Comparing Dutch and UK Fashion
José Teunissen and Mattijs van Bergen compared Dutch and UK fashion with their UK counterparts in a talk timed to coincide with London Fashion Week.
'National Identity and Fashion, a UK-Dutch Comparison' was the title of a discussion at London’s National Gallery timed to coincide with London Fashion Week.
In the National Gallery lecture theatre, we heard a discussion that included both the academic and practical side of fashion. The four panelists included José Teunissen, Professor of Fashion theory at ArtEZ Institute of Arts Arnhem, Dutch designer Mattijs van Bergen, UK designer turned artist/academic Dai Rees and Dr Agnés Rocamora, Senior Research Fellow at the London College of Fashion.
Both Teunissen and Van Bergen have experience in the UK fashion world; Teunissen is also Visiting Professor at the London College of Fashion and van Bergen studied for his MA in fashion at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design.
Much of the discussion centered on the different approach to fashion taken by the education system in the two countries. Both countries developed fashion education from the mid 20th century, but as the UK had a much longer tradition of both industrialized and High Street fashion, many of the UK fashion courses emerged from the old technical schools and were more concerned with the practical and commercial side of fashion.
In contrast, Teunissen explained how the Dutch came to fashion late and the education system took fashion into the arts schools, where fashion is considered closer to art. Having a strong history and success in graphic design and product design, it became government policy to also support and nurture fashion as a design form.
Teuissen continued the story by telling us: In the 80s, when the Antwerp 6 put Belgian fashion on the map and Yohji Yamamoto and other Japanese designers showed that high fashion did not need to come from Paris or Milan, Dutch designers became emboldened, leading to the success of designers such as Viktor & Rolf and Alexander van Slobbe.
Mattijs van Bergen confirmed Teunissen’s observation of how the sober and conceptual side of Dutch culture also influences fashion. After his BA in fashion at ArtEZ Institute of Arts Arnhem, Van Bergen told us, "I wanted to study for my MA in London, I liked the fun, glamour and street and pop culture" that is so much part of the UK fashion scene – he described himself as having an ‘unDutch’ attitude to fashion. "Yet, when I was here at Central Saint Martins, I felt so ‘Dutch’!"
Having returned to the Netherlands to work from a studio in Amsterdam, Van Bergen now feels he has found a balance between the purity and simplicity of Dutch design and his love of glamour and luxurious materials.
Dai Rees is now a Senior Research Fellow at the London College of Fashion and his work has moved to creating art pieces. Both Rees and his fellow college academic Agnés Rocamora explored the future of fashion and how craftsmanship and the ‘designer as artist’ will be the new luxury.
Mattijs van Bergen noted, “A lot of fashion designers are now looking at an artisan way of working, with people asking ‘what is your craft’. Because of the High Street, designers need to be almost an artist." Teunissen concurred, saying that, "Fashion is now about giving our product added value and an artistic aspect, creating pieces that last longer than one season."
Therefore, one conclusion could be that the Dutch tradition of fashion as art may emerge to be the right path forward for tomorrow’s designers.
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