Constellation Overview

During the course of my study in Constellation my understanding of the wider implications of my practice and the interconnected nature of all the topics I have covered. I have learned about the context in which views and attitudes change, allowing me to approach work from a more educated position. When I first understood that I would be learning what I saw as unrelated work as part of my studies I wasn’t overly keen. But it has taught me a lot. If nothing else, simply a uniform and fundamentally sound methodology for research and study.

During the course of the academic year I studied two distinct topics. My first course was Sustainable Practices. This was the study of the societal changes and technological advances of the past two centuries that have brought us to where we are today, the negative consequences of the systems that are now in place, and the methods and difficulties with trying to limit and reduce our impact on the world around us through technology and changing perceptions.

I really learned a lot from Sustainable Practices. I am very conscious of the impact my lifestyle may have on the world around me and do make the effort to limit it. And I’m sure everyone understands that we’re living in an unsustainable way. But this codified the issue in my mind. Let me understand each stage at which we dug ourselves a deeper hole from which we now have to emerge. I had understood that many constellation subjects were quite philosophical but this was factual and measurable which appealed to me.

I do think I took a lot on board during this first course, my blogging was reasonably consistent and I made a conscious effort to raise questions and start discussions about various topics raised during class. I don’t recall getting the finest mark on my formative assessment essay, this is simply due to my dislike of essay writing and lack of motivation. Given the opportunity to redo it I think I could improve it significantly.

In my second Constellation course of the year I learned about subcultural trends during the past century, largely from a fashion perspective this was Smells Like Teen Spirit. Learning the motivation behind various aspects of peoples dress. The significance of small details in terms of their perceived meanings and the fluidity of style which is an ever changing amorphous thing which is an expressive, symbolic method for instigating change on a cultural level.

Prior to this course I had never had much interest in fashion, in many ways I still don’t. But the significance of fashion as a tool is something that I had never before understood. Subcultures like goths, chavs and in particular punk had always seemed to be a form of tribalistic identity politics played by attention seeking idiots. I still feel that many of them are. But in particular the punk movements history, origins and accomplishments really surprised me. The liberalising of many Western cultures, Britain’s in particular, is a great feet and something from which I greatly benefit.

I enjoyed the process of analysing images of various people dressed up in strange ways and learning about the significance of small symbols and objects. The colour of clothing, the material, the level of ware, it’s previously held meanings. I do wish I had blogged more effectively about this topic. But it felt like repeating what I already knew for the benefit of others who most likely already knew it so I didn’t do as much as I should have.

My formative essay for Smells Like Teen Spirit was actually a pleasure to write. I found sourcing very difficult as finding the appropriate material to bolster my statements was a nightmare. Overall however, the whole experience was a positive one.

At the beginning of the academic year I really was skeptical of Constellation is general. I thought it would be a distraction from the job of creating pieces of visual work with which to fill my portfolio and I have to admit I was really happy to believe Graphic Communication would be very slim of written essays. However I have come to understand through the course of the year that I need to be aware of the wider picture to be the best designer I can be.



Constellation SLTS – 5/8

1970s British Punk

How you can represent anti-authoritarian rule breaking through the way you dress.

  • Sex Pistols analysis – God Save the Queen – Jamie Reid

Sex pistol God save the queen font?

Punk owes a lot of its style to 1920s Dadaism


(columns analysis goes here)

Style as bricolage

  • Conspicuously take random elements that aren’t seen as interconnected and construct something with them. (resignification of various styles and looks)
  • There is no limited extent to which these elements can be structured rendering the possibilities for new ensembles, infinite.
  • Coherence of attributes isn’t necessary to create a style as primitive thinking is the creator of said styles. They are not built strictly using logic.
  • Objects can be picked out for their connotations but their connotations can also be changed to fit.


Punk style

  • Entirely nihilistic style with no set grievance or cause, simply an anti-movement, the movement that symbolized a lack of symbolism
  • Shirts and coats adorned with offensive language, designed specifically to be shocking.
  • Wearing random items purely for the controversy, razor blades, clothes pegs, tampons etc.
  • Safety pins used as piercings through the nose, ear and even cheek
  • Cheap fabrics, PVC, plastic, lurex
  • Drain pipe jeans and miniskirts
  • Make up worn, not to enhance, but to be seen as makeup and used like face paint.
  • Bondage gear and stuff – leather masks etc.
  • Traditional notions of appearance and acting were trashed
  • Hair Dye


Style as homology

  • Punk was a style based on disorder, but this could only be achieved through a carefully ordered ideal look.
  • What you wear and how you dress becomes part of who you are
  • Anti- traditional values statement – beauty, attractiveness, desirability.
  • Key to punk style remains elusive
  • Chaos that gives a meaningful image of a whole
  • Punk questions what is normal by doing the exact opposite


What have we learned from the Punks that can inform our practice?


Checklist of concepts, approaches and theories

  • Outrage at the establishment
  • Causing discussion and debate by their actions and style
  • Challenging traditional notions of decency and proper behaviour
  • Reinventing the idea of style with an anti-style of their own
  • Question the accepted rules


What does this case study have in common with previous studies? What are we learning about subcultures?

  • All these subcultures have meanings
  • They seek to turn the status quo on its head
  • Using all sorts of things as jewelry, like hip-hop does
  • Every subculture makes use of objects – clothes and jewelry


Constellation SLTS 4/8 – Zoot Suits and Teds

In this lecture we began to look further into the motivations of certain groups within society and culture to cultivate styles and fashion statements. We looked at examples of fashion being used as protest, as activism and as way to challenge hegemonic values.

The Zoot Suit

Fashion is weird

The Zoot Suit emerged during World War II in inner city America. It was a style created and worn by African American and Latino minorities. It is a resignification (Clark, Hall and Jefferson 1975, p110) of the traditional suit. The suit is about as establishment as an item of dress can be. Worn by gentlemen associated with class, success and  acumen. Middle or upper class, mainstream members of society.

What the Zoot suit did was to take the traditional notion of a suit and turn it on its head. Where a suit tends to be unassuming and smart (often grey, black or navy), with practical fittings and accutrements. The Zoot Suit was often depicted in garish greens and yellows, in an attempt to stand out. This combined with exaggeration is every aspect of the ensemble. Flared trousers, large collars, oversize hats and chains and excessively long suit jackets.

The intent behind this manner of dress was to some degree, conspicuous wealth. Wearing impractically exaggerated clothing to show that you could. However it was also an act of rebellion. Firstly, the concept of the suit had been altered dramatically, breaking with generally accepted rules of dress. Not only this but by 1942, rationing of fabric dictated that excessive outfits such as a Zoot suit, were now effectively illegal. They were considered unpatriotic as were their wearers.

All of these connotations were purposefully designed. The garments were designed as protest against America’s hypocrisy in fighting Jewish repression in Europe while actively segregating at home. and using African American and other minority troops to fight. The Zoot suit was a method of expressing ones convictions through clothing and style. It was more than clothing, it was the way you walked and the way you talked. African American Jive was a movement at the time within music and Zoot Suit wearers employed its slang to define themselves against White Americans.

The key to a movement such as this is that they do not invent new apparel, but instead employ clothing with a given meaning and corrupt or alter it to suit their needs and upset the establishment in doing so.


The Teddy Boys

At the outset of the 1950s working class boys and young men began to adopt a new style of clothing. As they begn to earn disposable incomes they created a pseudo ‘unifrom’ based on the Edwardian Gentleman’s attire, recently reintroduced by Saville Rowe .

The Teddy movement was a revolution is fashion and social norms as rough street kids were now dressing in the manner of the aristocracy and creating a negative associatin with the style. Crimes by ‘Teddy Boys’ were widely reported and polite society was deeply wary of them. This had connotations for the upper classes who did not want such negative associations.

This act of resignification of a brand or style is in the same vain as the chavs adopting Burberry. Burberry wanted nothing to do with the new trend but had no control over who bought their clothing and how they effected the brand perception.

Where Zoot suits and Teds share ground

  • Both trends were fundamentally linked to existing hegemonic styles. They did not invent a new style. They simply invented a new expression by changing the meaning of that style. Resignification through exaggerating, enhancing and adapting items of existing styles.
  • The lower rungs of society (Racial Minorities in America and Working class British lads) adopted items of clothing from the higher rungs (White middle class Americans and the British aristocracy. They owned them and made them theirs.
  • Both movements were at some level, protest movements. The Zoot Suit wearers protesting the social injustice of segregation and the Teds the entrenched class system that had placed them at the bottom of the heap and discriminated against them for their roots.

Clothes provide the instruments that empower the body to counteract a dominant ideology”

-Tulloch, 2006, p304

This quote exemplifies the important role of dress in society. It is a method within the overarching practice of design that can bring about societal and cultural change through challenging and rebelling against the norm.

My Thoughts

The further into fashion trends and societal subcultures we probe, the more I’ve come to understand that fashion is not simply an aimless and unguided series of people trying to stand out. Instead, it is a complex phenomenon of visual language wherein people attempt to convey sentiments without words. Anything can be a stimulus of a fashion trend. Anything can be incorporated into that trend. And any position can be demonstrated with that trend.


Constellation SLTS 3/8 Hip Hop Styles

Best Practice in academic writing

As our constellation work would involve essay writing, we were asked to paraphrase academic quotations, the need for paraphrasing is simply conveying the message of what can be a long winded and overly complex statement in as simple terms as possible. Until now i hadn’t realised that paraphrasing required citation.

Direct Quotation requires: Quotation marks, author, year of publication and page number.

Paraphrasing requires: Author, year of publication.

Additional: All sources and materials used must be collated into a bibliography.

Key Terms in the study of subculture

Construction: Putting a style together through a selective process. Picking and choosing from all manner of cultural and social influences to build a look.

Our job is to analyse this process piece by piece and understand the significance of and motivation behind the choice of each accoutrement.

Resignification: A term coined to describe the inflection of given meanings and alter them for them. Can be achieved by Modification, Intensifying, Exaggerating or Isolating the item.

1980’s Hip Hop Style

Image result for 1980s hip hop style

We were provided academic quotes from Whitely, Z and Kellner, D regarding their work on the Hip Hop culture and trends of the 1980s and asked to paraphrase and condense the information.

During the Capitalist boom of the 1980’s the focus of many became conspicuous consumption. People felt the need to demonstrate their wealth by the way they dressed. The ideal way to achieve this was to wear as much expensive jewelry and accoutrements as possible. This quickly became competitive. Who was the biggest and the baddest? Who could spray their graffiti tag in the busiest area? Who was the most popular music artist? Who wore the most gold and jewelry?

Brands and their associations were co-opted into the Hip Hop style. The intent was to emulate the perceived associations a brand carried. Juxtaposition of items demonstrated the fashion taking precedence over functionality. Heavy gold chains paired with Adidas sports wear. Trilby hats that demonstrated wealth and social position in past eras of fashion were incorporated.

Image result for beastie boys hood ornament

At one time the need for brand association in the style lead to people wearing car hood ornaments of expensive manufacturers such as mercedes and VW. As seen in this image of the Beastie Boys.

Context is everything to fashion. Every item, the way it is worn, what it is worn with, when it is worn. Many African Americans in the hiphop movement of the 80s teamed what by then was the established Hip Hop look with African garb to show solidarity and pride in their heritage and support for those in South Africa fighting Apartheid.

Style is a fluid and ever changing phenomenon. Anything can be a catalyst for change and bring about the emergence of a new look. In the 2000s lower income people, seeing that Burberry was highly regarding by wealthy celebrities, began buying into the brand. A brands identity is vital to its success. An expensive brand works through exclusivity. A consumer pays extra to wear something few can. Burberry suffered under this new trend as middle and working classes started buying their clothes and copycat companies began making knock-off versions. Brands influence consumers, but consumers influence brands in return.

Who wore it better?

Emma Watson endorsing Burberry
Burberry ‘Chav’


An example of the negative associations ‘chavs’ created for Burberry’s brand name.


This work has helped me to sculpt my process as a designer. Graphic Design is something I’ve always considered to be largely subjective. Different styles and different approaches appeal to different people. One person might like a brand or a logo and another may find it entirely unappealing. But the analytical nature of the Smells Like Teen Spirit course has helped me to understand a scientific method for understanding why things in fashion and equally in design are the way they are.



Constellation SLTS 2/8 Goth Subcultures

In our second constellation we again focused on a specific cultural statement, its birth, its definition and the tributary styles of the past and influences that lead to its creation. We learned that anything in culture can be inspiration for an art or fashion movement. With an fashion or trend, there is no fixed point. It is constantly evolving and changing as people alter items and objects to create an ensemble that is unique.

The main tenants of street subculture is that it is something not commercially available. It is a living thing created by individuals on a day to day basis. Once a look or a trend becomes established, it becomes commercially available on the high street and becomes a parent culture, a mainstream idea. In our lecture we sought to understand the reasons and analyse the processes behind various offshoots of the Goth culture.

The Goth Look

Image result for goth

With any popular fashion or trend, most people can identify a rough estimation of the main tenants of that look. Goths tend to wear pale make-up, dark clothing, studs and crucifixes. The overall look is sickly and pale. The reasoning for this is the basis for the trend. Goth was inspired by Gothic literature, Dracula, Frankenstein etc. The occult and the undead.


Victoriana is a subculture of the Goth style which incorporates and reappropriates elements from Victorian high fashion. Referring to past styles is nothing new to fashion, as we saw last week with Jean Paul Gautier’s vintage style corset and pantsuit designed for Madonna.

Victoriana, as with many styles, is an amalgamation of previous looks. There is no attempt to appear authentically Victorian. Simply to utilize items of fashion from the period. In the above image, the woman is wearing traditional mourning wear, the dress, corst, long sleeves and fascinator (futher association with death) and carries a parasol. However she is also wearing white makeup with black lipstick, known as ‘vamp’ makeup.

The key to this lecture was the constant evolution of dress. Anything can be used to create a look regardless of its original purpose or time period. These sub-cultures could not be manufactured. Individuals  had to create their own outfits, either with sowing machines or by trawling charity shops. Additions such as makeup, cobweb or skeleton jewelry were unique to the  wearer. If the look is mass manufactured. Then it is no longer a subculture and quickly it becomes the thing that it attempted to be seperte from. The cycle then continues with subculture branching away from it.



Constellation SLTS 1/8

In our first constellation lecture of the term we were introduced the the concept of analyzing fashion in its cultures and subcultures . The deep connotations and significances of each item of clothing or jewelry. Our main focus in the lecture was on Madonna and her outfit worn on her 1990 ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour.


In the tour Madonna wears an outfit created by famous fashion designer Jean Paul Gautier. Our task was to analyse what styles the outfit drew from and what elements were original to it. And explain the likely reasons behind these choices.

We first looked at the pinstriped, navy pantsuit. A classic symbol of traditional masculinity, a working man’s outfit. The implication is clear, a feminist statement on the part of Madonna, she is wearing a man’s clothing. The cuts in the chest of the outfit are also significant. They slightly reveal the undergarments, highlighting Madonna’s breasts and revealing femininity.

Part way through the show, Madonna removes her pantsuit to reveal what’s been lurking beneath. A pink, silky corset. It radiates femininity in sharp contrast to the pantsuit. However, it does not conform to the traditional context of a corset. A corset was an undergarment to pull in a woman’s waist and lift her bosom leaving her chest rounded. Madonna is sporting a conical bra which achieves precisely the opposite effect. The sharp aggressive appearance denotes feminine power.

Another aspect of fashion is style over substance. The suit is a statement. The holes cut out serve no practical purpose and actually inhibit the practicality of the item. The same goes for the corset that does not function as a corset would traditionally and does not function at all as underwear as it is clearly being warn over the trousers.

Everything in fashion comes to the fore within a cultural context, an outfit such as Madonna’s was a controversial talking point in 1990. But in a more conservative era, it would never have been permissible. Fashion pushes boundaries but can only reach so far before it is quashed. Fashion is also a response to current cultural, social and political shifts. In this period, rights and acceptance for the LGBT  community were in their infancy and Madonna was a powerful advocate on their behalf. Her outfit reflects this, confusing and muddying the waters of what are given to be traditional gender roles.

Despite never being particularly in tune with fashion, being a generic jeans and t-shirt kind of person. I feel this topic can relate to my practice in that fashion is a constantly evolving phenomenon in culture and is encompassed in the broad spectrum of design in the same manner as Graphic Communication. The ability to analyse the reasons for change can translate into my area of design and allow me to better understand the field I am entering into.




Ephemera Project – Morag Myerscough


Morag Myerscough is the chief designer of Super Group London a collection of five professionals who work together allowing them to have the man power to undertake larger projects when needed. Myerscough has created pieces and installations for clients including Tate Modern, Design Museum, Barbican Centre, Design Council, British Council, Wedgwood, V&A and the Vintage works at Goodwood.

Her most recent work was the design of the Movement Cafe. Located close to the Olympic Park in Greenwich, the cafe was commissioned by developer Cathedral and constructed in just 16 days to coincide with the start of the games. The brightly painted words on the facade spell out phrases such as ‘this is the gate’ and ‘this is eye contact’, which originate from one of many creatively written tweets by poet Lemn Sissay.


Myerscough collaborated with artist Luke Morgan to design the colourfully painted furniture, which includes stools and tables made from reclaimed wood.

Furniture for the Movement Cafe was made from metal and reclaimed laboratory tops. Myerscough’s work is inspiring to me on many levels. Its use of waste materials makes it relevant to my Constellation work on sustainable practice and I’m personally fond of the use of bright block colours. The boldness and almost randomness of the designs, some of which conform to a pattern and others not at all makes for further intrigue. Myerscough’s work is reminiscent of screen print work I did. Simple, yet effective.