I am constantly on the hunt for anything African fashion and textile related so I can share with you, our readers, all thi information and to continue to highlight the fantastic industry that is the supply chain of African fashion and textiles. I recently met up with Teleica Kirkland who is Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) Director and Researcher to hear more about the CIAD initiative.
The Costume Institute of the African Diaspora (CIAD) is described as a ‘growing resource hub for students, teachers, researchers, designers and anyone with an interest in garments, accessories, textiles or any form of body adornment from Africa and the African Diaspora…established to advance the study of costume, clothing and textiles from the African Diaspora…to provide the best and most varied opportunities to understanding and studying every aspect of costume and dress from the African Diaspora.’
I personally feel that this is an amazing company and we plan to collaborate with CIAD in the future so watch this space. Teleica is the founder, director and principle researcher for the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora.
With over 20 years experience working in the fashion and costume industry Teleica has worked on West End shows, with Japanese design companies and with community groups and local government authorities. As a university and college lecturer and mentor she has given lectures and held seminars and workshops at universities and schools all over London. Teleica has run fashion accessories and costume design businesses securing commissions from prestigious travel companies and professional performers. She has travelled extensively throughout Africa and the Diaspora making links with designers, artisans and practitioners across the globe and now she works with an experienced team on CIAD.
Most recently Teleica has become a fellow of the Winston Churchill foundation and is currently researching fashion and costume history from the Caribbean. So I wanted to know a bit more about this company, who they are, exactly what they do and above all what their plans for the future were.
AFG) Please tell us about your organisation CIAD? When did it start, why it started and what it does.
CIAD is the abbreviation of the Costume Institute of the African Diaspora. I’ve been slowly developing it for a while but it got started properly about a year ago. I started it initially because I realised there was no central place to go when looking for information on costume and dress history and development from the African Diaspora. I set CIAD up to try and redress the balance.
At the moment we provide information about costume, textiles and dress history from the African Diaspora. We also look at contemporary costume and dress development from all over the region. Our information is utilised by fashion and textiles students and anyone with an interest.
AFG) What is your background – ethnic heritage and career wise too?
My family are Jamaican and my career background has always been in the creative cultural arts.
The mission for CIAD is:
- To be the main port of call for information regarding costume, fashion and textiles history, and development from around the African Diaspora.
- To provide viable and realistic opportunities for the study of African Diasporan costume, dress and textile history.
- To encourage the development of the cradle to cradle philosophy with the teaching and promotion of the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) and how they relate to the creation of textiles, fashion and costume.
- To develop a network of organisations and businesses from across the African dispora and in so doing create a mutually beneficial bridge between cultural organisations worldwide.
AFG) So with this in mind what is your aim with CIAD and especially where do you see it in 5 years time 10 years time?
CIAD aims to promote the study, understanding and development of costume and fashion from the African Diaspora. In 5 year’s time all our branches such as our business network, exchange programme and courses will be fully developed and running. By the end of 10 years I hope to have us firmly established globally as a leader institute in the study of costume, fashion and textiles from the African Diaspora.
AFG) Do you envision an actual physical institute?
Yes very much so! I think that is the very least that such depths of information and creative ingenuity developed and maintained by African peoples deserves.
AFG) Who is the market for your institute?
At the moment the target market is students and dance and theatre companies. Very soon this will be developed to have more of an appeal to designers, curators and arts patrons.
AFG) What challenges have you come by with setting CIAD up and undertaking your research?
Initially there was a challenge amongst people who were not involved in creative arts to understand the necessity for something such as an institute for costume, textiles and fashion from the African Diaspora. I think this was because they couldn’t see the financial potential or why anyone would be interested. When undertaking research I came across a couple of challenges when explaining the vision for the institute to government minsters or cultural custodians. For obvious reasons people are very sensitive about perceived theft of cultural and intellectual property so it has been very important to put people’s minds at rest and make it clear that is not the intention.
AFG) Tell us about your upcoming travel plans and what you hope to find.
I shall be touring seven Caribbean countries and have arranged to speak with ministers of culture, designers, artisans and cultural custodians. I hope to discover as much as I can about the costume and dress history and the development of contemporary fashion on these islands.
AFG) Sounds fantastic and well needed. Also do tell us why you feel CIAD is so important, so relevant and so today.
CIAD is important because it doesn’t already exist, meaning that it is time the people who have been beavering away without recognition or due credit received the acknowledgement and respect they deserved. It is one of CIADs aims to provide a platform for this to happen. The African Diaspora is massive and boundaryless and the depths of the historic information and the levels of creative mastery have largely been ignored or had (at the most) a paragraph written about them in some dusty old book, this has left many people not seeing the validity or importance in the skills they have developed. CIAD is relevant today because its highlighting old practices of textile and dress development which have now started to gain wider appeal and popularity, and showing up and coming designers how traditional textiles and styling can be used in a contemporary context.
AFG) What plans do you have for CIAD over the next 12 months, any events etc?
At the moment we’re in the process of researching and developing our first event. This will also coincide with the start of our first study programme which we hope to have running within the next 6 – 8 months.
AFG) If you were not doing fashion what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t doing this I’d be teaching and lecturing art or dance and probably wondering why someone hadn’t developed something like CIAD or telling my students to do it! If I wasn’t teaching then I’d be working in theatre wondering the same thing!
AFG) If you could reside in one country in Africa or in the Caribbean or the Americas where would it be and why?
I haven’t visited many countries in Africa yet but if I could live anywhere it would be Ethiopia or Ghana, because the people are really friendly and I found it very easy to get around. In the Caribbean I would live in Dominica because of the ease of live, the friendly people and the naturalness of everything. Dominica was a very beautiful and special place. I wouldn’t live in America but if I had to say I’d live in New York because it’s very much like London.
I hope you agree that this is a great concept and one that we at AFG are excited to see grow. Do stay connected to them to as they build upon this fantastic project.
For more information see their:
Author: Jacqueline Shaw