By Branko Popovic. It’s gradation season in the Netherlands! On Friday, June 17th, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam unveiled its new generation of talents. Staged at Rai Amsterdam the Fashion Show had an impressive setting and scenography, confronting the audience with avant-garde fashion proposals and presentations. All graduates presented projects where narrative is as important as the end product, aiming to express their visions on our modern world our or question the state of ‘fashion’.
“The Gerrit Rietveld Academie attracts a specific kind of students, coming from all over the world, looking for ‘freedom’, and ‘room for experimentation’. Our graduates of 2016 have all asked themselves questions like ‘What is fashion?’ and ‘What does it mean to be a fashion designer today?’. And their answer is as diverse as they are, and we hope they leave you with something to chew on. Because fashion, in the end, is what you make of it. We say: ‘There are no rules!’.” Niels Klavers, head of fashion department.
Ralph W Dennis (Great Britain) drew inspiration from the memoirs of his relative Charles Swithinbank, the famous glaciologist and arctic explorer in the 50’s, exploring the extreme survival conditions. “As these young men were stranded on the ice for four years, it was inevitable they would have to assume all kinds of responsibilities such as being the team vet, dentist, cook, surgeon, hairdresser and many more. It’s this idea of a multi-functional person I find interesting.” Furthermore, he researched the archives of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, where he examined the actual worn out utility wear from expeditions, translating the Antarctic landscapes into beautiful jacquards he developed at EE-Exclusives in Heeze.
While interring at Maison Martin Margiela, Yoko Maja (Denmark), developed curiosity for Japanese aesthetics. She got fascinated by ‘Ma’, the Japanese concept that includes time and space at the same time and that can roughly be translated as a ‘gap’ or an interval between two or more spatial or temporal things or events. “Ma is a dialogue between things and this ‘in-between-ness’ is essentially what I find interesting.” With her collection ‘Ma, Mind The Gap’, Yoko presents a collection commenting on the omnipresent sense of speed in our contemporary society.
Vere van Hal (The Netherlands) presented a project entitled ‘Identify: A framed collection’, questioning the emotional value of clothing for the wearer. She researched the fashion system starting with the thought that remain in her mind ‘Not another collection!’. Deconstructing the meaning of it all, Vere expressed her research with a performance within the traditional form of a catwalk show. The presentation stared with a group of people (dressed in ‘normal’ clothing) that emerged from the audience to take a walk down the catwalk.
Myrthe van Hardeveld (The Netherlands) researched our carving for the impossible, our misguided ideas about what is ultimately unnatural, and interviewed people with severe skin diseases and burn scars. Concluding that ‘we can never have it all, unless we learn we learn to see the beauty in imperfection’, Myrthe presented an intriguing collection underlining that fashion is about people. ‘I want to continue addressing the perfection seeking fashion industry by creating new opportunities for both people and materials.’
Looming, the graduation project by Iris Woutera De Jong (The Netherlands) is the result of a study into the phenomena of the circle. She presented the project with a dazzling performance.
‘Looming is a dialogue with the body that lingers, and then suddenly, playfully claims its maximal round scope before withdrawing into flatness again. The circle as a ritual movement, wherein we connect.’
Therése Palmhager (Sweden) questions stereotypical gender roles and prevailing norms omnipresent in our society, presenting a mind-freeing proposal with her graduation collection. ‘As children we are allowed to explore what is real and what isn’t. The world is full of possibilities. As adults we are expected to follow certain rules and structures, we are limited by societal norms. For children these rules and structures exist only in a far distance. Everything is possible and the world is our playground.’
Vika Mozhaeva (Russia) presented a collection inspired by her thesis for which she researched a hypothetical post-human future where we will be completely integrated with technology whilst having forgotten the functionality of objects from the past that we cherish as trophies. ‘I’ve always wondered why the post-apocalyptic world is presented as something dusty and melancholic. Why can it not be modern and futuristic and at the same time in strong connection with the past?
Facing the world largest future refugee crisis caused by climate change, Daan Keizer (The Netherlands) presented his graduation collection ‘Water Mirror, Water Mirror On The Wall’, aiming to warn us for the things to come. “The rising sea level, extreme droughts and hurricanes will be our biggest challenges. I started to design with Netherlands’ biggest threat, that of the water. I looked into functional products for survival on the water.”
Naomi Hille (The Netherlands) approached her graduation project in a rather radical manner, engaging the audience to co-create in the process. Naomi exchanged the role of designer for that of curator. 2000 people contributed to a print design, 350 people volunteered to hand knitted squared shapes and in by means of an online survey she made her design choices. ‘With this collection I allow everyone to be part of the production process. I want to give people back their say in the design by way of participation’.
Taking the shapes of the body as a starting point in her work, Isis Elsa Fee Postel (The Netherlands) approaches her designs as a sculptor, emphasizing the body by adding volume or leaving parts bare with purpose to make a shape that has a relevance from each angle.
Isis questions why do we mostly look the same in a society that proclaims to stand for individuality. ‘My graduation collection merges two extremes in one proposition; great everyday basics, free from trend waves, and eccentricity, our need to make our unique selves seen, but without the immoral decadence usually associated with extravaganza.’
Mariana Ladreyt (France) has a fascination for the Greek toga, a flat piece of fabric that is just knotted a certain place, to cover the body or to create volume. This fascination relates to ‘trompe-l’oeil’, recurring theme in her work. ‘For my thesis, I did research on the flâneur, this poetic figure of the stroller, the observing and contemplating wanderer who never stops trying to understand the world. In my graduation collection, the flâneur became a true adventurer and the togas got stitches.’
Fascinated by the mechanisms that are influencing our life, for her graduation collection Eva Valdimarsdottir (Iceland), dealt with the square formats we apply to our conscious or subconscious life cycle. ‘I have altered these garments to be less fixed by reinterpreting them as accessories that can be added on to a more daily garment.’
All images by Branko Popovic. brankopopovic.blogspot.de
Quotes are from the rietveld fashion show publication.