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  • Writer's pictureNienke Creemers

This is an interesting exhibit: State of Fashion: Ways of Caring pt. 1

On Friday the 10th of June I visited the State of Fashion Biennale in Arnhem, the Netherlands. The biennale is a reoccurring event since 2005 with the purpose of "raising awareness of the current challenges in the fashion system and to bring about real change in the sector and in society."

The 2022 event centred around the theme 'Ways of Caring'. The exhibition in the Eusebius Church looked at ways to make the fashion industry more sustainable, caring and shined a light on the broken relationship between manufacturers and fashion consumers.

Within this article I'll focus on the exhibit: fashion as encounters in which artworks were divided into three theme groups:

"EXERCISING COMPASSION enables sensing otherwise by stepping away from individual actions and focusing on the collective practices. Fashion often privileges individual needs and instant gratification over long-lasting relationships. By confronting our sufferings caused by the effects of this self-centred industry, this encounter embraces collective practices and provokes sensibilities. It touches beyond surfaces to stimulate different emotional responses and experiences. Fashion then becomes a tool and a medium that connects us with each other through sharing and making. To exercise compassion, we invite you to openly embrace feelings of confrontation and discomfort, and to embody different realities."

"TRANSFORMING NARRATIVES is a place to encounter the untold stories, unseen bodies and existing beauties that have been historically erased. For decades, fashion has been promoting aesthetic standards based on dominant discourses. Therefore, this encounter looks into our social structures, to question the Eurocentric beauty ideals that have often exoticized other's identities. To transform social narratives, it is essential to make practices visible in which the body is reclaimed as a territory of resistance. Here, you are invited to challenge the notions of gender, identity, and vulnerability. Feel free to engage with transformative narratives."

"COEXISTING KNOWLEDGES rethinks formal ways of production and distribution of knowledge. We invite you to question the hegemonic view on western science and start comprehending the multiple and incommensurable ways of knowing. It is an encounter to decentralise education and experiment with educational practices, creating space for diversity and enabling plural worldviews to coexist. There are many ways of understanding, teaching, and researching that deserve recognition. Within fashion, clothes carry pieces of information that are not always on the surface. We would like to shed a light on the ways of making threads, colouring, and weaving this fabric of knowledge together."

State of Fashion, 2022

Widi Asari & Riyadhus Shalihin

Bodies that make, bodies the consume

The work 'Bodies that make, bodies that consume' is an impressive display by Widi Asari and Riyadhus Shalihin. The duo met in February of 2022 through State of Fashion's open call and developed the installation together. The work reflects the material that has been left by the fashion industry and its constant act of erasing manufacturing conditions.

In the pursuit of bridging the gap between the people and bodies that make, and the people and bodies that consume Asari and Shalihin displayed artefact-like garments that were heavily used, stained, and damaged. The leftovers of these garments show the ruins of industrialisation processes in the global south, mainly, South Africa, Indonesia and Colombia.

When immersing myself in the installation it became apparent that all garments had care labels attached. These labels show narratives from a storyteller perspective. One reads:

"This garment is made by an individual who prides themselves on their formal and informal skills, education and knowledge of garments and their craft. It is also made by an individual who came to South Africa looking for a chance at growing their dream. They are a part of building blocks of the country.

This garment has been made by a person who hopes to teach someone new with their learnt/inherited skills. To be a maker of clothing means that you are a keeper of old knowledges.

This garment is made by an individual who has chosen a caring workspace; a healthy environment that respects and understands the importance of family, respectful work relationships and fair treatment. A space that celebrates the workers desires to be an independent creator, championing labourers who venture off into being entrepreneurs in their own right."

Najla Said

A fruit and its seed

Egyptian artist Najla Said created several images centring in on overlooked life in Cairo. Within her practice Said concentrates on the notions of identity, femininity and womanhood while "highlighting the underlying dynamics within the complex structure of society".

The images displayed in the exhibition hone in on the narrow definitions of femininity that Arab women have been limited to. Said's work aims to present different representations of womanhood through recontextualization.

Cholita Chic

Guardiana de polleras

Art collective Cholita Chic focuses on design, photography, and art. The group of sisters works on the Chilean/Bolivian/Peruvian border and studies the relationship between the three countries. Guardiana de polleras is a representation of a series of dialogues surrounding the status of the Aymara women in this neoliberal and patriarchal space. The work seeks to denounce various imperialist European concepts that have exoticised the image of indigenous women in America.

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