With Matylda Krzykowski, Designer and Curator of The Clash Project

By now we’re used to furniture designers making art, artists making furniture, and every possible variation along that spectrum. But in 2009, when three of her friends started the Fashionclash festival in her hometown of Maastricht, the Netherlands, designer and blogger Matylda Krzykowski was convinced her colleagues outside the fashion industry might have something to contribute. She rounded up 10 furniture, textile, and graphic designers and asked them to modify their work for the catwalk — in most cases having no idea what they would come up with until the final “outfit” was delivered to her door. The first year, artist Tanja Ritterbex donned a glittery pink Barbie dress and asked to be rolled down the catwalk while she waved at the audience like Queen Elizabeth. The second year, a designer-artist couple from London created a massive, wearable Tyvek tote bag and requested it be modeled by an old man. And for the 2011 show, presented last weekend, one of the designers encased her model in a mountainous wooden cake, with only her head poking out at the summit — in other words, nothing you wouldn’t expect to see at an actual fashion show. We asked Krzykowski to tell us a little bit more about the project and about five selections from this year’s collection which are shown here, alongside the participant’s usual work.

All Fashionclash photos by Lonnke van der Palen

How did you begin contributing to Fashionclash — which is essentially a means to promote young fashion designers — when it launched in 2009?
“Three of my friends founded the event, and I suggested a project where people who have no idea how to actually make clothes could be invited to do an outfit. I liked the idea that the participants would have to work within their own abilities and with their own personal choice of materials, which is why the show is subtitled ‘Fashion for non-fashion designers.’ I believe it’s good as a designer to sometimes focus on other disciplines in order to find out more about your own abilities. Luckily my friends at Fashionclash — Laurens Hamacher, Branko Popovic, and Nawie Kuiper — trusted me enough to give me the opportunity to execute the idea. I love their motivation to build up a platform for fashion in Maastricht, the place where I studied and still live; they believe in the hidden potential of this city in the same way I do. The quality of life is so much higher here than in many of the places I’ve visited.”

Do you give the designers any kind of brief, or do you just say: ‘Make something wearable’ and then let them go nuts?
“Exactly! I just tell them over and over that it has to be wearable on the catwalk. Sometimes the outfits are so crazy, but the designers are actually always very excited to participate because it gives them a different platform for their work. When you look at the designers’ actual work alongside the outfit they made you see a lot of similarities — the approach of creating things is the same, the materials are the same, and the colors too. The thing is that Fashionclash has to fight for any budget every year; everything is self-initiated, and the money every creative recieves from us is tiny. That’s why I always encourage the designers to use materials they already have in their studios. And yet the outcome is aways completely unexpected — sometimes I don’t know what their submission will be until the day it arrives at my house, and it’s like unwrapping a big suprise box. ”

What’s the strangest piece you’ve had so far?
“The first year, the artist Leonid Babiichouk walked the catwalk naked, with his whole body painted black and just some black and yellow paper elements on his face, penis, and hands. It was a little self-exposing and attention-seeking, but it was perfect timing because he graduated that same year.”

1. Foamboy by Niek Pulles (top), and Architectural Acoustics
“Nick graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven last year and makes videos and fashion along with design. He used the same foam for this project as he did for his graduation project, Architectural Acoustics, which he presented in Milan this year.”

2. Zoethout by Sue Doeksen, and untitled illustration
“Sue, a graphic designer, collaborated with Tim, a carpenter, to make this massive cake on wheels with a cherry on top. It’s her largest project to date. When the two of them arrived in Maastricht with a rented car we couldn’t find a storage space with a door wide enough to roll the dress through.”

3. Mr. Black by Fabian von Spreckelsen, and Galoper Grand
“Fabian’s black dress made of cardboard is very surprising because he mainly works with steel, and with this piece he made a conscious effort to try soemthing new.”

4. Re:cover Dress by Fredrik Färg, and Re:cover
“Another one of the designers actually suggested Fredrik, a product and furniture designer based in Stockholm, who made a  dress that looks like a flower. With him I had no idea what I would get until he sent me some blurry images he took of his girlfriend Emma, who was wearing the dress in order to show me how you put it on. He used the same material, felt, for a previous collection.”

5. Inspired by m.&mme by Valentin Loellmann, and m.&mme
“To make this ballerina-like dress, Valentin covered an old table from the flea market in Belgium in epoxy and a mix he calls ‘Valle Spezial’ — wood dust combined with secret ingredients.”