Encountering Fashion

Encounters with fashion are among the myriad everyday practices by which the subject emerges and endures, is disrupted and becomes other than itself. This paper outlines how practices of subjectivation can occur in and through encounters with fashion. Encountering fashion is a dynamic process involving a transmission or flow between bodies that reveals qualities, relationships, properties, and experiences of the immanent world. Such transmission, to borrow terms from Deleuze, can be described as a passage from the virtual to the actual made possible through an intensification. This paper develops the distinction Deleuze makes between the actual and virtual to elaborate the intensive and affective dimensions of fashion as they are actually encountered. Experienced through our entire body, dress mediates the world we inhabit. The productive, porous relationship between dress and body opens the body up to flows and intensities that are performative in nature. This account of the fashioned body stands in stark contrast to conventional notions of fashion, which tend to conceive of dress in terms of an extensive space around the body. Such an understanding of the extensive space of fashion, like that of the dressmaker’s pattern for example, misses the intensive space of the body—a space with no boundaries. Through a discussion of how garments function in the work of Australian artist Fiona Abicare, this paper argues that encounters with fashion may best be accounted for in terms of a qualitative intensity that happens through sensation, through relations with the garments. Sensation’s happening is the function of fashion and this happening directly relates to how fashion operates as a difference in intensity within an encounter with fashion. Abicare’s art practice dramatises these encounters with fashion, between bodies and garments, and the everyday subjectivation practices that these encounters sustain.