project addressing contemporary fashion design. Five renowned European fashion institutions had joined forces to establish a unique information network, which detected and presented current positions and developments in fashion design. This information network took the form of an Internet platform with a digital archive and local documentation centres located at the different institutions of the partners in question.
From 2002 to 2007, the CFA was a European co-operation project set up on the initiative of Unit F association for contemporary fashion. It was awarded funding as an exemplary project in the area of fashion by the European Union as part of the Commission's culture program Culture 2000. The grant was based on the project's clever use of modern communication technologies in the aesthetic world of fashion and design.
CFA - Designers, Networks, Institutions, Magazines, Exhibitions, Events
The result of these five years work, the archive, is still available online, featuring collections and projects of various international fashion and accessory designers, whose work is characterised by an experimental and innovative approach to fashion.
The focus lies on the impulses, aesthetic concepts and network strategies of a new generation of designers that shaped 90s fashion, e.g. Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela and Walter van Beirendonck, later followed by Raf Simons, Viktor & Rolf, Bless and Balenciaga.
The archive highlights and documents the connections between fashion design and neighbouring creative fields such as photography, industrial design, the arts, graphic and web design, styling, architecture and electronic music, which have recently become increasingly stronger. In addition, relevant institutions, magazines and exhibitions are presented with the inclusion of new media and extensive international networks.
Apart from the development of an online platform and local documentation centres, events picked out central themes of the archive. These events took place in the institutions of the co-operation partners
CFA - Contemporary Fashion Design, New Media, Networks
The inclusion of a whole list of different media has created a new position in the field of visual culture for fashion since the mid 90s. The result is a dramatic rise in the scope of fashion designers' creative possibilities. The use of new media has reinstated fashion's position within the arts as a field of experimentation and created a vehicle for a new range of aesthetic, conceptual, technological and co-operative practices. Consequently, the visual mediation and presentation of fashion has changed drastically: fashion is no longer exclusively mediated through the object of the "garment", but involves the use and inclusion of new media and extensive international networks.
Contemporary fashion designers are increasingly forming solid alliances with neighbouring disciplines, thereby acting as catalysts for a wide range of artistic co-operations. Examples are the development of a counter for the shop of Walter van Beirendonck in Antwerp by Marc Newson, Mark Borthwick`s video for the presentation of Martin Margiela's Autumn/Winter 1998/1999 collection or the co-operation of the Austrian design team ___fabrics interseason® with musicians for the presentation of their collections.
As a result, a timely ascertainment of the subject demands a reaction to these new working methods as well as a fundamental change of perception and reception of contemporary fashion design. Therefore, the inclusion and presentation of all means employed by fashion designers is paramount. It is in this sense that the concept of the CFA - Contemporary Fashion Archive distinguishes itself from the structures of other existing fashion archives.
CFA - Selection, Research, Presentation
The CFA - Contemporary Fashion Archive collected, archived and presented information on designers, their collections, projects and networks. As the archive's curators, the co-operation partners were responsible for the selection. The emphasis and governing guidelines were on designers that have set trendsetting impulses for the development of fashion design.
The researched and gathered material is accessible worldwide through an online platform and locally through the documentation centres of the co-operation partners. The official language of the archive is English; relevant basic information and profile texts are also available in German, French, Dutch and Italian. Among the collected information are texts, visuals, video, audio and digital material, as well as documentation of artistic work e.g., books, catalogues and media coverage. The research was conducted in direct contact with the selected designers and in collaboration with libraries, fashion institutions and museums.
CFA - Database, Technical Development
The presentation of the relations between singular persons/institutions and the resulting works was facilitated by a MySQL database. This database was expressly developed with the CFA - Contemporary Fashion Archive and its specific content in mind. A search tool enables the user to access specific information on the designers and their networks. The database-input was conducted by the relevant co-operation partner with the use of a content management system.
The CFA - Contemporary Fashion Archive was a first step towards the direction of a semantic web: documents and information were complemented with structural and semantic information. This technical enhancement offered new possibilities of data research - conceptual interrelations could be recorded and made visible to the user. This system was extended to include multimedia elements such as images, videos and audio material.
Potential CFA Users
The CFA content is directed towards all interested in culture, art and fashion, the broad public and experts such as fashion designers and persons working artistically in neighbouring fields, fashion institutions and training posts and those involved in them, students, scholars and experts, journalists and media related to fashion, design and the arts as well as companies from the fashion and design industry.