Over the past year and a half, I had the honour to bring 'Outsider wear' to life in collaboration with artist Jan Hoek and many others. This is a multidisciplinary collaboration in which fashion designers and artists create a product series together with so-called outsider artists. Talents with enormous productivity, in which the personality and the topicality of both their art and skills and that of the society in which they live, are powerfully expressed.

In addition to product series, they also created unique pieces, such as the hand-painted Bonne Suits or ceramic accessories. In addition, many artists have had their work translated into printed artworks such as T-shirts and tapestries. Matchmaking happened purely on equal footing and having that spark.

The Outsiders are distanced from the labour market and often do not have an independent practice as a designer – with the accompanying business model, customers, costs and income. Many of them have a personal budget and are guided daily in functioning within the framework of our society. They receive help with housing, life, income from work, and so on. But their imagination and creativity are not limited by these so-called frameworks. The Outsiders have an intrinsic motivation, which can flow limitlessly. Full of dedication, honest, personal and above all: different.

But wait a minute, isn’t that exactly what you expect from a designer? Isn’t it enormously limiting that more and more designers have to deal with healthy business operations and certain frameworks, whether or not they are forced to do so? Isn’t it the ‘Insiders’ who are slowly being pushed to another place by the conditions they have to meet? And are they having to make forced choices thanks to shrunk budgets and opportunities in a post-corona cultural landscape?

Through this kind of collaboration, the differences between belonging and being an outsider disappear. I am very happy about that. Everyone within this project sincerely forms a strong creative community where they can express and shape ideas from start to finish, resulting in a wonderfully experimental circus of creativity, a sanctuary for free spirits and their voice. Fuck what needs to be done! We do what we dream. No insiders and outsiders, but artists at work.

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In Europe, they want a new Bauhaus; the former broke with 19th-century design traditions in which decoration was the guiding principle. They went to a form of functionalism that rigidly signalled a new era, also in fashion. In the first 20 years of the twentieth century, Coco Chanel revolutionized this new era, freeing women from their corsets and – before that time – rebelliously donned the trousers. Incidentally, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake hundreds of years earlier because of an ecclesiastical ordinance that banned men’s clothing for women. And we’re still battling to get clothes “gender-free or -neutral” in 2021. It would be best to read what Alok V Menon has to say about the de-gender of Fashion.

A new era of collaborations is dawning, cross-fertilization and interdisciplinary projects like the one with the Outsiders, where economic value is not about commercial gain but personal growth, aesthetics, learning from each other and giving back to society. It is time for an open way of dealing with each other and each other’s differences. For a sustainably chosen ‘de-genderized’ life and clothing choices. Fashion and clothing go back to the cultures from which they originated. To the authentic stories in which form and function, abstract and aesthetic, craftsmanship and innovation are born in the hearts of young and old makers.

I hope the new Bauhaus can embrace the new values; otherwise, it will quickly become a gasping old-timer in a too-tight corset.

Iris Ruisch, chairperson expert panel category Fashion


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