Day 6 of Zalando presents 10 days Downtown, was all about Fashion and Costume. On the programme was a masterclass by Bianca du Mortier, fashion curator at the Rijksmuseum. This masterclass was followed by an interview with designer Esther Dorhout Mees, who presented a tableau vivant of her last three collections afterwards. The scenery of the Rijksmuseum was the perfect décor for this event.
In the auditorium of the Rijksmuseum 300 people took their places and Bianca du Mortier started her masterclass. The title of her lecture was ‘Back to the Future’, about the connection between the body, society and changes in fashion. She spoke about old crafts, for instance the fabrication of lace and fur. Techniques for creating this material have become a lot faster and lace can now be fabricated by machines. The most important thing Biance du Mortier wanted to teach us was about the cycle of fashion. Why does every fashion hype come back within a couple of years? According to du Mortier, this is because society changes, mindsets change and techniques change, but the body remains more or less the same.
The interview with Dorhout Mees was about the inspiration and process for designing her collections. ‘My thoughts go through my pencil’, she said. Drawing everything that comes up in her mind is part of the process of designing a collection. Her most important message was that a collection is not a goal, it’s a conclusion of a process. The process of the 7 months, before the collection is finished, is just as important as the collection itself.
After the interview with Dorhout Mees, we were taken through the Rijksmuseum to one of the big halls. This is where a tableau vivant would be presented. A combination of her last three collections was mixed into a performance with models, musicians and singers. Although the collections had little in common for the eye, they melted perfectly together in that big hall. Dorhout Mees’s designs looked like they could have a place at the Rijksmuseum themselves, being worn by 17th century people in paintings.
The collaboration with the Rijksmuseum was a good thing, because the history of fashion is just as important as the future. The use of old paintings to explain new phenomena explains that fashion is not a superficial thing, it has a connection with societal changes and it explains people’s mindset through the years.