about design dialogues

The Design Dialogues site houses all online publications from the School of Design Strategies at Parsons School of Design.

This site is funded by the Stephan Weiss Lecture Series on Business Strategy, Negotiation and Innovation. This lectureship was launched in 2002 to commemorate the life of the late artist and sculptor Stephan Weiss, husband and business partner of the fashion designer Donna Karan. Weiss co-founded Donna Karan International in 1984, and was instrumental in every significant venture the company undertook: launching and structuring new brands, most notably the Donna Karan Beauty company; signing new licenses; establishing in-house legal and creative departments; devising its computer design technology; orchestrating the company’s initial public offering in 1996; and negotiating its sale to the current owner LVMH Moet Hennessy – Louis Vuitton.

about the school of design strategies


The School of Design Strategies is an experimental educational environment. We advance innovative approaches in design, business and education. In the evolving context of cities, services and ecosystems, we explore design as a capability and a strategy in the environmentally conscious practices of individuals, groups, communities and organizations. For more about the School of Design Strategies, visit the SDS Magazine.

http://sds.parsons.edu/designdialogues
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Section 2: Vignettes

Fashion Codes Hacked, Indexed, and Shared

Giana Pilar González
Hacking Couture is an open-source online atelier and workshop series that I started in 2006, focused on identifying fashion patterns from luxury brands, the media, and the street. Hacking Couture seeks to empower individuals to “hack” the dominant fashion system by making something unique, using the codes embedded within high-fashion clothing design.

These original codes (or “DNA”) of a brand are interwoven with current trends, cultural movements and other brands’ codes. The constant re-mixing of the original DNA with other codes allows a brand to have ongoing aesthetic relevance and commercial success.
Hacking Couture seeks to empower individuals to “hack” the dominant fashion system by using the codes embedded within high-fashion clothing design to make something unique.

Another aspiration of Hacking Couture is to facilitate the creation of an open-source library in which visual patterns connected to high-fashion brands are indexed and shared. Through an analysis of the patterns (using style magazines, runway shows, and the streets as data sources) as well as the legacy of the brand, workshop participants identify and articulate the code of a fashion brand, style, or subculture.
Looking at a brand such as Burberry, for example, reveals some of the notions that make up this company’s brand code: rain, trench coat, tan color, tartan pattern, gabardine, and being “very British.” This is what Burberry stands for: their unique code. There are other components of the Burberry code as well, from cuts to colors to how the garments are “performed” in the company’s advertising campaigns.

Through visual indexing, we can clearly identify and define these codes, analyze them, and make comparisons. A comparison of the Burberry code with that of the American leather crafter Coach, for instance, reveals some common elements as well as differences: motifs which can be extracted and re-contextualized or repurposed. This is the essence of “hacking couture” (SEE FIGURE 1).

Figure 1


My hope is that through technology we can create venues to discuss and share fashion codes, in ways that do not violate fair rules of trade and that promote making and a general DIY sensibility. Audiences want to engage creatively with fashion codes, and we are finding digital and non-digital ways to optimize and document these exchanges through new practices.
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