Q: What is fashion?
A: Only Arnhem has the answer. Or does it?!
When deciding what direction to take for the 2011 Arnhem Mode Biennale JOFF, the creatively named Creative Director, thought back to the 2007 edition where he overheard a mother and daughter having a discussion while gazing at the Yoshikazu Yamagata installation. The mother turned to her daughter and asked “Is this fashion?”, the daughter did not answer in fact nobody did, the question just hung in the air. This ignited a curiosity within JOFF and developed into the idea behind the exhibition, an exploration into “What is fashion?”
The main exhibition at this year’s Biennale invites visitors into the world of fashion and shows it to be exhilarating, passionate and complex beyond definition. JOFF made the observation that “fashion is your identity and it is how you shape your identity” and from this he decided to write a love letter the personification of fashion, a character he named Amber. This letter is not only a tribute to his relationship with Amber but also an invitation to her to celebrate what she represents (fashion) from the 1st of June until the 3rd of July in Arnhem. JOFF describes the city of Arnhem as the face of the Biennale creating maps to guide visitors through the city, on a journey through fashion. JOFF explains that as the fashionable face, Arnhem must be have make-up, this is manifested in the exhibitions that are popping up throughout the city for the duration of the Biennale.
For the main exhibition JOFF was keen to demonstrate the complexity and breadth of fashion that exists beyond the garment, he did so by approaching all of the contributing designers a simple concept; they had a dark space with one light bulb, JOFF challenge the designers to ask themselves’What is revealed when the light is turned on?’ Each given forty to eighty square metres to explore their response, JOFF instructed them to switch on their light and see what happens, revealing their vision beyond the garments they produce.
There are three different stages of the exhibition, starting with Atmospheres and Elements which act as a build up to the final stage, Visions. Atmospheres and Elements work as a different puzzle pieces looking toward what fashion really is, including a sound installation by composer, Nico Muhly and a surrealist installation by Fashion and Design Studio ‘bless’. Finally the Visions hall is what JOFF describes as “the beating heart of the exhibition” this is where Amber (as a representation of fashion) fully reveals herself with installations from some of the most important designers of our time including Raf Simons, Prada, Rodarte and Rad Hourani.
So what is the conclusion to JOFF’s burning question “what is fashion?” we hear you cry! Well unsurprisingly he reveals that there is no answer. The conclusion that is reach in Arnhem is that we should not define fashion as one thing but embrace the fact that it is ever-changing.
To coincide with the Arnhem Mode Biennale which runs until July 3rd, a film was produced featuring the work of the 2011 graduating class of Masters students at the ArtEZ Fashion Masters. Whilst it may not have the answer, Arnhem seems a good place to start a fashion quest!