Dead White Man’s Clothing, also known as Obroni Wa Wu, is a ongoing multi-media research project that explores the life of second hand clothing material in accordance with the past, present and future global perspectives in the context of Amsterdam(NL) and Accra(GH).
‘The white man has died clothes’
‘Shop never stop’ is the slogan that you see as you walk into the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, the biggest shopping street the city knows. The street is filled with international (fast) fashion chains; shops that sell clothes, shoes and sportswear. The Kalverstraat is, like many other streets in big European cities, designed to make you buy. Affordable (cheap) clothes, available in any size, colour and according to the latest trends.
Over the last 25 years fashion has become faster and cheaper and with the use of on line purchasing fashion clothes can be accessed by the consumer at any time. This trend within the business model of the Fashion Industry has influenced the deterioration of product quality and introduced an attitude to throw garments away leading to disposable fashion. Prices are low because of overproduction, bad working conditions and non- sustainable materials. You can find a new t-shirt for a price as little as €4 (24GHC) or a new bra for €3 (18GHC). Because it’s cheap and looks good we end up buying more than we need and more than we will ever wear. Fast fashion makes people consume fashion FAST. Clothes have been transformed from pieces that shape ones’ identity to disposable goods you play around with. But what do we do with the goods as soon as we are done with them?
︎︎︎‘Luxury lies no longer in buying a single product, but within the ability to buy, throw away and replace.’
‘The mythology of self’
The great success of fast fashion is directly related to the central and symbolic role individualism claims in today's neoliberal consumer culture. The individual is able to buy, shape and reshape his/her own ‘multiple self’ at anytime and cost. Luxury lies no longer in buying a single product, but within the ability to ‘buy, throw away and replace’.
The link between clothing and identity is a long established theme in dress studies. Identity and dress have always been intimately, and can be understood in a number of ways. The most prominent has always been in terms of social class. Clothes display, express and shape identity, imbuing it with a directly material reality. The relationship between clothing and identity is not fixed and predetermined. Identity is a fluid concept, subjective, relative and changeable. Both clothing and identity travel in time and over space, between conceptual worlds in diverse cultural, geographic and temporal contexts. Therefore our relationship with clothes offer a useful lens through which to explore the fast pace changing ways in which identities are constituted in today's modern global village.
is the meaning of secondhand clothing changing over time and space? How does it
communicate within a different culture? What is the universal power of
clothing and dress as language and identity? Please navigate to the community page to read more about ‘clothing and identity’ on the Clothing Passport project.
What limits the lifetime of our garments?
A certain intimacy with clothing is necessary to foster a sustainable culture around fashion and dress. However, people in the global North have lost touch with the physical process of clothing manufacturing, deteriorating the intimate relationship with clothing. The quantity over quality mindset is a reflection of the world that fast-fashion has normalized. The way in which many of us interact with garments today is marked by a general sense of distance. There’s no seeking out unique, authentic, and interesting pieces that are made to last when you’re constantly presented with garments that embody trends, many of which come without a steep price tag or notion of longevity.
When clothing is no longer wanted because it’s ‘out of fashion’ most often it will be discarded for the same reason. On average the Dutch consumer owns 173 items of clothing. Some 50 items remain in the closet forever; they will never be worn but will be thrown away with the price tag still on them. Yearly, the average Dutch person throws away 14 kilogram of clothes that no longer fit the terms of our relationship, which are about 40 items. In Amsterdam people throw away 4 kilograms with household trash, alongside the plastic, greens, bottles and cans. The remaining 10 kilos are put in the donation bins, with the idea that it’s given out to people in need - to the less privileged.
︎︎︎‘One garbage truck of waste every second.
- M-ODE ’
A full Amsterdam-circle: Bonne Suits made from donated jeans from Amsterdam.