In Conversation with Branko Popovic

In our latest issue, we take a moment to celebrate the visionary force behind one of the most dynamic and boundary-pushing fashion festivals of our time, FASHIONCLASH Maastricht. Co-founder Branko Popovic has not only nurtured this incredible platform from its conception but has catalyzed a cultural movement that transcends fashion. As we approach the 2024 edition, Branko reflects on the unwavering mission of FASHIONCLASH: fostering talent development and championing awareness of fashion’s societal impact.

From its inception, FASHIONCLASH has been more than just a fashion week; it’s been a clash of creativity, a laboratory for experimentation, and a breeding ground for new narratives in fashion culture. With an ever-growing focus on activism, social issues, and sustainability, Branko and the team continue to harness the power of imagination to provoke thought and inspire change. Branko’s candid interview reveals the passionate partnership with Kaltblut, detailing the profound effect such companionship and mutual support can have in the industry.

As we anticipate what’s next, Branko hints at exciting themes for the upcoming festival that echo the current societal pulse: queerness, inclusivity, and a deepened conscience in fashion practice. FASHIONCLASH’s evolution mirrors the shifting currents of our times, embracing co-authorship, holistic programming, and a dedication to environmental sustainability.

Navigate with us through the crossroads of fashion, art, and activism, as Branko Popovic shares the journey, successes, and aspirations of FASHIONCLASH—a festival that is as much about fierce fashion as it is about the pressing issues of our world.

Branko, what sparked the creation of FASHIONCLASH, and how do you see its mission changing as you approach the 2024 edition?

FASHIONCLASH was founded by a group of young designers with, first and foremost,
an accessible platform to present work and, secondly, a stage for experimentation around fashion(culture). These goals were always driven by the passion to contribute to a better world through fashion.

We consciously chose FASHIONCLASH as the name when it was founded, because we thought at the time: ‘Who needs another fashion week?’ We needed a different kind of stage where the boundaries of what fashion is and can be can be stretched.

The initial vision and mission have not changed. FASHIONCLASH is still a development and presentation platform for fashion (culture) that contributes through crossovers to, on the one hand, the individual talent development of the new generation of fashion makers and, on the other hand, to a general awareness of the role of fashion in the world.

We have indeed taken a much more activist and proactive position because we live in
a time where there are many urgent social issues in addition to the larger demand; the impact

of climate change and the role of the fashion industry in this. But we do believe in the power of imagination in the art of fashion. Because we cannot contribute to positive change with dystopian messages alone.

Reflecting on our 10-year media partnership, how has this collaboration contributed to the growth and success of FASHIONCLASH?

Collaboration with KALTBLUT is one of the most special because it goes beyond partnership. It’s also about friendship and supporting each other on a human level. That’s what I think is also needed in the (fashion) world.

KALTBLUT is more than a media, it is a platform for polyphony and multi-dimensional celebration of contemporary culture. KALTBLUT t gives a platform to voices and makers who push the boundaries and/or operate from the margin. We always see that there is a good crossover and co-relationship between Kaltblut and FASHIONCLASH and that has helped us enormously in exposure. But above all, Kaltblut has contributed enormously to providing a platform for the artists and designers involved in FASHIONCLASH.

Can we expect any new or evolved concepts in the upcoming FASHIONCLASH Festival given the current state of the fashion industry?

We have always experimented with our format to contribute to current issues. We are currently paying attention to co-authorship and co-creation because we want to continue working from the bottom up and let the new generation of artists have their say.

For many years we have been working on a more balanced annual program and not around the festival as a goal. Festival is now a means to present the results of various projects and processes. For example, we have residency programs.

At the New Fashion Narratives residency we invite designers to curate the exhibition program for the festival with us. In 2024 we have a new residency program around Decoloniality and fashion. Creating space for thinking about decoloniality, unlearning, revaluing, restoring, etc. is more important than putting even more new products into the world.

The Clash House program, with its aim of developing performances and crossover between fashion and other art forms, remains an important focus to contribute to innovation.

With your considerable influence on the modern fashion scene, how do you perceive its current trends and future trajectories?

As far as we are concerned, there are mainly inspiring initiatives among the new generation of makers. The big brands and the powerful industry are too slow to bring about the change needed to save the world from destruction.

It is important that there are independent platforms and that value-driven initiatives receive more attention.

In the end, we are just a small player in a big world where a lot of power and money is converted. But we believe that impact on a small scale is just as valuable. That is what FASHIONCLASH will try to continue providing.

Read the full interview with Branko here:

Interview by Marcel Schlutt

Follow Branko and FASHIONCLASH via @brankopopovic
and @fashionclash_festival

Photos by Laura Knipsael @lauraknipsael
Mitch van Schijndel @m_vanschijndel