Amsterdam - How do you meet the needs of today’s consumers and anticipate the needs of tomorrow’s world? How, as a designer, do you deal with the ever-changing and fast pace of the industry and develop new, innovative ways of designing, producing, promoting, financing, selling and consuming? These were some of the questions that motivated Liesbeth in’t Houten to launch the Fashion Matters Master’s Program at the Sandberg Institute, in partnership with denim label G-Star, in Amsterdam.
A one-off, two-year course, Fashion Matters was led by Christophe Coppens and developed to be a research-based course which challenged the position of (fashion) designers in the world. The program welcomed 11 leading students from Sandberg, who were selected to study the environmental, economic and political issues currently challenging the fashion industry. The coursework, which saw the students spend the first year learning and researching before moving onto making in their year, aligned with G-Star’s broader aim to “future-proof” denim by taking into account the impact the industry has on both the planet and its inhabitants. On Friday, June 16, the master graduates came together to present their work to the press, industry insiders and friends prior to the official exposition.
“The work shown today in many cases is a sample and a preview of what is to come,” said Coppens at the opening. “Some ideas are still in development, which I like because the journey is more important than the final result. This is just the beginning. And I must say that there is not one single star designer in sight and I find that very exciting and refreshing.” Each one of the installations created reflected the students own personal stories and interpretations of the future of the fashion industry, with some focusing on technology, others on how fashion can bring people together and the rise of ‘see now, buy now’. But one thread which linked all the installations together was the focus on how the fashion industry can use creativity to help solve the industry’s sustainable dilemma.
“With this collaboration, we were able to contemplate the role and future of the fashion industry in a rapidly changing world, and to be part of the quest to find creative and sustainable solutions to the challenges we face today,” said Thecla Schaeffer, G-Star’s Chief Marketing Officer. At the exhibition opening, she thanked all the students present for allowing her, and the rest of the team at G-Star become students themselves once more and ask deeper probing questions concerning fashion, identity and sustainability. “Like should we really be bringing so many products to the market every season? What is the role of the identity of the individual in fashion? These are all types of questions we wish to ask and I am very grateful that we worked together with these students and gave them the space to answer them and explore them in their own way,” she said. She praised the students for their creative approach to sustainability and unique solutions.
For example, Rafael Kouto, a Swiss born graduate, upcycled discarded garments and textiles from the Netherlands and Switzerland for his grad collection. Entitled ‘All The Nothing That Will Remain’, the collection incorporated unusual materials such as inner tire bands, discarded wire and plastic ends as well as discarded garments. These waste materials were transformed into six high-end garments, inspired by a blend of Western and African influence, using a mixture of upcycling techniques and couture technics, such as embroidery and weaving. He worked together with students at the Master Tailor Institute to bring his designs to life and is grateful they gave him the space and time try new things. “I want the garments made of waste and upcycled materials to become a statement of new values and meanings of a more sustainable production system,” he said.
Sanne Karssenberg used a blend of recycling and technology to create a more direct and personalised form of apparel production. She developed a process which takes consumers old garments, shreds them and then layers them onto new garments to create a new look. Her project, named ‘Res Materia’ sees garments reflecting the wearer personal choice and history, rather than encouraging them to buy something new while preserving individuals own identity. In addition, her technique is also a creative solution for sustainability, as it takes old garments and transforms them into something new. Another student to use technology to help incorporate the consumer as a co-creator in fashion was Vera de Pont. With her project ’The Assembly Lab’ she created a micro-manufacturing store which is able to produce a number of partially, or fully finished items on demand, such as buttons, collars, glasses and shirts using robots.
Other students focused on how fashion can affect a wearer’s identity or even bring them closer to each other. Karime Salame Sainz, for example, created a collection of 6 outerwear coats which can be worn and then placed flat on the floor together to create a circle. Her idea behind this was to create a collection which allowed the wearers to feel connected to each other while creating a sense of belonging. “This way people can see someone else on the street wearing the same coat and know they are connected in a way or stop and sit together and share a moment” she explains. In this sense, the coats, which are made from durable materials such as wool and neoprene, have a double function - as space providers and triggers.
“As a company, we want to be future proof and to be future proof you have to be open to all kinds of quests that may fall on your path,” concluded Schaeffer. “We really believe that this approach to sustainability through creativity and not necessarily only technology has been very inspiring for us. As a company, we were very inspired throughout this journey because we were able to tell our employees ‘yes you can ask these questions and be a student. You don’t need to have the right answers immediately.’ So thank you to the students for opening up our minds.”
Photos: Courtesy of G-Star