Be ready to discover a new approach towards fashion, seen as a creative discipline that should not be labelled or boxed but mixed fluidly with sculpture, music, performance and photography. The Dutch collective Das Leben am Haverkamp is formed by four young designers who met while studying at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and who are now pushing the boundaries of what fashion means. Anouk van Klaveren, Christa van der Meer, Dewi Bekker and Gino Anthonisse are the four individuals that will destroy pre-established concepts in your brain and will make you rethink of everything you understood until now.
How did all happen? Who are the people behind this collective?
The collective Das Leben am Haverkamp is formed by four young fashion designers – Anouk van Klaveren, Christa van der Meer, Dewi Bekker and Gino Anthonisse. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague (Netherlands) we decided to join forces.
Can you explain us the concept behind this collective?
All members have their individual label and present it collectively. We collectively disagree on the imaginative borders created between disciplines. We aim to create a novel context necessary for our unrestricted way of working and thinking.
What are your ambitions and aspirations? Is there a main, final goal that drives everything you do?
Fashion has a despicable and conventional side to it that is a big trigger for us and makes us develop new projects. This system is something we are reflecting on in a humorous and playful way in order to shake up expectations. Das Leben am Haverkamp has its own aesthetics, which are formed by a collision of beauty and the abject. By mixing various themes like the alter ego, transformation, folklore and status symbols, an alienated atmosphere arises. With our conceptual and unpolished way of working we are exploring the role of fashion within our current society.
We know you don’t believe in the imaginative borders between artistic disciplines, as you stated before. How do you think these borders influence and limit artists’ creations? How did you break these boundaries inside your minds when creating, or how do you try to do so?
It might hold back the artistic expression of artists when they feel limited by conventional boundaries that can be found within every discipline. We play with conditions that fashion is all about. What does fashion mean when it is not functional at all? It allows us to playfully reflect on the term ‘fashion’ and shape it in our own way. By collaborating with other artists and by working in various media, we like to widen the view on our discipline.
Some say fashion can be considered as an art. If any, what is the difference between art and fashion for you? How can we connect art and fashion or, better said, how do you do it?
Fashion can be art. Art can be about fashion. Art can be fashion. Fashion can be about art. All the artistic disciplines are related to each other and therefore we don’t think we should be labelling it at all.
Would you define yourselves as artists, fashion designers or…?
We are trained as fashion designers, and this has been our starting point. We are still discovering where that ends.
Your latest collection, firstly presented at Amsterdam Fashion Week this past summer, and that is now exhibited at Centraal Museum Utrecht and will be showcased during Dutch Design Week, questioned the topic of ‘functionality’ in fashion. What is the main point behind the collection? Does it look for an answer, or does it just raise a question to make people think?
With this collection we aim to question the need for functionality in fashion, when fashion is purely used as a method to carry out our artistic opinion. We like to open conversations.
What does functionality mean to you? How do you consider if a piece of clothing is functional or not? Right now, in the fashion world, do we need to consider functionality as important in clothes?
By functionality we mean ‘useful in the daily life’. Over the past decades, many fashion labels have used the stage of Fashion Weeks to present their ‘show-pieces’, not meant for the daily life, but to create a brand identity, a fairy tale, or whatever you call it, to make people buy their practical clothes or perfume. By displaying 2-dimensional pieces we made this tangible. What is the point, if H&M can sell your ideas even before you have time to produce? Have high-end fashion brands become entertainment? We do not feel the need to make more practical clothes, since we all have too many already. That’s why we want to search for an alternative role, being young designers.
The collection is composed of 2-dimensional pieces. What’s the idea behind it? How did you come up with it? How was the experience of showing this work compared to a standard runway show, with wearable clothes?
The 2-dimensional presence allowed us to create without limits. Everything that you could sketch or make a collage about could be part of the collection. The people that we have been working with also had a big role in the total, since they were carrying the pieces in underwear. We took the actual human size and diversity as a reference for our pieces. Rather sixty years old, than sixteen.
Who is the audience you look for? And by the way, can we buy these pieces? Could we wear them, or they’re meant to be more like sculptures?
Anybody who is open for conversations. The pieces are definitely for sale. Hang them on the wall, because they fit the colours of your interior, or go to the beach wearing them; go for it!
With this collection you achieved a hybrid result between disciplines, mainly inside the design world. Which of these disciplines are essential to the collection? Do you think you got to break the imaginative borders that we were talking about before?
The performance, the music that has been composed, the material choices were all part of our show. Besides it we also did a collaboration with photographer Sanja Marusic, who did the photo shoot of this collection, and in the Centraal Museum we are referring to a white cube setting. Quite some disciplines might have melted together in the project, although the project should be approached from a fashion perspective.
The photo shoot by Sanja Marusic you just mentioned is placed in natural landscapes, but the overall result looks quite artificial. What’s the idea behind this dichotomy/opposition? How has her vision contributed to convey the message you wanted to send?
When it comes to our aesthetics we like to play around by putting things into a different context or to refer to well-known images. The surreal aesthetics of Sanja have a very natural connection to our project – also because she is working with 2-D and 3-D illusions in her practice. So this was a match made in heaven!
As we’ve seen, you showed the collection during Fashion Week, but is currently in a museum and will also be displayed at Dutch Design Week. How important do you think it is to showcase the project in these different places? What message or context does every location give to the collection? Do you think that the meaning changes according to the place it’s shown?
We see the work as a trilogy – the show, the collaboration with Sanja and the exhibition in Centraal Museum –, although it has been created as a reaction to the catwalk setting. The photos add another layer to it. Centraal Museum shows documentation of the show, and we have installed the works as if they were paintings. This makes it possible to see all the details, which were difficult to perceive during the show because of the fast pace of such an event. During the Dutch Design Week the work will be shown in an exhibition that showcases all nominated designs for the Dutch Design Awards.
Any more future plans that we don’t know of? Do you plan on keep pushing the boundaries between disciplines, and creating collections difficult to classify?
There is a very exciting collaboration going on between our collective and Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg (Netherlands). The museum possesses a very impressive collection of Dutch folklore and traditional clothing. We had the opportunity to browse in their archives, which has been absolutely amazing! The outcome of this will be on show from mid-February. Stay tuned!