(Title of the Thesis by Duran Lantink, the text was comissioned by the Sandberg Institute)
My Jan Jansen sandals fall through the loft hatch onto the floor. A thick blue sole with rounded ridges, a pink metallic wrapover strap with Velcro and a green metallic strap over the foot, close to the leg. Yes, I like sturdy shoes and these sandals made me about 5 cm taller and that’s why I wore them. For a while. Afterwards, they languished in a dark loft. Forgotten. Now, in the clear light of day, they look better than ever, with that extra dust and those bygone times. I give them to fashion designer Duran Lantink who loves to recycle fashion items.
In the hands of Duran, they underwent a transformation that I had not expected: he stuck them into the soles of two cut-off Nike Air Max sneakers, using three small tubes of superglue. The back became higher. Walking pleasantly – no, that was no longer possible, but you got something in return: the Jan Jansen flavour, fused together with the contemporary Nike.
This is how I came to see Duran on Facebook, sitting in the front row, wearing ‘my’ sandals, they walked by on the catwalk on long, slim, bright red glossy legs and with an extra piece of string around them as if the superglue might give way, on a screen-print on which the shoes were recorded by the sun itself into a radiant universe.
My shoes. Everyone’s shoes. The agreement was that I could borrow them, but the new height seemed extremely unsafe to me. Whenever I saw them an uneasy feeling came over me because I had forgotten to clean the sandals and the blackish mark made on the inner sole by my sweat and grubby feet had not yet been washed off. Duran’s trainee managed to do it in the meantime, thank God.
being yourself = leaving yourself
Duran Lantink is studying at the Sandberg Instituut: Fashion Matters
But why does fashion matter?
For Giambattista Valli, like most other designers it is a quest for beauty. ‘Real beauty is the one that touches the senses, yes, you can almost say it strokes you - it caresses you.’ (1)
But in the one-off Fashion Magazine by photographer Alec Soth I read that he interprets beauty as a tool to engage the viewer, and that he hopes that in fashion ‘they are trying to inspire change’ too. ‘But instead of causing you to quit your job, those pretty girls with handbags have you working overtime. The problem with fashion magazines, and with the industry as a whole, is that the understanding of beauty can be so flat.’ He did find it difficult to find his own voice in this fashion project but he discovers it in recognising the gap between Paris, the city where he photographed fashion, and Minnesota, where he lives. ‘I am trying to explore the distance between Paris and Minnesota. If photography documents anything, it is the space between the subject and myself.’ (2) And maybe this is the value of fashion: exploring the space between the clothing and yourself.
‘Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines. What they heal is the rupture reality makes on the imagination. Opposite the facts of reality: The facts of who you can be.’ (3)
Why does fashion matter, I ask Duran.
‘Fashion is my way of communicating. Fashion is simply my material, my voice. In the same way as someone else paints, I make clothing, fashion.
In the past, fashion showed which group you belonged to, a means of identification, whereas today, fortunately, it is approached much more openly. My work is dis-identifying and instead of sticking to general themes I approach each item individually, and this is what makes the overall effect eclectic.’ A collective identity, an ‘us’, is always limiting. Fashion can be an ideal way of bringing people together without allowing their individuality to be lost.
I have a lemon that lookes like an octopus, long fingers growing on or out of it. An outlandish lemon. But yet: it is not everyday, but it is just a lemon – these grow too. A rare, strange and beautiful specimen that I keep with me until it shrivels. As you don’t come across an octopus lemon like this every day, you might find it gruesome, weird, scary, but its being is a yellow lemon. People come in all colours, heights, with and without arms and legs, with and without hair, rare or more average.
The fixed data are more or less: a head, a torso, arms, legs, gender, a person can speak, hear, feel, but everyone reading this list already knows that it is not correct. It is a statistical average of a person. One person can hear better than another.
The average skin colour according to artist Tom Lorenz de Jong in Group portrait (Ink jet print, 107 x 182 cm in acrylic frame 200 x 120 x 7 cm. 7.049.836.368 pixels (world population) on paper. 2013) shows a curious pink with a dark glow.
’Since I’ve been studying at the Sandberg, I’ve started to observe the behaviour around me more closely,’ says Duran. ‘People are sometimes so transparent, they say what they think you want them to say, or in a work situation it becomes apparent that there’s a hierarchy, which means that there are certain things you may not say or do. But we are free and each others’ equals. I am not more important than someone else and vice versa. Mark Rutter is not more important (but perhaps more normal).
My father passed this colour on to me but he died soon after I was born. I don’t understand white as a norm, I want to disregard it, skip it. I grew up with my white Dutch mother and her family. So if someone asks ‘what are your roots?’ I give them a strange look. As a child I was simply self-willed. When I was nine, I showed up at school in my mother’s ‘Puck and Hans’ dress. But don’t imagine that I was bullied; I was just very cheeky. I used to cycle to school in a different outfit each day. I still cherish the ‘I do what I want’ attitude of those days. ‘
As luxury chains the big fashion labels are comparable with H&M. At a party, I recognise a dress as the dress that was recently in the Van Ravenstein window display, I see the Dries van Noten tops, the Marni look. It is beautiful, attractive but nevertheless a mass product. A ‘normal’ but on a luxury scale.
Duran adds: ‘In the fashion world they always present a unified whole: a big ego lurks in the big brands, not only that of the person who buys it but also the ego of the brands themselves. A Prada jacket in a Prada shop prefers not to be combined with something else. There is the Chanel look and there is the Dior look. The reality of the world does not correspond to this, nothing has just one look any more.
My interest flows to the possibilities in the future, people who would like to be blue or a merman. Feeling that they are a dog. My generation lives with gender fluidity and all other differences in a flexible way; I want to move forward from there. Unravelling history is fishing after the net, whereas I want to focus on those blue people and bird creatures, the juicy possibilities of the future.
‘Don't ask me who I am and don't expect me to remain the same.’ We can’t get away from the fact, it is, perhaps by accident, a quote by Michel Foucault. He states that we people have become work machines and he places The creative unexpected self versus the functioned disciplined self. He goes on to present a flexible self, because your self is not a fixed entity. A Syrian who comes to the Netherlands does not remain the same man as in his country of birth. An adolescent who leaves the parental home changes. I have become a different person since I stored away my seventies Jan Jansen sandals.
According to Foucault, power regulates human behaviour. He is not (only) speaking about police officers and schoolmasters, but is referring to everything that disciplines us towards ‘normal’. A Lactacyd advert, (dis)approving glances in the street, a Facebook post. But while everything is power, Foucault does succeed in his later philosophy in factoring in space for self-care. A loving relationship with a fluctuating self, such as an attempt to keep at bay domination as well as powerlessness, narcissism and resentment, allowing us to function as a dear friend, a good neighbour or citizen.
Life as a living form that you need to keep on creating, intercepting, and re-creating.
The normal, about which so much is said: the finger that points to a tiny little circle, that’s the way we do that here, that’s how we are. This way, then. Not differently. Normal, what is normal? In my favourite book, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson tells of her adoption by a Pentecostal couple. She writes about her mother: ‘She adopted me because she wanted a friend. A girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster.’ Winterson then explains to her mother: ‘When I am with her I am happy. Just happy.’ Her mother’s reply: ‘Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?’ But there is a way out: in her parents’ house there were six books. After having read them all Winterson understood there was something else she could do. ‘Fuck it’, she thought, ‘I can write my own.’
Duran: ‘For me, fashion means that everything is possible, that you can look the way you want. That it makes you bigger, strong and powerful, just as I went to school in a dress. That’s it. Disidentifying.’
Blessed are the sissies
Blessed are the bodices boy-dykes
Blessed are the high femme
If, then, we have to clothe ourselves,
Against the cold. for instance, or in the name of something,
in the shreds of this or that time past,
stories and memory-props that tell us nothing.
except that we were already there
in the today that existed before today-
If we can only preserve ourselves in the now
By continually re-inventing ourselves in the now,
then preferably simple by means of clothing.
you are sitting at a table. Suddenly you see how someone
was crossing ice, how the cold got its grip on him
Or some other fate and you say: look
here you have his shoes, leather jacket, gloves.
‘Where is time? Time is here.’
‘The Sandberg allowed me to think more freely, not immediately cutting and making things with needle and thread, but space to think and fantasize. Using the sale-pieces from farfetch.com, the sale Walhalla of the expensive brands, I presented a lookbook in which I combined the clothing from the sale to form new imaginary creations. I see myself as a virtual design studio that makes new unique items from the purchases on far-fetch.com. The pdf file goes to the client in New York or Rio de Janeiro and a local atelier unpicks them and remodels them into a unique piece of clothing, following my design. In this way, I bring the high fashion cast-offs back to the highest regions again but now as a really unique one-off piece.’
‘Don't ask me who I am and don't expect me to remain the same’.
Duran: ‘I chose the title of the thesis because I find the ‘who are you’ irrelevant. That changes by the day and if you look towards the future, everything is completely open. You change with it, with every second that ticks by. The so-called classics also change.
Even a white T-shirt becomes tighter or looser and the sleeves change again. A trenchcoat now is not what it was. A white shirt.
‘The Sandberg pushed me to being less lazy and more daring. What I undertake has a firmer basis, before that it was purely intuition. Now I take the time and leisure to produce quality. The message is concealed in the seams and inside the clothes. Allah, Buddha, Zeus – the world is for everyone.
The message is clearer and more invisible. Individuality. Strong and powerful.’
(‘OK, later on I discovered that a Masters also has a theoretical side, and in my enthusiasm I overlooked it, my research takes place more in images than in words. But there are restrictions, a certain number of words, reflecting textually on your own work.)
My wedding dress is/was a dress with a print of a green coloured cosmos by Peter Pilotto. The marriage lasted half a year, and it was time to link a symbol to it. I asked Duran to alter it. The dress was too tight, so I hoped for a big pair of scissors that would make everything a bit looser, a new dress that would waft around me.
But it turned out that the dress remained untouched, a long scarf was added like a wide tie at the front, sleeves from a Chanel jacket sewn onto it, an extra skirt under it. So when Duran started working on his Sandberg collection (the idea of the virtual lookbook made real by combining high fashion cast-offs) I gave him my dress again. When I interviewed him in his studio I suddenly recognised a strip of fabric of my former wedding dress in a new black dress: the green, my beautiful favourite cosmos green has been dipped in black dye. ‘Oh, I still have the front,’ says Duran to reassure me. But I accept: don’t expect the dress to remain the same.
1 A magazine curated by Giambattista Valli
2 Paris Minnesota , Fashion magazine by Alec Soth
N0 B Featuring Bernhard Wilhelm February 2002