This research project unearths and interrogates the absence/presence dichotomy surrounding the successful female fashion designers - The Rahvis Sisters (Raemonde and Dora). It asks, in what ways does their enduring ghostly presence via the popular cultural mediators of Film, Pathé Newsreel, Newspapers and Directories, challenge British culture’s disavowal of the accomplishment of women couturiers within the patriarchal canon of Post War British Couture? Framed within a Feminist critique, when locating where the Rahvis are/are not posited within Fashion History and do/do not exist today, this original undertaking engages in Filmmaking and Craft, to explore the fragments and remnants of the Rahvis’ existence located within Popular Culture. This will challenge orthodox patriarchal structures by reimagining and making:
• A Super 8 ‘Newsreel’, inspired by the few Rahvis Pathé appearances when presenting their new collections, featuring a reconstructed ‘London Look’ (1945 – 55) capsule collection showcased within a ‘Fashion House’ setting, shot in and around Mayfair.
Feminist praxis, philosophy, cultural studies, an archival methodology and a critique of autobiographical modes in Fashion and Design History will be applied regarding how, when and where the Rahvis appear (or not) in both hierarchical and popular culture/media versions of History, along with the subversive reenacted media ‘present’ of this project’s practice.
Throughout, locating, analysis and decoding of the surviving historical media featuring the Rahvis will underpin an original interdisciplinary methodology that applies theoretical approaches to cultural narratives, history and memory, in relation to the Rahvis’ particularly distinctive relationship with the media from 1928 to 1981 via their:
• costume design for film
• collections and interviews in Pathé Newsreels
• designs, customers, business innovations in Newspapers and Magazines
• business and personal media geography in Directories, Diaries and ephemera
These pioneering readings and their critical examination will generate new narratives, reanimating the once ghostly Rahvis.