Fashion matters deeply, from the dressmakers and designers that create the garments, to the industry that sells it and the wearer that has historically relied on it as a tool and sign of identity, expression, power and status. It is fantasy, desire and memory. It facilitates one’s agency and it offers a rich platform to reflect on key social and cultural issues, from practices to consumption and production through identity politics. It is a complex system with a lot of variables and mixed signals. It allows us to construct, display, communicate, alter and/or conceal.
Here, we refer to fashion as dress and all kinds of decorative accessories, as appearance and style. It is both material culture and symbolic system. It is also a commercial industry producing and selling garments.
Tribute Collective is proud to present "un/fold: a style anthology of Washington DC", a research project that brings together art, photography, storytelling and fashion in powerful ways to look at the clothed body in the city as a site for production of meaning, narrative, performance and communication.
un/fold aims to answer the overarching question: why does fashion matter in Washington DC?
We dive into the untold history of fashion in the capital and how it has evolved over time. The objective is to sustain DC diverse style culture and claim a place for fashion as an essential element of its history alongside other more well-established aspects of the city’s life.
We have commissioned artist Chelsea Ritter-Soronen to paint the portrait of dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley and nine Washingtonians, and Joilyn Jackson and Amit Mehta to capture their authenticity. The works are now on view on the corner of Columbia and 17th Street NW, and within the Tribute space.
These stories challenge us to reimagine how we can, collectively and individually, carve out a space for the articulation of cultural belonging and creative expression in the capital.
There are so many invisible layers to fashion in Washington DC, this is just a preamble. As this project is unfolding, we expect to capture more Washingtonians and collect more stories in the near future.
un/fold looks back at the legacy of the past and explores the promises of the future.
ABOUT THE MURALIST: Chelsea Ritter-Soronen is a DC-based public artist and community arts organizer. Formally trained in theatrical scenic painting and mentored by street artists, she has been painting murals for thirteen years and often fuses traditional trompe l'eoil techniques with modern color palettes and vibrant plant life to reflect each mural's neighborhood and its stories. When not painting mural commissions, she works with her business Chalk Riot which specializes in pavement art and temporary murals for special events and outdoor spaces.
Chalk Riot was founded in 2013 and in addition to frequently partnering with cities and NGO's, has worked with notable clients such as Bleacher Report, Vevo, Dell Computers, Google and The Special Olympics. Chelsea often takes time out from commissions to teach art skills to activists and with arts education organizations. She is currently a Resident Teaching Artist at the Kennedy Center's Moonshot Studio.