JOIN Collective Clothes is an initiative by Anouk Beckers
Graphic design Beau Bertens
Text Femke de Vries
Web development Laslo Strong
JOIN Collective Clothes
The fashion industry focuses mostly on designer status and brand identity. It portrays garments as the magical results of invisible processes. It worships values such as originality and ‘the new’. In general, fashion might be experienced as something that others do, something that is not for everyone. Although it is perceived in this way, fashion is actually already a collective practice. In daily life, we can find the simple example of everyone wearing clothes. Fashion is something we all participate in. JOIN Collective Clothes actively accelerates this idea by inviting everyone to JOIN.
JOIN Collective Clothes is a design and research project which explores fashion as a collective practice, focusing on making and wearing clothes together. In this project, everyone is invited to make a single piece of a garment. Together, the pieces made by various makers create a whole outfit. The essential tool of the project is an open source modular system that consists of four different shapes: top (J), sleeve (O), trouser leg (I) or part of a skirt (N). Every shape is an addition to a growing collection of clothing-pieces that can be assembled into a variety of garments. A manual guides the maker through the process of making one of the four different shapes. Each piece, made by someone else, can easily be assembled, exchanged and re-assembled. The possibility for everyone to join in as a maker, and then to re-arrange the pieces of each outfit as a designer and wearer, playfully but critically questions the characteristics of the fashion system.
The garment as a set of shapes, a collection of pieces, can be seen as a metaphor for the (fast) fashion system. By deconstructing the garment into parts and translating it into a modular system of loose and exchangeable elements, JOIN Collective Clothes turns the garment into a fluid object. What if we open up the fashion system and explore it as a non-fixed entity, a system where people can playfully join in, where everyone is invited to produce fashion together? The de-assembled garment as a system offers an alternative perspective from which we can question the ways in which fashion is produced. JOIN Collective Clothes therefore doesn’t only explore the technical side of producing a garment but also characteristic values in fashion such as ownership, identity, originality and authenticity.
As a participant in JOIN Collective Clothes, by making (part of) a garment yourself, you are directly part of the production cycle. It might sound simple, but it is through joining together and making that we can connect to the garment, to fashion, and to each other. By doing this we are opening up discussions on alienation and mystification in fashion: Who are the makers in fashion? When we connect the parts made by various makers into garments or outfits, a network of makers is created. This shifts the focus from the individual designer to a collective practice. JOIN Collective Clothes thus questions the role of the designer: Is there a difference between a designer and a maker? Can a garment be designed by more than one person? How does this affect the identity of the maker?
The specific construction of the garment pieces in JOIN Collective Clothes offers the wearer the possibility to constantly assemble and re-assemble the parts, creating a garment in which different silhouettes, and different makers, come together each time it is worn. The result is a fluid garment animated by connections between makers with various skills and backgrounds. Hierarchical relationships are explored: makers in relation to makers, makers in relation to clothing, and the role that makers have in relation to the consumer or wearer: how does the freedom to assemble a garment yourself affect your behavior as a consumer? How does it alter your relation as a wearer towards the garment and its makers? Is it possible to give the wearer a role as a designer? If so, how does this effect the identity of the designer and the identity of the wearer?
JOIN Collective Clothes addresses the role of the maker and wearer but it also explores the garment itself. Through the modularity of the system both makers and wearers become aware of the construction of the garment. They can question what might happen with the garment over time, how it could be assembled and re-assembled with different shapes and material. The garment might gain a life of its own as an active and fluid object. Is it an object with practical functions, is it a communicative object? Who owns the garment: the designer, the maker or the wearer? And what if we see our clothes as tools to socially connect with others, instead of as mere objects we wear everyday?
By opening up the production of clothes and inviting everyone to join, JOIN Collective Clothes enables a playful and fluid exploration of what clothes and fashion can be. JOIN Collective Clothes shows the importance of collaboration and therefore opens up new perspectives on today’s fashion system. If you want to JOIN from any place in the world, you can download the manual from this website: manual or take part in one of the workshops.