My Jan Jansen san­dals fall through the loft hatch onto the floor. A thick blue sole with round­ed ridges, a pink metal­lic wrapover strap with Vel­cro and a green metal­lic strap over the foot, close to the leg. Yes, I like stur­dy shoes and these san­dals made me about 5 cm taller and that’s why I wore them. For a while. After­wards, they lan­guished in a dark loft. For­got­ten. Now, in the clear light of day, they look bet­ter than ever, with that extra dust and those bygone times. I give them to fash­ion design­er Duran Lan­tink who loves to recy­cle fash­ion items.
In the hands of Duran, they under­went a trans­for­ma­tion that I had not expect­ed: he stuck them into the soles of two cut-off Nike Air Max sneak­ers, using three small tubes of super­glue. The back became high­er. Walk­ing pleas­ant­ly – no, that was no longer pos­si­ble, but you got some­thing in return: the Jan Jansen flavour, fused togeth­er with the con­tem­po­rary Nike.

This is how I came to see Duran on Face­book, sit­ting in the front row, wear­ing my’ san­dals, they walked by on the cat­walk on long, slim, bright red glossy legs and with an extra piece of string around them as if the super­glue might give way, on a screen-print on which the shoes were record­ed by the sun itself into a radi­ant universe. 

My shoes. Everyone’s shoes. The agree­ment was that I could bor­row them, but the new height seemed extreme­ly unsafe to me. When­ev­er I saw them an uneasy feel­ing came over me because I had for­got­ten to clean the san­dals and the black­ish mark made on the inner sole by my sweat and grub­by feet had not yet been washed off. Duran’s trainee man­aged to do it in the mean­time, thank God.

being your­self = leav­ing yourself

Duran Lan­tink is study­ing at the Sand­berg Insti­tu­ut: Fash­ion Mat­ters
But why does fash­ion mat­ter?
For Giambat­tista Val­li, like most oth­er design­ers it is a quest for beau­ty. Real beau­ty is the one that touch­es the sens­es, yes, you can almost say it strokes you — it caress­es you.’ (1)
But in the one-off Fash­ion Mag­a­zine by pho­tog­ra­ph­er Alec Soth I read that he inter­prets beau­ty as a tool to engage the view­er, and that he hopes that in fash­ion they are try­ing to inspire change’ too. But instead of caus­ing you to quit your job, those pret­ty girls with hand­bags have you work­ing over­time. The prob­lem with fash­ion mag­a­zines, and with the indus­try as a whole, is that the under­stand­ing of beau­ty can be so flat.’ He did find it dif­fi­cult to find his own voice in this fash­ion project but he dis­cov­ers it in recog­nis­ing the gap between Paris, the city where he pho­tographed fash­ion, and Min­neso­ta, where he lives. I am try­ing to explore the dis­tance between Paris and Min­neso­ta. If pho­tog­ra­phy doc­u­ments any­thing, it is the space between the sub­ject and myself.’ (2) And maybe this is the val­ue of fash­ion: explor­ing the space between the cloth­ing and your­self.
Fic­tion and poet­ry are dos­es, med­i­cines. What they heal is the rup­ture real­i­ty makes on the imag­i­na­tion. Oppo­site the facts of real­i­ty: The facts of who you can be.’ (3)

Why does fash­ion mat­ter, I ask Duran.
Fash­ion is my way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing. Fash­ion is sim­ply my mate­r­i­al, my voice. In the same way as some­one else paints, I make cloth­ing, fash­ion.
In the past, fash­ion showed which group you belonged to, a means of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, where­as today, for­tu­nate­ly, it is approached much more open­ly. My work is dis-iden­ti­fy­ing and instead of stick­ing to gen­er­al themes I approach each item indi­vid­u­al­ly, and this is what makes the over­all effect eclec­tic.’ A col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty, an us’, is always lim­it­ing. Fash­ion can be an ide­al way of bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er with­out allow­ing their indi­vid­u­al­i­ty to be lost. 

I have a lemon that lookes like an octo­pus, long fin­gers grow­ing on or out of it. An out­landish lemon. But yet: it is not every­day, but it is just a lemon – these grow too. A rare, strange and beau­ti­ful spec­i­men that I keep with me until it shriv­els. As you don’t come across an octo­pus lemon like this every day, you might find it grue­some, weird, scary, but its being is a yel­low lemon. Peo­ple come in all colours, heights, with and with­out arms and legs, with and with­out hair, rare or more aver­age.
The fixed data are more or less: a head, a tor­so, arms, legs, gen­der, a per­son can speak, hear, feel, but every­one read­ing this list already knows that it is not cor­rect. It is a sta­tis­ti­cal aver­age of a per­son. One per­son can hear bet­ter than anoth­er.
The aver­age skin colour accord­ing to artist Tom Lorenz de Jong in Group por­trait (Ink jet print, 107182 cm in acrylic frame 2001207 cm. 7.049.836.368 pix­els (world pop­u­la­tion) on paper. 2013) shows a curi­ous pink with a dark glow. 

Since I’ve been study­ing at the Sand­berg, I’ve start­ed to observe the behav­iour around me more close­ly,’ says Duran. Peo­ple are some­times so trans­par­ent, they say what they think you want them to say, or in a work sit­u­a­tion it becomes appar­ent that there’s a hier­ar­chy, which means that there are cer­tain things you may not say or do. But we are free and each oth­ers’ equals. I am not more impor­tant than some­one else and vice ver­sa. Mark Rut­ter is not more impor­tant (but per­haps more normal).My father passed this colour on to me but he died soon after I was born. I don’t under­stand white as a norm, I want to dis­re­gard it, skip it. I grew up with my white Dutch moth­er and her fam­i­ly. So if some­one asks what are your roots?’ I give them a strange look. As a child I was sim­ply self-willed. When I was nine, I showed up at school in my mother’s Puck and Hans’ dress. But don’t imag­ine that I was bul­lied; I was just very cheeky. I used to cycle to school in a dif­fer­ent out­fit each day. I still cher­ish the I do what I want’ atti­tude of those days. ‘

As lux­u­ry chains the big fash­ion labels are com­pa­ra­ble with H&M. At a par­ty, I recog­nise a dress as the dress that was recent­ly in the Van Raven­stein win­dow dis­play, I see the Dries van Noten tops, the Marni look. It is beau­ti­ful, attrac­tive but nev­er­the­less a mass prod­uct. A nor­mal’ but on a lux­u­ry scale.
Duran adds: In the fash­ion world they always present a uni­fied whole: a big ego lurks in the big brands, not only that of the per­son who buys it but also the ego of the brands them­selves. A Pra­da jack­et in a Pra­da shop prefers not to be com­bined with some­thing else. There is the Chanel look and there is the Dior look. The real­i­ty of the world does not cor­re­spond to this, noth­ing has just one look any more.
My inter­est flows to the pos­si­bil­i­ties in the future, peo­ple who would like to be blue or a mer­man. Feel­ing that they are a dog. My gen­er­a­tion lives with gen­der flu­id­i­ty and all oth­er dif­fer­ences in a flex­i­ble way; I want to move for­ward from there. Unrav­el­ling his­to­ry is fish­ing after the net, where­as I want to focus on those blue peo­ple and bird crea­tures, the juicy pos­si­bil­i­ties of the future. 

Don’t ask me who I am and don’t expect me to remain the same.’ We can’t get away from the fact, it is, per­haps by acci­dent, a quote by Michel Fou­cault. He states that we peo­ple have become work machines and he places The cre­ative unex­pect­ed self ver­sus the func­tioned dis­ci­plined self. He goes on to present a flex­i­ble self, because your self is not a fixed enti­ty. A Syr­i­an who comes to the Nether­lands does not remain the same man as in his coun­try of birth. An ado­les­cent who leaves the parental home changes. I have become a dif­fer­ent per­son since I stored away my sev­en­ties Jan Jansen san­dals.
Accord­ing to Fou­cault, pow­er reg­u­lates human behav­iour. He is not (only) speak­ing about police offi­cers and school­mas­ters, but is refer­ring to every­thing that dis­ci­plines us towards nor­mal’. A Lac­ta­cyd advert, (dis)approving glances in the street, a Face­book post. But while every­thing is pow­er, Fou­cault does suc­ceed in his lat­er phi­los­o­phy in fac­tor­ing in space for self-care. A lov­ing rela­tion­ship with a fluc­tu­at­ing self, such as an attempt to keep at bay dom­i­na­tion as well as pow­er­less­ness, nar­cis­sism and resent­ment, allow­ing us to func­tion as a dear friend, a good neigh­bour or cit­i­zen.
Life as a liv­ing form that you need to keep on cre­at­ing, inter­cept­ing, and re-creating. 

The nor­mal, about which so much is said: the fin­ger that points to a tiny lit­tle cir­cle, that’s the way we do that here, that’s how we are. This way, then. Not dif­fer­ent­ly. Nor­mal, what is nor­mal? In my favourite book, Why Be Hap­py When You Could Be Nor­mal?, Jeanette Win­ter­son tells of her adop­tion by a Pen­te­costal cou­ple. She writes about her moth­er: She adopt­ed me because she want­ed a friend. A girl is sup­posed to grow up and be a mis­sion­ary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Dis­as­ter.’ Win­ter­son then explains to her moth­er: When I am with her I am hap­py. Just hap­py.’ Her mother’s reply: Why Be Hap­py When You Could Be Nor­mal?’ But there is a way out: in her par­ents’ house there were six books. After hav­ing read them all Win­ter­son under­stood there was some­thing else she could do. Fuck it’, she thought, I can write my own.’ 

Duran: For me, fash­ion means that every­thing is pos­si­ble, that you can look the way you want. That it makes you big­ger, strong and pow­er­ful, just as I went to school in a dress. That’s it. Disidentifying.’

Blessed are the sissies
Blessed are the bodices boy-dykes
Blessed are the high femme

Arche­ol­o­gy

If, then, we have to clothe our­selves,
Against the cold. for instance, or in the name of some­thing,
in the shreds of this or that time past, sto­ries and mem­o­ry-props that tell us noth­ing.

except that we were already there
in the today that exist­ed before today-
If we can only pre­serve our­selves in the now
By con­tin­u­al­ly re-invent­ing our­selves in the now,

then prefer­ably sim­ple by means of cloth­ing.
you are sit­ting at a table. Sud­den­ly you see how some­onewas cross­ing ice, how the cold got its grip on him
Or some oth­er fate and you say: look/​here you have his shoes, leather jack­et, gloves.
Where is time? Time is here.’

Esther Jans­ma

The Sand­berg allowed me to think more freely, not imme­di­ate­ly cut­ting and mak­ing things with nee­dle and thread, but space to think and fan­ta­size. Using the sale-pieces from far​fetch​.com, the sale Wal­hal­la of the expen­sive brands, I pre­sent­ed a look­book in which I com­bined the cloth­ing from the sale to form new imag­i­nary cre­ations. I see myself as a vir­tu­al design stu­dio that makes new unique items from the pur­chas­es on far​-fetch​.com. The pdf file goes to the client in New York or Rio de Janeiro and a local ate­lier unpicks them and remod­els them into a unique piece of cloth­ing, fol­low­ing my design. In this way, I bring the high fash­ion cast-offs back to the high­est regions again but now as a real­ly unique one-off piece.’

Don’t ask me who I am and don’t expect me to remain the same’.

Duran: I chose the title of the the­sis because I find the who are you’ irrel­e­vant. That changes by the day and if you look towards the future, every­thing is com­plete­ly open. You change with it, with every sec­ond that ticks by. The so-called clas­sics also change. Even a white T-shirt becomes tighter or loos­er and the sleeves change again. A trench­coat now is not what it was. A white shirt. The Sand­berg pushed me to being less lazy and more dar­ing. What I under­take has a firmer basis, before that it was pure­ly intu­ition. Now I take the time and leisure to pro­duce qual­i­ty. The mes­sage is con­cealed in the seams and inside the clothes. Allah, Bud­dha, Zeus – the world is for every­one. The mes­sage is clear­er and more invis­i­ble. Indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. Strong and powerful.’

(‘OK, lat­er on I dis­cov­ered that a Mas­ters also has a the­o­ret­i­cal side, and in my enthu­si­asm I over­looked it, my research takes place more in images than in words. But there are restric­tions, a cer­tain num­ber of words, reflect­ing tex­tu­al­ly on your own work.)

My wed­ding dress is/​was a dress with a print of a green coloured cos­mos by Peter Pilot­to. The mar­riage last­ed half a year, and it was time to link a sym­bol to it. I asked Duran to alter it. The dress was too tight, so I hoped for a big pair of scis­sors that would make every­thing a bit loos­er, a new dress that would waft around me.

But it turned out that the dress remained untouched, a long scarf was added like a wide tie at the front, sleeves from a Chanel jack­et sewn onto it, an extra skirt under it. So when Duran start­ed work­ing on his Sand­berg col­lec­tion (the idea of the vir­tu­al look­book made real by com­bin­ing high fash­ion cast-offs) I gave him my dress again. When I inter­viewed him in his stu­dio I sud­den­ly recog­nised a strip of fab­ric of my for­mer wed­ding dress in a new black dress: the green, my beau­ti­ful favourite cos­mos green has been dipped in black dye. Oh, I still have the front,’ says Duran to reas­sure me. But I accept: don’t expect the dress to remain the same.

1. A mag­a­zine curat­ed by Giambat­tista Val­li 2 Paris Min­neso­ta , Fash­ion mag­a­zine by Alec Soth 3 N0 B Fea­tur­ing Bern­hard Wil­helm Feb­ru­ary 2002