Sitting at the centre of Maastricht's new and elegant Wyck district, on the right bank of the river Meuse, the little FASHIONCLASH store at 88 Rechtstraat could not be in a better location. Surrounded by fashion, art and antique shops, the shop may appear to be just another space dedicated to designer clothing, but in fact it is focused on fashion and design as creative forces and on the promotion of new talent. "We had a dream. As designers we wanted to have a shop for ourselves but we soon realised we wanted to work with more people. The more designers, the more interest you can raise. This is how FASHIONCLASH started," explains Nawie Kuiper who, together with Branko Popovic, her classmate from the Academy of Fine Arts, and her partner, Laurens Hamacher, started the FASHIONCLASH foundation and opened the Maastricht shop one and a half years ago.
Although the philosophy at the core of FASHIONCLASH is "to create a platform where 'young' designers/artists can present their work to a diverse international audience," the items on display appeal to the young and old, from fashion enthusiasts to artists to the general public. The "YOUNG DESIGNER STORE" that is written on the shop's window is sometimes misinterpreted by customers and passers-by. "It may sound funny but quite often older people ask us, 'Can I come in, even if it is for young people?' Of course they can! The items are just made by young designers but it doesn't mean you have to be young to wear these clothes," says Kuiper with a smile.
Not only fashion: FASHIONCLASH wants to be a
More than forty designers from the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Serbia and other countries are currently represented in the store which, beyond clothing, also features jewellery, bags, accessories and books at prices accessible to an audience wider than those just used to Dolce & Gabbana. "Some people don't know the shop and they think it is very expensive. Others never dare to come in because they think it is a mainstream designers shop, but the truth is quite different and I think prices are fair."
Part of the misunderstanding is probably caused by the location the store, which is situated in one of Maastricht's more refined areas, an area immediately associated with luxury and high society. "I love this neighbourhood," says Kuiper in speaking about Wyck. "It has many nice shops but the most important reason why we chose this location for our business is that we were given the opportunity to use this space for free. The owner loved the project so much that she decided to give us the chance to use her shop to develop our ideas." Unfortunately, the agreement will expire on January 21, 2012 and Kuiper, Popovic and Hamacher have decided to close the shop at Rechtstraat due to financial reasons. "We definitely want to continue with the shop in the future but, at this point in time, we don't have a fixed plan or a deadline for a new opening. The most important thing for us is to find a very good location. It doesn't have to be a perfect shop, but we need to feel at our best working there," she explains, as the sound of sewing machines reach us from downstairs, where two interns are working on a newly designed orange and brown coat by Kuiper. "Ideally we would like to have, besides the actual shop, an open area for our workshop. I think it is good for people to see that the clothes they buy are really made by the designers themselves."
Made on location: the FASHIONCLASH
Until now, designers were able to sell their creations at the shop without paying a hosting fee (the shop only charges a 30% commission for any sales), a further incentive for new designers and artists who are eager to exhibit their works to a larger audience. "In the future we want to have a sort of rotation of the designers co-operating with us. For example, we will change the collections and designers every two months, to offer more diversity. For the customers, it will be more interesting to visit us regularly because they will always discover the latest new entries."
Given that Maastricht is a fairly conservative city, it's no surprise that FASHIONCLASH's bestselling items are quite classic and far from eccentric. "For clothing, the most popular designer we have is Monique Poolmans. She creates very simple outfits but they always look good on women. Her designs are not extravagant and a lot of people love her because of the fabrics she uses," explains Kuiper, holding a bi-colour black and grey dress. "Almost every size of women can wear her clothes as they can be adjusted to fit almost any shape."
A love for simplicity: a bi-colour black
Kuiper points to a shelf by the shop's entrance where a set of jewellery is on display. "I know for sure that the bestselling designer we have is jewellery designer Eva Schreuder. Her creations look very fragile and you have to touch some of her pieces to understand which materials she uses," a remark I immediately understand. When I entered the shop, my eyes were drawn to a set of tiny gold and silver coloured rings so delicately crafted that they appeared to be made of silk. Only by touching them did I realize that they were metal-based.
I ask Kuiper to show me some of her own creations. "I design menswear, very feminine menswear, for very thin, tall guys, but healthy of course! I also like androgynous models and I think they are the best to present my creations," she comments while showing me a white shirt with frills. "I had a show once in Italy and there were very good looking male models, but if the models are too beautiful, people are easily distracted. For me, the model must present my clothing and not draw the attention to his body."
Although the store will close soon, the FASHIONCLASH team is already very actively involved in the preparation of the fourth edition of FASHIONCLASH Maastricht, a three-day event held at the beginning of June which includes fashion shows, an art, photography and design exhibition and the FASHIONCLASH market hosted by cultural institution Centre Céramique. "We have around 600 international visitors per show. They range from fashion lovers to designers, artists, members of the press and so on. In the Netherlands, the majority of fashion events take place in or around Amsterdam, so we would be very happy to have more international visitors, not just people who work in the field but also ordinary members of the public." The castings for the models are open and the selection will be finalised in March: "FASHIONCLASH is becoming increasingly well-known and every year we receive more attention from the press. But FASHIONCLASH is not just interested in fashion. We want it to be a cultural and social event too, and our hope for the future is to involve more members of the public. For the moment we are really happy with the high number of applications for models we received. It is a good sign."
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