Peter Schamaun: Rethinking fashion education expectations
Directors of leading MA Fashion Design courses keep stressing: know who your customer is, and urge students to create elaborately researched mood boards that define that exact profile. A repeated bombardment of similar questions is launched: does he shop at Dover Street Market or a remote boutique in Uzbekistan? what are his job aspiration and how much does he earn? for what purpose would he wear this particular garment that you are creating?
Peter Schamaun, one of this year’s MA Fashion graduates from The Royal Academy of Art’s Fashion Department in Antwerp, was not keen on participating in this predestined game. In turn, he strategically presented his work-progress and final collection in a way that challenges the set rules and expectations of fashion schools, and emphasises a radical change in thought. Because, what if you actually don’t want your clothes to ‘say’ or ‘mean’ anything? Can’t the garment just be?
“WHY WOULD WE NEED TO READ A CLOTH IF SOMEBODY ELSE TOLD US TO?”
“A GARMENT CAN NOT SPEAK NOR CAN IT COMMUNICATE.”
“In the research of all my years at the academy some strong statements came back over and over again. The, apparently, vital element of reference and research — periodic and sociologic,” Peter states. “Is it for this kind of person, is it this kind of garment?” tutors would ask. “The final idea always ended with a romanticisation of what we were doing,” he continues. To test the waters, Peter decided to send a selection of his garments to the people he told it was for. “I gave the garment to some people because some other person said: it is for those people.”
The clothes were sent to fishermen in Dyfjord, Norway. Peter’s request was simple: wear the garment and take a picture of yourself while doing what you would do everyday. He aimed to see if his romantic combination of research images would actually exist in real life — the pictures show his ‘idealised man for whom the clothes are made’ taking the bus, paying for goods in a store, looking at fishing boats, drinking in a cafe.
Through receiving pictures of the garments worn in real-life situations, he hopes to devalue the ideas that we put into high-end fashion garments, and give back their actual value. Philosophising on the subject — Schamaun calls himself a mental victim of Kierkegaard’s dizziness of freedom — he came to the following conclusion: “The more you put of vocal words=air, or written words-paper, on object “X”, the more it loses its “real”. The more you point=a finger, on object “X”, the more it loses its real. The object “X” is only at its most real, when only stood there as it “is”. The more of a function, and fit it into something it is no longer, the object’s core.
My goal for this collection, was to take all this away. To stand next to the garments, in the most silent way. To show that a garment can not speak nor can communicate.”
Peter sent out garments to strangers because the education system forced him to idealise an image for the sake of coherence and creating a vision that’s ready to be accepted by the current industry; did a shoot with models just because it turns out to be the most popular and successful way to represent one’s collection. He ironically and skeptically explored all possibilities and by doing so, took a political stance; questioned and rejected the system, setting an example for fashion students to rethink the methods and options offered to them by an established set of beliefs.