A UNIVERSAL SYMBOL
To frame the show—as well as create six “pockets” for each of the individual artists—Space & Matter constructed a massive curtain made of 665 white T-shirts, sent in by clothing-collection charity KICI and donors from all across the Netherlands.
By hiding and revealing the different works, Space & Matter makes a sly evocation of the infamous lack of transparency in the garment supply chain.
“The white T-shirt, a very generic, mass-produced fashion item…symbolizes the current humanitarian problems that are affecting the fashion industry,” explains the Amsterdam-based firm. “Everyone has a white T-shirt and therefore feels connected to this story.”
ONE SIMPLE QUESTION
Arne Hendriks, whose award-winning project, The Incredible Shrinking Man, questioned the assumption that bigger is always better, invites visitors to his corner of the Lab to make one simple promise: to always ask where and under what circumstances their clothing was produced.
This line of inquiry may not result in immediate changes, Hendriks says, but if a hundred people were to ask this question every day, “over time the seller will want to offer a fair answer.”
Hendriks says he hopes that the tragedy at Rana Plaza gave people a new awareness of our responsibility for the conditions under which our clothes are made. “For that responsibility does not lie solely with factory owners, local officials, and buyers, but especially with us as consumers,” he adds.
DO IT YOURSELF
Despite running her eponymous fashion label, Monique van Heist confesses to having a love-hate relationship with fashion. Her ever-expanding “Hellofashion” collection, which is available for an unlimited period of time, is her response to the transience of the prevailing fashion system.
Van Heist, for her part, challenges the exhibit’s attendees to experience for themselves the process of making an item of clothing.
Visitors can try on her ’80s-inspired “protest coat,” jot down the pattern in the right size, then try to recreate it at home. The project, according to von Heist, is an “ode to self-sufficiency” that offers a “refreshing look at the craft of the dressmaker.”
For Trendslator’s Hilde Roothart, who bemoans the role globalization and technology have played in alienating us from the source of our clothes, wants to restore the relationship between designer, maker, and consumer. Visitors to her domain will work together to weave an installation and create a “big work of clothing art.”
Also showing at Humanity House is a What We Wear, a series of photographs, taken by Pieter van den Boogert, that follows the life cycle of clothes in three “chapters”: production in Bangladesh, consumption in the Netherlands, and the resale in Ghana. “This trilogy can be seen as a visual example of the way Western wealth and trendy consumption cannot be viewed in isolation from poor working conditions and global market mechanisms,” the exhibition notes. “The harsh conditions in Bangladesh contrast starkly with the Western world’s need for cheap and trendy clothes.”