Guest Post: ITAA Conference Re-cap


"I Love Philadelphia," by William C. Ressler, sourced online.

This post is by guest contributor Kelly Cobb.

Sorry to be tardy to class with this report from The International Textile and Apparel Association conference (ITAA) this year. The conference ran November in Philadelphia, PA, home of Rocky, a world class art museum and the Philly Roller Girls who rank 8th in the world! Here is a re-cap for those who could not make it. The conference “Celebrating Inclusivity & Innovation” was held in Philadelphia and planned by Joseph Hancock and Alphonso McClendon of Drexel University. The organization was stellar-kudos to Joe! The conference sessions were complimented by a unique film event DRESSED as well as a tremendous runway show professionally organized by Barbizon Chic Productions.


ITAA Lectra Design Award 2011: Jo Kallal, Roiling Waters (a no waste pattern design)

Concurrent to poster and presentation sessions were opportunities to stretch the leg and brain: travel tours to local apparel operations such as QVC, Destination Maternity Corp. and URBN focusing on the wealth of Industry in the Philadelphia region.  The highlight for me was watching Steven Stipelman and Linda Tain tag team during a fabulous workshop on Portfolio Preparation. It was clear that we are all in awe of the rare combination of talent + teaching + a healthy dose of repartee.

ITAA Stipelman workshop. Credit: K.Cobb

I live in Philly and was excited to be on my own turf.  I want to say this: this conference was expensive, more expensive incidentally if you do not stay at the conference hotel, I suppose this is standard for many conferences. Most participants receive funding from their programs to attend. What if a scholar does not have a program? What about independent scholars and contingent faculty?

These vibrant and quite large populations of scholar (I freelanced and was contingent faculty concurrent with my creative practice for almost 10 years) should have support to sit at the table.  In my circle of movers and shakers, a full-time academic is a minority, and it is not due to lack of talent. My most dynamic colleagues are odd jobbing, adjunct teaching, writing and making projects with time that they don’t really have. Am I describing you? I wish we could have met at the table in Philadelphia. With all the talk Inclusivity and Innovation I felt a little like the current game-changers are left out of the formula.

It is clear that ITAA is quite actively evolving by putting energy into cultivating the potentials of the organization in special topic sessions such as The Future of ITAA Marketing and Public Relations: Evaluating Discourse Through Social Media Initiatives facilitated by Keith Nishida, Oregon State University And Cindy Istook, North Carolina State University.  For scholars whose research focuses on hybrid design, new media, fashion studies, culture and history there is buzz but not a quantifiable mode of dissemination. With the resurgence of craft and inclination towards fashion in our culture right now, it would serve the organization to find solid means to support fluid contemporary hybrid scholarship, beyond the current journal mode.

We are dealing with this now in my department in an ad-hoc committee that is working toward updating our promotion and tenure policies. Is fashion blogging counted as research as it is not a vetted publication? Can we talk about social practice within fashion because the method is slippery and there is no content analysis capability?  How is maintaining a costume collection and exhibiting timely themes from the perspective of the garment quantified as scholarship?

I am touching on two issues here: How to measure contemporary scholarship in a way that champions fluidity and innovation AND how to support the peripatetic contemporary scholar. I suppose what I am left with after ITAA this year is:

  1. What a fabulous foundation and what amazing brainpower this organization holds, what potential exists!
  2. How as a contemporary scholar, who finds herself/himself at the table, can we meaningfully contribute and participate?
  3. How can you, dear reader, be at my table? What are you working on? How can your research be shared and acknowledged and supported?

Next year: Hawaii.

Kelly Cobb is a Philadelphia-based designer who uses costume as a basis for her cross genre work. She is also an Instructor at The University of Delaware, where she teaches CAD, Product Development and Management Studio, and Creative Design Methods.

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