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December 13, 2017
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Performers from the theatre collective KARMIJNROOD at the opening of FASHIONCLASH Maastricht 2012. Source: Brankopopovic.blogspot.nl.
Fashionclash

From Pierre-Antoine Vettorello.
Photograph by Peter Stigter.

FASHIONCLASH 2012, which took place from June 8-10, was hosted within the frame of SAMDekorfabriek, an old factory in Maastricht now used for cultural events and exhibitions. Stirring with a veritable mixed bag of attendees - students, expats, children, artists, journalists and members of the press, locals and tourists - FASHIONCLASH, now in its fourth year, presented itself as accessible to anyone with a genuine interest in overcoming the boundaries of fashion, art and design to experience a discordant amalgamation of pure creativity. Although fashion shows are traditionally surrounded by a glamorous halo of exclusiveness, the atmosphere at FASHIONCLASH was that of a community gathered to admire beauty in all forms, irrespective of labels and brands.

Upon entering, I stopped to observe a series of pictures taken by Berlin-based still-life photographer Christoph Sagel that showcased the creations of several non-fashion designers and artists. Sagel's showcase was part of the Clash Project, an interdisciplinary initiative run by FASHIONCLASH and curated by Matylda Krzykowski, that aimed to "create alternative clothing in connection with their usual discipline." Particularly striking was a project, which I coined "the monkey man," by Polish set designer and video artist Natalia Kacper Mleczak: her outfit included a mask of a human-ape hybrid and a technicolour suit re-arranged into a feast of flowing colours, materials and shapes.

Initially, I had thought the Clash Project outfits were only going to be featured in their static picture format, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover they were actually showcased and worn during the first day of FASHIONCLASH. Presented on the catwalk was an eclectic selection of outfits, including a weird duck-like creature, a human-ape hybrid in a carnivalesque suit, a rugby-boxer-princess wearing a colourful crochet dress and what looked like a white human-floating-cloud with a funny dandelion-shaped hat. 

Moving through the exhibition area, a video installation caught my eye of a blonde woman in a light peach dress sitting at a dinner table of a very refined restaurant. Served a never-ending meal of special delicacies (expensive food mixed with a selection of jewellery) by an anonymous waiter, the woman seemed to be part of a criticism towards consumerism and luxury. However, the explanatory note beside the video screen proved my interpretation to be incorrect. Je voudrais, by Italian-Dutch director Maite Catti, "is a fashion film showcasing the jewellery of MAWI. It [the film] portrays an insatiable desire for fashion, a hunger that is illustrated in a never ending dinner where food and jewellery merge, creating irresistible temptation." Despite the intriguing meaning behind the short film, it was still very to strange watch a beautiful woman eating precious stones with a knife and fork.

[The] outfit included a mask of a human-ape hybrid and a technicolour suit re-arranged into a feast of flowing colours, materials and shapes.

The time had come for the catwalk presentations, and as soon as the doors opened, the room took on the feel of a Hollywood movie set. Expectations were running high and the air was buzzing with excitement. Curious guests looked around frantically in pursuit of a brief glimpse of any backstage antics by models, designers and performers, hidden behind a semi-transparent tarpaulin.

Suddenly, unannounced, the first show of day two began. Music accompanied each of the models, matching their every movement perfectly. The first collection showcased was Space-Specific by Polish designer Agnieszka Natasza Splewińska which strongly invoked Star Wars. Based on the concept of "the future is now," the female models wore a selection of black, crimson, silver, Prussian blue, marengo and grey outfits, decorated with black and silver screen-print patterns inspired by the works of 15th century German theologian Jakob Böhme. Meanwhile, the hoods, loose robes and platforms were complemented by Ziggy Stardust-inspired make-up. The cool and detached attitude of the models conveyed a feeling of remoteness, which perfectly complemented the notion of art being considered "space-specific."

More than 20 designers, including event organisers Nawie Kuiper and Branko Popovic, presented their collections in the three shows featured on the event's second day. Although art and innovation were certainly two of the defining traits of the event, haute couture and prêt-à-porter were also given a lot of attention.

Fashionclash
From Agnieszka Natasza Splewinska.
Photograph by Peter Stigter.

French-Ivoirian designer Pierre-Antoine Vettorello introduced cosmopolitan and highly refined suggestions, with "headpieces inspired by the Bassaris tribes in Senegal" combined with "textiles from the tribe of the kingdom of Kuba." Reminiscing on the beauty of nature, Vettorello's collection recalled the effortless majesty of peacocks, which was reflected in decorated skirts and lace headpieces and scarves.

For her collection, Dutch designer Natalie De Koning played with words and the concepts of old and new, creating the neologism "nold" to define items whose spirits were "new but slightly old." Her outfits were characterised by pastel colours, retro shapes and an overall dreamy feel.

Menswear was revisited by designers such as Nawie Kuipers and Tata Christiane who offered new interpretations of modern male fashion influenced by playful shapes, colours and a gypsy asthetic. Jonathan Christopher combined male formal and casual clothing to create unexpected hybrids defying styles and contexts.

The three shows making up the program for Day Two were followed by a party where visitors could meet and get to know the models, discuss ideas with the designers and have a drink with the performers of the short theatrical representations staged in between catwalk shows.

Beyond the incredible talent on display during the event, the uniqueness of FASHIONCLASH lies in its openness, which invites everyone to contribute and keep art in all its forms accessible and free from the commercial restrictions typical of the mainstream environment. 

Fashionclash
Weird catwalk creatures: a selection of outfits designed for the Clash Project.
Photograph by Peter Stigter.
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