Seamless knitwear: singularities in design
Smith, Amanda Elizabeth
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The ‘hypothesis’ of this practice-led research is that seamless knitwear processes, recognized as mass- production tools within a post-Fordist system of the mass-production of difference, may be rethought as design innovation processes for three-dimensional assemblage. This opens to a design-led rather than a production-led understanding of innovation. The thesis outcome is a collection of knitwear garments, each of which is singular though iterative; a collection produced as repetitive difference. Engaging with the computerized design capability of the Shima Seiki seamless knitwear system, this research opens critical approaches to an understanding of design, technology, garment, surface and form. Contexts associated with the work of the philosopher, Gilles Deleuze and the ethos of Wabi-Sabi ground the research questioning of production’s relationship to form, materiality and the fashioning of things. The thesis outcome of a ‘seriality’ of singular garments is accompanied by an exegesis that engages the historical and critical contexts of the advent of seamless knitwear processes, and current research on seamless knit production and aesthetics. Though now twenty years since its inception, its model of production does not realize the potential for three dimensional design-led capabilities, tending to perpetuate already established knitwear production models of two-dimensional symmetrical design processes that traditionally required seams. This research investigates the impact of whole garment knitwear technologies, particularly the role of design and its applications to production. The thesis suggests that the designer’s ability to create singularities in knitwear design has been bounded by mass-production design and manufacturing processes, exemplified by current commercial applications of seamless knitwear techniques. When knitwear encounters the potential for a paradigm shift in its modes of production, there is also the potential to rethink design itself. Singularities in Design is a PhD research project that localizes such a paradigm shift in seamless knitwear processes. The research methodology works at the nexus of a triple engagement that of ‘concept’, ‘affect’ and ‘function’. The thinking of Gilles Deleuze, particularly The Fold, informs this engagement and opens to a reflection on the designer’s approach to her craft, invoking the tradition of Wabi-Sabi ethos and the broad technology imperatives of seamless knitwear and global techno cultural traditions. This research project aims at creating original modalities of understanding fashion other than with in traditional legacies of a science and art dualism.