Positioned at the crossroads of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the surreptitiously sophisticated Dutch city of Maastricht obviously goes about its business without the corresponding fanfare of London or New York. But beyond hosting the world’s biggest art fair (TEFAF) each March, and perpetually acting as an incubator for contemporary culinary experimentation (check out all those Michelin stars), it also notably moves the avant-garde needle by producing the absolutely perception-altering annual FASHIONCLASH Festival.
Debuting in 2009, its mission was to present young designers to an international audience, including press and industry – which makes perfect sense, considering the talent regularly turned out by the city’s prestigious Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts & Design (MAFAD).
But it has since become something of a marker for the bleeding-edge of fashion design, letting participants imaginations’ run wild – and then presenting it all in a fearlessly theatrical, thought-provoking manner. It now includes crossover collaborations with performance art, theatre, dance…all meant to forge a new cultural context and challenge the boundaries of our visual language.
With FASHIONCLASH 2018 just a month away (June 15-17), we caught up with Branko Popovic, co-founder and co-director (together with Nawie Kuiper and Laurens Hamacher), to discuss its ongoing mission.
What would you say is the overall mission of FASHIONCLASH?
Overall, the mission is to contribute to a better world, firstly by providing a stage to a new generation of designers/artists and their new visions. Secondly, by placing fashion in the context of society; we strongly believe that the art of fashion can stimulate critical debate about controversial issues in our society. By researching and questioning “fashion,” we learn to understand the psychology of human behavior and its role in undermining stereotypes. The central question being asked, “How can we develop the fashion industry to improve well-being and equality?”
How has the festival evolved in the nine years since it launched?
It has evolved in many ways, not in scale, but in quality. First of all, we started in a small town in the south of the Netherlands, far away from opportunities for young designers. We started FASHIONCLASH to create a stage for experiment and to also show our own work. In the first editions we were building up a network and a format; later we started engaging with other disciplines such as theatre and dance. Since 2013 we started working with themes, and since 2016, we have a Forza Fashion House Project, a talent incubator to support designers’ entrepreneurship.
It is now international?
Over the years FC has grown from a single catwalk show into a renowned, full-service fashion showcase. We have developed and organized more than 200 projects in The Netherlands, and abroad in countries like China, Brazil, South Africa, Serbia, Portugal, etc. We are still a small team, working with low-budgets, but still just as passionate.
What can we expect that will be highlights of the 2018 festival?
We of course see all our participants as a highlight; it’s so amazing to welcome designers from all over the world. The 2018 edition format is quite a challenge, we have a program at 26 locations in Maastricht – we have named this ‘The Route’. This whole idea is a highlight and hopefully an inspiring experience for the visitors. Looking into detail, we have several projects we are proud of, such as “God is A Woman!?,” the Koorkappen – choir capes – project and the 10th edition of the CLASH Project that we have done since the beginning. This year we will have 15 performances, crossovers with theatre and dance. We are very excited about this.
(A sample of this year’s featured designers)