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Speakers: Ann Marie Leshkowich (Anthropologist), Martina Thucnhi Nguyen (Historian)
Moderator: Dolla S. Merrillees (Curator of ‘Thuỷ Nguyễn: An Everyday Dream)
Date & Time: January 14, 2021 | 7 – 9 PM
Language: English with Vietnamese translation

Is fashion an art or a business? Are the aspirations of the artist different to those of the designer? In her renowned book, ‘Seeing Through Clothes’, literature expert Anne Hollander states that: “Dress is a form of visual art, a creation of images with the visible self as its medium”.  Why might the idea of fashion as art be particularly important for Vietnamese designers and for the articulation of Vietnamese identity on the runway and in daily life?

Professor Ann Marie Leshkowich (anthropologist) and Professor Martina Thucnhi Nguyen (historian) in conversation with Dolla S. Merrillees (curator) will consider these questions through case studies of well known Vietnamese designers, past and present; and in the context of the scale and rise in popularity of fashion exhibition in galleries and museums in recent years.

This discussion will explore how aesthetic and market considerations inform ideas of innovation and heritage; concepts of the designer as both artist and gatekeeper of cultural and gender identities; including the complexity of an ‘essential’ or an ‘original’ artistic vision within Vietnamese design. 

*Image: The stage of Vietnam International Fashion Week 2020. Image resource: gioitreviet.vn

About speakers:

Ann Marie Leshkowich is Professor of Anthropology and Dean of the Faculty at College of the Holy Cross (USA). Her research focuses on gender, economic transformation, neoliberalism, middle classness, fashion, social work, and adoption in Vietnam. She is author of ‘Essential Trade: Vietnamese Women in a Changing Marketplace (University of Hawai’i Press, 2014; winner, Harry J. Benda Prize, Association for Asian Studies, 2016) and co-editor of ‘Traders in Motion: Identities and Contestations in the Vietnamese Marketplace’ (Cornell University Press, 2018), ‘Neoliberalism in Vietnam’ (special issue of positions: asia critique, 2012), and ‘Re-Orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress’ (Berg, 2003). Her research has been published in American Ethnologist, American Anthropologist, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Vietnamese Studies, and Fashion Theory.

Martina Thucnhi Nguyen is Assistant Professor of History at Baruch College (City University of New York). A historian of modern Southeast Asia, her research focuses on colonialism, intellectual life and social and political reform in twentieth century Vietnam. Her first book, ‘On Our Own Strength: The Self-Reliant Literary Group (Tự Lực Văn Đoàn) and Cosmopolitan Nationalism in Late Colonial Vietnam’, will be published in December 2020 by University of Hawaii Press as part of Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Studies Institute book series. She is currently working on her second book, an economic and political history of the Bank of Indochina during the transitional period of revolution/decolonization to early nation-statehood. Professor Nguyen received her Ph.D. in 2012 from the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned a B.A. in history and political science.

Dolla Merrillees is a curator, cultural producer, consultant and author of ‘The Woodcutter’s Wife: A Stepmother’s Tale’ (2007).  Merrillees is an accomplished public speaker and writer and has contributed to numerous online and print publications.  Merrillees was the former Director of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) as well as having been Director of Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions at MAAS since the beginning of 2014.  Merrillees was responsible for the establishment of the MAAS Centre for Fashion, the first such centre of excellence in an Australian cultural institution, as well as developing strategic partnerships with the Australian Fashion Chamber and the fashion industry.  Fashion and design exhibitions developed and realised under her Directorship included amongst others ‘Love Is: Australian wedding fashion’; ‘Collette Dinnigan: Unlaced’; ‘Out of Hand: Materialising the Digital’; and ‘A Fine Possession: jewellery and identity’. Merrillees is currently undertaking a Master of Philosophy at the University of Sydney and most recently was working as Project Leader at Western Sydney University developing their arts and culture decadal strategy, as well as consulting for the University of Tasmania and the City of Launceston.  Merrillees was previously Associate Director, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) where she managed over 16 projects and oversaw the production and design of 17 publications. Merrillees sat on the Curatorial Advisory Committee, City of Sydney, the Advisory Board, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University and is a member of Chief Executive Women.  Merrillees also sits on the SCCI (Sherman Centre for Culture and Ideas) Fashion Hub Advisory Committee and is one of three SCCI Global Emissaries. Merrillees is represented by Silverfox Management Group, Sydney and Grey Models, London.

Participating fee:
➖ Adult: 100,000VND
➖ Inner Circle member/ Student: 40,000VND.

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