Commissioned as part of the NL Dutch pop-up projects scheme in London, Living Room sees People of the Labyrinths project their vision of fashion in a wider sense – more fashion as art.
The People of the Labyrinths (POTL) label was started by Hans Demoed and Geert de Rooij in 1984 after their studies at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem. And they have remained true to the more ‘fine art’ traditions of the Institute, in which fashion is taught more as a branch of art than perhaps at other institutions in the Netherlands.
Continuing the traditions of the Arnhem art school spirit, POTL has over the years collaborated with other artists and designers and it is this side of fashion that Demoed and de Rooij showcase here. For example, the gallery is hung with a set of framed photographs entitled The Golden Age by Erwin Olaf, commissioned by POTL to represent their autumn/winter 2005/6 collection. Shot in the colour and styling of Dutch old masters, the images, especially when viewed large-scale in the gallery, highlight the varied and complex print techniques used by the designers.
A long table covered in a bold print splattered with metallic and fluorescent accents is dotted with work commissioned for Koninklijke Tichelaar Makkum by Dutch designers such as Hella Jongerius, Studio Job, Studio Makking & Bey, Jurgen Bey, JKN Alexander van Slobbe and Roderick Vos.
One reason for People of the Labyrinths' closeness to fine art is through their characteristic use of silkscreen prints and hand-dyeing techniques, creating ranges in natural colours; often muted bright or earthy tones. The pattern element to their work led them to develop an interior fabric range of fabrics with application for a wide selection of products from bedding and rugs, to upholstery and curtains on bases ranging from silk voile to cow hide.
We asked POTL about Arnhem, where they still have their studio, their flagship store and they also teach on the fashion course at the ArtEZ Institute. What’s special about the ArtEZ Arnhem style?
Geert de Rooij: “It’s Arnhem in style because it is authentic and different – the Institute is 60 years old in 2013. It is important here (at ArtEZ) to develop your specific talents into a very personal style. The questions here are always ‘Why are you doing this?’ and ‘What does it mean?’"
NL Dutch pop-up projects in London is managed by independent curator Ken Pratt and we asked him how the Living Room project came about.
“I met Hans and Geert last year during a journalists’ group tour to Arnhem organised by the Dutch Ministry of Economics, focusing on the city’s fashion activities. Hans and Geert hosted a wonderful dinner in their home and it really was the perfect antidote to what one comes to expect from these press trips. It was great food, good wine and wonderful conversation as opposed to yet another PowerPoint presentation."
“I was immediately struck by how it brought to mind the way in which ‘the domestic’ and ‘mercantile spirit’ was so bound up in Dutch culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; how the home and what was within it all played an essential role in how business was conducted. It was wonderful to feel that one immediately understood what, how and why the Netherlands had developed into such an important centre of trade and culture and also to see how that spirit lived on. It also struck me that although these cultural characteristics were a feature of all major Dutch cities during The Golden Age."
“Quite aside from the fact that the opportunity allowed me to learn more and more about POTL’s history and practice in a relaxed and enjoyable context, I think I already decided that evening that I would like to do some kind of project with Hans and Geert partly because all the ingredients that appeal to me – the seamless connections between the social, design, art and culture as a living beast - were all present.”
Images courtesy of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in London
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