Saulquin and Tarelli: «The task of a museum is to give new meanings to the past in order to build, on that ground, planned future actions.»
Susana Saulquin and Kika Tarelli, driving forces behind the positioning of Argentine apparel, reflected upon the relevance of patrimony for the production of historical narratives that reveal social habits and traditions.
Despite the fact that they are not designers, design is the focus of the research and management efforts of both professionals. Susana Saulquin holds a BA in sociology and is the author of Historia de la moda argentina (Buenos Aires, Emecé, 2006), ¿Por qué Argentina? (Buenos Aires, Ediciones del Paraíso, 2008), La muerte de la moda, el día después (Buenos Aires, Paidós, 2010), and Política de las apariencias (Buenos Aires, Paidós, 2014). She is currently the head of the specialized program of Sociology of Design at the School of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism of the University of Buenos Aires (FADU-UBA). Kika Tarelli, on the other hand, an art director for publicity projects, emerged in the world of garment design along with Grupo Pampa, organization with whom she developed the Buenos Aires Fashion Week (BAFWeek) between 2001 and 2014. Active promoter of the local design scene and producer of specialized content, she was one of the initiators of Fashion Meets, project backed by La Nación newspaper, besides being the director of Ohlalá magazine's “Fashion” section for three years.
As part of the monthly interviews conducted by –I–D–A Foundation for the“Expert Opinion” section of its Old&Newsletter, IDA's consultants in the areas of Garment and Textile Design, shared their perceptions of the field from their particular background. They reflected about the relevance of patrimonial management and activation, while highlighting the strong influence of social networks for the production and transmission of knowledge.
– ¿How did design emerge in Argentina?
– Design provides a vital space for building knowledge that leads to innovation. It is a diverse activity that crisscrosses many social and cultural disciplines and aims at the creation of values connected with ethic, aesthetic, and technological issues. It has a cultural existence and it is, in fact, a cultural dimension on its own because design notions and heuristics always present different options, the same way that happens with art in general.
With the return of democracy back in 1983, the FADU-UBA began a new stage marked by the creation of different projects and programs connected to graphic and industrial design, and, by 1988, this expanded to the areas of image, sound, garment, and textile design. The greatest challenge was the development of a theoretical corpus that could support the ideas and knowledge of the different sub-fields within the discipline. A foundational period thus began with a readjustment process based on new ways of conceiving these areas of knowledge.
In the case of Garment and Textile design, there were no precedents, national or international, of specific university programs focused exclusively on them; the only exception was a seminar offered by the Domus Academy of Milan. Besides exceptional, original production, like the work of Fried Loos, Mary Tapia, and Medora Manero, the common practice was to copy European designers. The main motivation to create new university programs was to revert that traditional procedure.
One of the most evident results of the new courses, which was reinforced over time as the number of students grew, was the incorporation and appraisal of the terms “garment design” and “textile design” into the mainstream vocabulary used by the Argentinian society.
As the urge to export increased, the pressing need to form designers fit to create products with a differentiated identity was fully acknowledged. It was then that everybody became aware that the production of an original image did not rely exclusively on fashion's own interplays and transformations, but also in the innate potential of design to improve the consumers' quality of life through planned innovations, both functional and aesthetic.
The relevance of garment and textile design was reinforced not only through the industrial and handmade production of objects, clothes, and fabrics, but also through a new way of presenting and showcasing those creations in exhibits and fashion runways. There is no doubt that the UBA was a pioneer university in this endeavor, however, other educational centers of Buenos Aires and other provinces soon followed suit, thus enriching with their original contributions Argentina's national design patrimony.
– ¿Which are, in your opinion, the icons of Argentine design?
–If we assume that identity is power, then, identity production would naturally be one of the most important motivations that drive designers. One of the comparative advantages recently emerged within the universe of garment and textile design is the conceptual richness of independent creators.
Even if Argentine studios were widely recognized for their manufactured products since the 40's and 50's, it was from the mid-eighties on that design creativity was promoted and acknowledged. Mario Buraglio and Víctor Delgrossso (Varanasi), Pablo Ramírez, Vero Ivaldi, Jessica Trosman and Martín Churba, Emiliano Blanco and Camila Milessi (Kostume), Cora Groppo, Vicky Otero, Mariano Toledo, Min Agostini, and Hermanos Estebecorena are amongst the pioneers of this process who are now consolidated as icons; they all have the shared conception of experimental design based on shapes, reinterpretation of cuttings, and the use of deconstruction as a resource. Another group of pioneers turned into icons, all of which have used as a resource the creation of new textile structures, is constituted by: Nadine Zlotogora, Mariana Dappiano, Mariana Cortez (Juana de Arco), Brandazza de Aduriz, Cecilia Gadea, Valeria Pequeira, Laura Valenzuela, Romina Cardillo (Nous Etudions) and Garza Lobos. Meanwhile, concerning the recreation of elements from ancient cultures, names like Mary Tapia, Medora Manero, Araceli Pourcel, Manuela Rasjido and Marcelo Senra come to mind.
– ¿How transcendent, do you think, is the conformation of design collections and archives?
–Design archives and collections that preserve a retrospective view of objects, materials, manufacture processes, and tools are fundamental to produce knowledge about diverse world conceptions in different historical contexts.
Each historical period consolidated particular narratives about socio-cultural and technological adaptations experienced through designs, which were a reflection of transforming agents that created new ways of life and influenced the modification and adjustment of different contexts. It is important to place memory on the forefront in order to highlight a society's patrimony and reveal the role that different actors, disciplines, and institutions have played in its formation, as well as to build diverse and valuable networks that can bear witness to its worth.
– ¿What conditions must be possessed by institutions in order to properly preserve the memory of design?
–Among the many conditions institutions must comply with in order to safeguard the memory of design, is to have a team of professionals of proven ethical behavior equipped with searching skills and a deep respect for the testimonies recorded in objects, papers, and accounts, information that supports the creation of narratives and research that reveal the evolution experienced in different contexts. Ethics, commitment, and love for knowledge of the past.
– ¿Why does our community need a museum of design?
– Because it is necessary for a community to know the visible manifestations of its cultural patrimony and to understand the relevance that it has for preserving its own identity and treasuring the actors that have shaped it along with their projects, dreams, and creativity.
Nowadays, more than merely recording, preserving, restoring, and communicating, a museum's purpose is to give a new meaning to the past in order to build, on that ground, planned future actions. The aim is to reveal and highlight the identity features that are important for the group, thus creating a space of strong symbolic resignification.
– ¿What is the role played by the State and private parties in the protection and appraisal of design?
– Both State and private institutions play a fundamental role in the support and visible display of actions that involve design. They can achieve it due to their ability to manage and intervene academic, historical, artistic, commercial and technological circles, as well as their capability to boost operational networks among all of the different actors who are interested in related communication activities and projects. In this regard, private institutions show a comparative advantage, since their innate versatility and freedom of movement give them a broader reach into different cities that have solid backgrounds of local manufacture and industrial production.
– ¿What is the role played by mass media in the process of creating awareness about the legacy of design?
–Recent social transformations have downplayed established behaviors that led to the constant repetition of actions and behaviors, today, we find a digital society that empowers individuality based on social networking practices. However, individual behaviors that are part of communities with common tastes have no intention of imposing their own aesthetic principles, instead, they simply prefer to experiment new sensations and images in order to share them and make public their memberships and choices.
Mass media is a crucial protagonist of this process, since it has the power to broadcast the relevance and stability of design and to shape preferences and world perceptions. Swift responses are embraced by new generations that share network trends in a frenzy way and turn them immediately into references of knowledge.
By displaying and communicating designs, mass media showcase world models, actors and creators. In that way, they influence future projects and the orientation of public policies.