Representing the creative future

The 2021 edition of Collectie Arnhem is craving togetherness

How third-year ArtEZ students used their collaborative module, Collectie Arnhem, to deliberate the future for fashion’s next generation

In the age of sharing, prompted by our receptiveness to communicate our lives online, collaboration has become an integral tenet and tool within the fashion industry. Further exacerbated by our present lack of physical connectivity, cooperation and teamwork have been fundamental in sustaining a business over the past 12 months. The third-year BA Fashion Design students at ArtEZ University of the Arts Arnhem are tasked to create a collaborative collection known as Collectie Arnhem and their alliance has never been more judiciously timed. As part of the module, students are required to produce a group collection from concept to execution, instigated in September and debuting their launch at the beginning of the following term. The dynamic project encourages students to better their teamwork skills while providing them with an insight into life beyond graduation, and the realities of the industry as they embark on internships at fashion houses around the world for the remaining 6 months.

Collectie Arnhem 2021 presents Drop the Pin, an exposition that considers the realities of today, and with that, the innate craving for human connectivity. “This awareness shapes the basis for a world of our own creation. Human energy drives this world,” share students from the collective, Alin-Paul Ciobanu and Leila Gordon. “It determines our direction of motion as well as the color, light, and shadows of our physical contours. This energy is invisible, yet it shapes our existence. We crave it, and we retreat from it. This collective experiment is a testament to the universal importance of connection, community, and collaboration.”

On behalf of their cohort, Ciobanu and Gordon discuss the overarching themes behind their combined efforts, the responsibility as fashion’s next generation to sustain a more ethically sound future, and channeling their collective spirit to overcome the challenges of being a fashion student during a pandemic.


What was the starting point for Drop the Pin and how did you navigate the process from conception to the final presentation?

The process for our collection began in June, as we were all quarantining in our home countries, we started collecting inspiration online within the four walls of our childhood bedrooms. It wasn’t until September that the physical process began. We were lucky enough to have Humanoid introduced as a key collaborator in our collection. The Arnhem based brand founded in punk roots gave us access to their early archive pieces as well as providing deadstock fabric and garments to work with as our main source of materials. This limitation of color and fabric immediately gave us a creative edge to work with. Connections were emerging at this point and the concept began taking shape. It had become clear that we were all chasing a feeling, something abstract. With the looming reality of the pandemic, our inspiration didn’t stray far from the collective craving for togetherness and human energy. Thus, a club-like attitude manifested itself into the naming and final presentation of our collection. “Drop the Pin” is derived from the party jargon of asking a friend to send their location, a long-forgotten ritual amidst Covid regulations. Ultimately, the final presentation of our collection is an invite into a world driven by human connection and nonverbal interaction, a constant pulse beating for togetherness.

Talk us through the staging and the narrative behind the choreography.

We were inspired by Gaspar Noé’s movie, “Climax”. A film with a central function diverging into side narratives all within a singular shot, driven by a dynamic vibration pushing and pulling the cameraman from one moment to the next. It’s a continuous flow- infinite energy playing on loop. This portrayal of a pulsing social scene is what we ultimately aimed for in the choreography of our presentation. With the creative guidance from spatial installation artist Dennis Vanderbroeck, and our director of photography, Daniel van Hauten, we were able to do so. We built the minimalist structure ourselves to serve as the central “heart” structure for the choreography to take place in and around. This beating heart is a catalyst for connection and interaction between the garments and models, while the side stories branched off and circled back to the center like veins of the narrative.

How did the decision for models to dress other models come about?

The primary concept behind our collection is making connections. Therefore, we knew the sole exchange between the models would be one of unity and tender proximity. In a big proportion, we had to model ourselves, as we were only allowed a small amount of “outsiders” due to Covid restrictions. Throughout our process, we were reminded of the importance of collaboration. This manifested itself into the details and closures of the garments. With the fundamental techniques of knotting and folding, we were able to communicate this by having the models dress each other with a simple gesture. The appeal of this lies in the feeling of a comforting resonance. Compelling narratives are layered within these simple gestures. Every garment tells a different story. The clothes lend the model a visceral edge to work with, a means to a beginning and an end.

Working as a group of 20 designers, how did you come to establish the logistics and assign roles?

As Collectie Arnhem begins every year, there is a group for the concept, textiles, finance, and PR. We all chose the group we gravitated towards. It was certainly a gradual process of understanding our class dynamic, but as we progressed, the roles functioned very organically. The drive we had as a collective to get this project created, completed, and publicized simultaneously is a testament to the resilience and dedication to our creativity and craft, pandemic or not. In addition to our subgroup efforts, we all had equal creativity in the design and sewing aspect of the collection. Every one of us had at least one garment or accessory of our own creation presented in the showcase. The sketching, toiling, and construction process was completely balanced among us.

What conversation are you hoping to strike up about your generation and your experience of fashion through this film?

We hope to communicate a shift in the fashion world. It is time to clear the name of fashion with the hope of a new outlook. Using deadstock clothing and materials from Humanoid is certainly a challenging yet enticing step in the direction of a more ethical fashion future. We ultimately wanted this collection to provide the public with an optimistic point of view, as we created a new world and community for ourselves that upholds the values of our generation. However, sustainability isn’t our collection’s selling point. This shows how easy it is to work with ethical limitations while still creating enticing narratives entirely unrelated to preaching a sustainable moral code.

What was it like creating this project under the restrictions of a pandemic? Did that impact your experience?

It was terrible. The looming worry of when the next positive student or lockdown would be was persistently evident. But, it’s also how our collection came into existence. As a global pandemic was unknown territory to us and the rest of the world, it was also a catalyst for something new to arise. We were privileged enough to come together physically and make use of the ateliers and workshops, but this came with the added challenge of social distancing, reduced capacity in the workspaces, and constant stress and anxiety brewing overhead. It greatly hindered our morale and camaraderie. However, we managed to view all these obstacles as something to be surpassed, not a barrier. Using these handicaps as strengths and sources of inspiration to our advantage.

How far was the collective ethos helpful in facing the pandemic as a student?

The collective spirit of the class was crucial in facing the pandemic. For some of us, our class and tutors were the only people we’d see for those five months of working on Collectie Arnhem. Creative differences aside, we lent on each other, developed trust for one another, and held each other responsible for showing up and checking in with ourselves. As a means of escaping our Covid nerves and stir craziness, we put the project first. Coming to school to work on Collectie Arnhem seemed like our only dose of social interaction, creative output, and physical exertion for those five months. In the end, we can proudly say it was worth it.

How far would you say that this semester at ArtEZ has benefited your awareness and development as designers?

Collectie Arnhem is meant to connect us with influential companies, institutions, and individuals in art and design. We received advice and coaching from the Creative Director of Humanoid, Maria Janssen, Head of PR of Humanoid, Daan Berkhoff, as well as styling sessions with Benjamin Aerts and lectures from spatial installation artist Dennis Vanderbroeck. Throughout the entire process, our mentors, Lenn Cox and Rens de Waal, guided the trajectory of our collection. Rixt van der Tol supervised the technical and production aspects while our machine knitting teacher, Katy Grieve, helped us achieve intricate knitwear patterns. Overall, we were able to gain insight into how the industry works and inversely leave our mark on the future of fashion.

What message would you like for people to take away from this film?

The power of togetherness. Human interaction and engagement are now, more than ever, a profound privilege and gift. It is healing. Our message is ultimately daring our viewers to rethink what dressing yourself and ‘clothing’ can mean. As our collection is inspired by the craving for human connection and energy during these times, we encourage you to tap into yourself. Feel the fundamentals of what it is to be alive at this moment. Become aware of your senses: touch, sight, auditory perception, and sense of self. Let this film allow you to slow down, speed up, or evaluate your spatial awareness. See this collection not just as clothing, but also as a tool for reverie. These garments were created from the concept of building a ‘new world’ for ourselves, we’d like our audience to consider this collection as an invitation into the community defined by togetherness and human vibration.

What was the highlight of this experience?

Definitely being on a professional film set. Seeing our collection come together in such a poetic way through the proximity of our models and the rewarding sight of them wearing our garments. It was a culmination of hard work and emotional turbulence and a much-welcomed release.