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A human pace brings its own kind of joy

by Lindy Boerman

Two labels in a Prada garment adjusted by HACKED by_ [1]

In my eyes fashion represents a duality of both misery and joy. This duality is something I have been struggling with for a long while. Due to the negative environmental impact and the humanitarian injustices, I only saw the miserable side of fashion. I couldn’t experience the joyfulness for quite some time now. But when I saw a floral printed skirt made by the Dutch designer label HACKED by_, I immediately fell in love, and it caught me by surprise. This garment gave me a cheerful feeling while at the same time it reminded me about the problematic side of fashion. The skirt is made from old sale articles from H&M and modified by HACKED by_, to reflect on the overstock problem of the fashion industry and the environmental and social problems it produces. HACKED by_ wants to create an open dialogue about these problems[2] and this honest story touched me. I see both sides in the garment, and this duality is the reason why I fell in love with the skirt.

Because of this revelation, I realize I miss the duality in the current fashion system. I experience this one-sidedness not only in clothing but also in fashion discourse. I have the feeling only one side is explored with no reference to the other. Barbara Fleskens supports this suspicion by pointing out that fashion journalism disguises or completely ignores the negative side of fashion.[3] But also vice versa this is the case, when the miserable side is explored there is no reference to its beauty. This is clearly visible in the book Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion (2014) by Tansy Hoskins[4] to me, where she highlights everything that goes wrong in the industry such as its exploitative nature, but she doesn’t refer to the pleasure that fashion can bring. This I find strange because in my view, both sides are a part of fashion and both sides should be addressed.

To give an example about this unilateral communication, I was reading a statement at the beginning of the corona crisis by Rinke Tjepkema, Editor-in-Chief of the Dutch Vogue. She said: ‘I hope we will move towards a human pace in the system.’[5] While reading this I became interested in the subject, and I wondered: What does a human pace mean? How could it be expressed? And could a human pace be one of the solutions to the fashion industry’s problems? During the research, I noticed that hardly anything is written about a human pace, while I expected it to be a much-discussed topic because the corona crisis makes the exploitative side of the fashion industry even more visible. I did find a lot of information about the speed and the pace of the system, but the word ‘human’ isn’t included. This is strange to me and it almost seems as if that human part of fashion is deliberately hidden. This example shows once again the unilateral side of fashion.

This mystification has led me to an idea of Plato, which I find interesting to project on the fashion system. According to Plato, peace is the most important condition of thinking, because only when one is in peace one has the ability to think. Furthermore, he argues that a politician is someone who promotes peace, whereas an oppressor wants his people to constantly keep working to increase its power.[6] From this perspective, fashion can be seen as the oppressor because its constant focus on acceleration and the new. This, in turn, leads to unilateral communication as argued above. What fashion needs are politicians who promote peace and who do justice to the duality of fashion. And because I was interested in a human pace, I wondered: could a human pace cause this justice? 

A human pace in the fashion system, in my view, would mean three other essential principles than the ones currently dominating. The first one is the focus on the process of making. The second principle is the importance of spending time on the process. And the third one revolves around another approach towards the old and the new.  I find the practice of HACKED by_ and their use of labels a valuable expression of the third principle of a human pace. The labels represent another approach towards the old and the new, by seeing the old as relevant and connecting the old to the new. Within the garment there are two labels, the first one is the label of the previous designer and the second one is their own. This way the wearer immediately sees who the original designer is and how HACKED by_ adjusted the garment. The two labels in the garment represents honesty and openness and creates a relation between the old and the new. This is in contrast to the current situation, where there is a clear distinction between the old and the new, with the new as the most powerful. HACKED by_ shows, with the two labels, that the old is something valuable instead of something outdated. This gave me a cheerful feeling because they show both sides of fashion to me. They reflect on the harmful current situation, but also show its charm by placing the labels side by side. I feel like bringing this kind of honesty would only benefit the fashion industry. It does more justice to the duality of fashion.

When I look at how one of the principles of a human pace are expressed by HACKED by_, I hope this is the way fashion is destined to move. Earlier on, I wrote that I miss the duality of fashion. But while I was analyzing the practice of these designers, I experienced this duality in their profession. I also wondered if a human pace can be a solution to the fashion industry’s problems, and I do understand the problems are complex and substantial, but I believe a human pace could help the industry move forward. I notice that other designers, more specifically Ronald van der Kemp and Kasia Górniak, who also operate at a human pace reflect on fashion’s duality. With their concepts or ideas, they are critical on fashion’s problematic side, but also represent the joyful side of fashion with their designs. Experiencing fashion’s duality in the practice of the three designers while at the same time operating at a human pace, shows me that fashion’s duality is part of a human pace. And I wonder, is this the role fashion should play? Should fashion open up about its duality and play a more fulfilling role in an honest way?

When I revisit the statement of Rinke Tjepkema: ‘I hope will we move towards a human pace in the system’[7], I have to say I was sceptic at first. Sceptic about people, such as Tjepkema, who drop statements about fashion during the corona crisis and post-crisis. But when I look at what the human pace’s principles are, how it’s expressed and how it also reflects on the duality of fashion, I must say I agree with her. I have experienced it myself: a human pace brings its own kind of joy.

  • Human Values

DATE PUBLISHED September 14, 2020