Just back from the beautiful city of Maastricht, located in the very south of the Netherlands in the Limburg region. As in my last post I do not really see myself as a 'maker' in the traditional sense, so visiting to take part in the Fashion Clash Expo was certainly an experimental venture. I exhibited my first short film Serendipity, featuring the work of Caroline Collinge, who also exhibited a costume installation, in what was for both of us a kind of combined work.
Due to a misunderstanding on the part of the exhibition organisers, who were under the impression Caroline's installation was 6x6 metres,rather than the skirt circumference being 6 metres in total, we were given a much-too-large space to exhibit in, albeit with a great sky-light and prime position next to the Café/Bar area of the exhibition venue. Fortunately, however, we had arrived early enough on the day before the exhibition started, so we were able to move another more intimate space, almost like shop unit, within another part of the venue. Viewing again the pictures below, this suited the work much much better, yet there remained enough room in the space for visitors to walk around our work from differing angles. We were lucky in the that the Timmerfabriek, an old factory building, where Fashion Clash was located, had such a range of different room sizes and atmospherics to play with.
Installation view at Fashion Clash Maastricht
Installation of my film Serendipity, featuring the work of Caroline Collinge
Costume Installation by Caroline Collinge
Close up of Costume Installation by Caroline Collinge
Boschstraat on the way to Fashion Clash at the Timmerfabriek
Fashion Clash Exhibition Banner
Entrance to Fashion Clash at the Timmerfabriek
As perhaps with all events and exhibitions, you are perhaps never quite sure who it will appeal too, despite all the best laid plans and huge amount of advertising. Yet both Caroline and I were surprised by the diversity of the and range of the visitors, who included not only fashion 'professionals' such as designers, trend forecasters, students, photographers, journalists, but also those just curious to see what was happening and to enjoy the (overall) high-standard and intriguing work on display.
Timmerfabriek, the Fashion Clash exhibition venue in the Boschstraatkwartier
Many exhibits at Fashion Clash were located in their own, self-contained space, which for any exhibitor or curator is quite a luxury. Yet the main room of the venue includes perhaps many of the elements of a 'standard' exhibition space, including a large skylight and windows along the wall, allowing plenty of natural light in which exhibit and view the intriguing exhibits in this room. The photo below also indicates the diverse range of possibilities for displaying fashion exhibits, from high tables, to perspex boxes, mannequins to garments being suspended on ropes.
Main exhibition room at Fashion Clash
Café/Bar area at Fashion Clash, scene of the opening night and closing parties
View of the Hoeg Brögk and Sint Servaasbrug across the Maas River
Outside of the main exhibition venue, the organisers of Fashion Clash had set up an Etalageroute, where photographs and fashion artefacts were displayed in shop windows of boutiques and dis-used shops throughout the city. One of the main elements of this was experimental garments made up in calico by students from the fashion department of Maastricht's AKBM, one of the most striking of which included the inclusion of a pink dinosaur in the window of the De Bijenkorf department store. This was an intriguing element in the organisation of Fashion Clash as it demonstrated how event of this kind can be embraced and incorporated into the local community, utilising the whole city as an exhibition space.
Window display, De Bijenkorf department store, part of the Etalageroute exhibition
Photography by Valentine Vos, part of the Etalgeroute exhibition
For both Caroline and myself one of the most intriguing aspects of this exhibition was what kind of work our fellow exhibitors would be showing. While my own work is much more in the realm of fashion than Caroline's, one of the main aims of this exhibition was to showcase the work of unusual practictioners in the field, or whose work makes use of a 'fashion' element in some form. Hence the word 'clash' in the title. While in some instances the sense of clash in some exhibits was not so clear, in others it was more pronounced. Some the work that most intrigued us had to do with the both the materials used, such as Ulrik Martin Larsen's knitting together of plastic tags to create almost jewel-like pieces, and also in the theatrics of their display, such as Sophie Duran's jewellery, exhibited in jars normally associated with taxidermy, entirely appropriate for their crustation or insect-like form. Susanne Klemm's ceramic necklace and cameo rings were also a highlight of the exhibition.
Knitwear by Ulrik Martin Larsen
Jewellery and film by Sophie Duran
Necklace by Susanne Klemm
In participating in Fashion Clash it was an interesting opportunity to discover more about how fashion can be exhibited in an way that retains its aura of vitality and exuberance. This was particularly the case with the Etalageroute, where visitors were encouraged to explore the whole city of Maastricht, and its own status as a 'Fashion City'. The inclusion of 'performing fashion' through fashion shows and the location of a shop selling clothing and jewellery by the exhibitors inside the exhibition space also added to this experience. The main down-side for us as exhibitors was the mis-spelling of Caroline's name on the exhibition's flyers and in the accompanying magazine, proving that it's not always possible to control everything in relation to your own exhibit. Another curious side of Fashion Clash was the magazine commissioned by the organisers, and made in part to comemmorate its staging. Much of the content of this publication had little to do with the actual content of the exhibition and its accompanying events overall. It was also poorly designed, which was rather surprising given the excellent international reputation of Dutch typography and graphic design generally. Overall, however, both Caroline and I were impressed with the organisation of this exhibition experience, and it will be intriguing to track its future development as it establishes itself as one of the Netherlands leading annual fashion expos. In answer to the question of whether Maastricht is a 'Fashion City' in its own right, it's probably better to say that it is certainly a place of fashion consumption, judging by the number of high-end boutiques to be found in the city. Judging a city on its ability to produce, as much as consume, fashion will, no doubt, be something I shall return to during the course of my research.
Even more photos, including those of the catwalk presentations, taken by top fashion photographer Peter Stigter can be viewed on the Fashion Clash website: www.fashionclash.nl
More of Caroline's work can be viewed at: www.cabinetofcuriosity.org