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Connection with today’s culture

With this strategy, the VAN SLOBBE VAN BENTHUM collection has a connection with a development that is being revealed in more places in today’s culture, and which was illustrated early on by French film director Agnès Varda. Her portrait of the gleaners of affluent society (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse, a documentary from 2000) follows the people who go into the fields after the harvest to gather the forgotten ears of corn, or who carefully collect and reuse restaurant kitchen leftovers. Certainly in the circles of young designers, this reaction to overproduction has become a source of inspiration for projects they like to refer to as ‘social design’. Recycling and upcycling are proven methods in this area. Whether they embrace the imperfection of the so-called ‘seconds’ from the ceramics industry or admire the pragmatism of the illegal structures in the favelas, it is clear that the ‘waste’ from the extremely perfected Western industry offers a fruitful point of departure.

Products like these are too easily labelled as fundamental criticism of the existing production and consumption systems. As if every form of beachcombing is a protest against the wasteful flow of goods in world trade. On the other hand, a thorough analysis of the system, as carried out by Van Benthum and Van Slobbe in the fashion sector, certainly does demonstrate the chances for a countermove.

Where the Mangos and the H&Ms pursue acceleration and are prepared to accept wastefulness, the designers concentrate on the remnants left behind. They look at the unfulfilled potential of the surpluses in the production chain, which are destroyed on a large scale to protect the market. Because the costs of the basic pieces are low – after all, they are stipulated by the chains – a good product can be created with a clear design signature that is still attractive in terms of price for a broad group of interested parties. The chains have already guaranteed quality control and the buyer can therefore be confident that the piece may be cheap but has been made under decent working conditions and with ‘clean’ materials. What’s more, because VAN SLOBBE VAN BENTHUM offers the items in limited batches, the uniqueness of each product is ensured.

VAN SLOBBE VAN BENTHUM develops collections with these lost products and is actually reacting to the fashion image both name-givers have contributed to creating with their own independent labels, which was subsequently adapted by the fast-fashion brands and taken into production and which is now – via reinterpretation – being given a new signature and returning to the fashion chain. The copy from the fast-fashion circuit is being transformed into a new original. To put it another way: the designers are taking back their own work from the collections of the fast-fashion chains; not as an art project for a museum, but as a purely commercial proposition.

Gert Staal




Temporary Fashion Museum
Guus Beumer
Maureen Mooren

This project is part of the programme track Things and Materials and the folder Material innovation.

Fashion has quietly renewed the very idea of renewal by constantly selling the past as a future, thereby framing current reality. This contrasts sharply with the idea that renewal always stems from technological innovation.