Old things are exiting because they are old. These things where made because it was possible, with the aim of perfection. carefully created with perfect skill. looking at beautiful things makes me smile. In the old days, rich people acquired these artifacts, because they could. To show off, and to create a visible distance from the people who couldn’t afford the decadent lifestyle they represented. A similar trend is still present today. Nowadays they buy overpriced modern design or old and rare stuff, but the concept is the same. Being able to surround my self with beautiful things, of which the design has no practical function, is a privilege, that I enjoy very much. Even if it is just for the time I am hanging out in a museum, or in a fancy place of someone else. I am fascinated by old things because they are old and rare. They come from another world. One that I can never become a part of.
items from the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
2013. We eat while we walk the dog and call our grandmother at the same time. There’s no time for sitting down. You see, time is money, and definitely not worth spending on a bench in a beautiful park doing nothing – or on repairing an unraveled sweater. It’s easier (and cheaper perhaps) just to buy a new one. But can time be measured in gold? We talk a lot about time over our worn out jackets.
Perhaps a short explanation is needed.
Seven years ago, Saskia van Drimmelen gathered a few people she knew and shipped off to Bulgaria. After eight years of designing clothes for the fashion elite in Paris, she had decided to quit her own (and at that point quite successful) brand, in search of a more fulfilling way of making clothes. In a book about Bulgarian crafts, she had found pictures of needlepoint lace unlike anything she had ever seen before – and so the treasure hunt begun. What started as a research on old fashioned and nearly forgotten techniques, became what today is known as Painted.
They call themselves a hybrid fashion collective. Many people stand behind the name Painted, but in the front seats you find Saskia together with theater director (and also Bulgaria explorer) Margreet Sweerts.
Their latest project is called Golden Joinery. Inspired by an old Japanese tradition where broken ceramics are repaired with golden paint, Saskia and Margreet invite you to repair your ragged clothes with a golden thread. They organize workshops where you can bring your beloved but broken sweater, jacket, dress or pair of jeans, and together you make it as good as – or perhaps even better than – new. And this is the frame of our conversation.
Painted is doing something different. In lack of a better name – perhaps combined with peoples need to categorize everything – Painted and their series of clothes are often referred to as slow fashion. Saskia and Margreet rather (if they really have to give it a name) call it slow clothes. Though many of the ideas behind their brand is compatible with the slow fashion thinking (like the sustainability and the anti buy and throw away mentality) Painted is still doing something different.
They work in the periphery of the fashion world, far away from catwalks, collections and trends (when they were asked to open the Amsterdam International Fashion Week, their answer was a YES with a big BUT – resulting in a room where models practised their tightrope skills, while the audience could walk around and watch).
Painted means spending time on making the clothes. Most of their garments are developed over years, and a normal procedure could be this: One starts making, lets say, a dress. Then leaves it to rest for a while, until somebody else finds the inspiration to continue. The garment grows in the hands of different people, until it’s finished. Nothing is planned or designed to the end, it becomes while it’s being made. All the contributors have something to say, and every piece is different from another.
I asked Saskia and Margreet what they thought making something by hand added to a clothing, and they answered with returning the question; What do I think making something by hand adds to a clothing? I was not capable of giving a straight answer at the time being – and I’m not sure I am today either. But I know it adds something. Something of value, whatever that means. I know for instance that buying sweaters on a fleamarket and only afterwards realizing that it has been made by somebody’s hands, makes the scoop three times as good. This is of course a quite subjective way of thinking. Perhaps my idea of an old, gray haired and slightly chubby woman, sitting in a rocking chair knitting (I know this is the case only one out of twenty times) makes the sweater even warmer. Or maybe it’s the idea of somebody spending their time doing it that warms?
By the end of our talk, Margreet draws a scenario; If your house was burning, and you could only save what you could carry in your arms – what would it be (and now let’s look beyond computers and smartphones)? After the workshop, thinking about what I would have saved, I realize that this might be what Saskia and Margreet are trying to create in their clothes. A value that goes beyond money. Not just another really beautiful dress – but a garment with something close to affection.
I like to think that time invested in an out dying technique (let’s say a Bulgarian needlepoint lace) or in repairing an unraveled sweater makes it more worth than the machine produced alternative. I mean, time is after all money. Maybe we just haven’t learned to recognise the currency yet.
After attending their workshop, and becoming a part of their secret, golden brand, Margreet and Saskia asked me to add a song to their playlist, a song about something broken or golden. Not that it really has anything to do with anything, but it’s about a broken heart and I felt like it belonged here as well.
Quick fashion, one trend after another. Passion for fashion becomes synonymous with renewing yourself and being up to date.
In today’s reality where we consume more than we need, where we meet and communicate through one screen or another and where machines can basically do everything, there are some necessities for experiencing the genuine and personal that cannot be simulated by any kind of machines.
Saskia van Drimmelen has been a fashion designer for two decades, graduating from the fashion Department of Arnhem Academy of Arts. For eight years she had her own brand and followed the fashion markets system with presenting two collections per year. Her collections were selling at leading boutiques such as Colette (Paris), Brown (London) and Van Ravenstein (Amsterdam). Her work was shown and bought by museums all over the world and Adidas asked her to design a sneaker. But along the way her interest and approach changed direction. Together with Margreet Sweerts, theater director, she begun to investigate ways to create more personal, unique, “slow” clothes and in 2007 they started Painted Series – a story in garment. A label with an embrace of handmade as opposed to mass production. They travelled to places where almost forgotten knowledge of craftwork still was practiced. To Bulgaria where women knew the tradition of making needlepoint and from the Assiniboine tribe in Northern America they learned about beadery. Collaborations started with different people involved to make the slowly ever-growing collection, like a bands repertoire. The collection is not bound to a season or trends.
The starting point for Saskia and Margreet were beautiful antique family garments from Bulgaria that had been inherited through generations and added to in each led. The pieces carried a story and a soul that inspired the duo to create garments with the same idea of letting designers and artisans traditional techniques contribute. As a result the collaboration creates a personal, unique, delicate piece of clothes that carries a story, tradition and a close relationship to its creators.
With the quote from Leonard Cohen “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” the Painted present their latest project Golden Joinery. Often when we repair broken things we do it with intention to hide it and make it as if new. An alternative “broken is better than new” aesthetic – that it actually can add value and the symbolic aspects – fascinates the fashion collective. With the passion for imperfect love they invite me for a workshop where clothes that are broken or stained can be repaired with a golden scar. The inspiration came from the Japanese tradition of repairing broken ceramics with golden paint, a technique called Kintsugi. The invitation is to bring a piece of clothes that you hold dearly and that is defect, to a workshop and repair it with the same idea as Kintsugi, with golden thread or patches of golden textile. The clothes breath new life by sharing the joy of making with the traditional techniques and an important aspect is the experience and the interaction. The participants are contributing to a new brand that slowly will arise.
Gintsugi on a Seigan's Ido shape tea bowl [source]
In Painted’s studio • in the west of Amsterdam, four women came together with the originators of Golden Joinery and their brought broken beloved clothes wear. For a couple of hours we took a break from our duties and sat down to repair and to meet. I brought for myself a “new” but long looked for, perfectly worn out second hand leather jacket. The seams on the inside were completely trashed, the lining material was sticking out every time I put it on. I healed it with golden thread and the jacket slowly held together again. The golden thread gives me the feeling that it will hold forever. Knowing that, I will walk around with the golden thread on the inside, towards my body giving the feeling of a secret. If the jacket opens you might glimpse some shimmer and if you ever heard about Golden Joinery you will know the deal.
The people that come to the workshop are now a part of a new slowly arising brand. The logo, a small golden ellipse, that Saskia stitched on the left inside of my jacket is shining like a beetle and makes me a part of the ever-growing Golden Joinery. The event and the knowledge that more people have been joining the same thing –and you might spot the signs on the street–, makes it a bit special. My relationship to this jacket is now closer, like a friend that I supported. I haven’t known the friend for a long time but some you get close to quicker and some events can enhance this intimacy. This definitely did.
Apart from Amsterdam, Painted will give the workshop Golden Joinery to enrich garments in Maastricht, New York, Wrightwood, Ahmedabad, Eindhoven, Paris and Mallorca.