It was just last week that the members of Das Leben am Haverkamp presented their first show at Amsterdam Fashion Week—and it’s safe to say they didn’t disappoint. Although presenting their work as one, each member is very much their own designer. Speaking to the four members individually, we first met to Dewi Bekker, who revealed her fascination with fantasy, contradiction and group identity, and stressed why DLAH is the perfect fit for her. “I didn’t want to become part of just any collective; it’s this particular collective that fits me.”
Tell us about the collection you just presented!
My new collection represents an alienating group identity that is defined by an absurdist aesthetic that includes bright colours, striped patterns, rubber gloves and masks. During our show at Amsterdam Fashion Week, the group identity was reinforced by flags and visuals, and reunited in a tableau vivant. Actually, it was an overkill of expressing this identity.
You draw inspiration from myths and alter egos such as James Bond, Bolivian medicine men and superheroes. How do you bring these into your designs?
My sources of inspiration do all have something in common; they include elements of fantasy, humour and the everyday life—the clash between these topics fascinates me. I try to capture this clash in my collections and balance them in a new way every time. Sometimes I only draw on concepts from my sources of inspiration and sometimes it is nothing but visual. After defining the concept or visual concept, I start to make collages and material experiments, which will later be translated into a collection.
What made you want to become part of DLAH?
I didn’t want to become part of just any collective; it’s this particular collective that fits me. I like to collaborate and to do individual projects at the same time—with Das Leben am Haverkamp we created a platform that gives us the opportunity to do so. Since the four of us are the co-founders of the collective and share the same vision, we can decide on the direction that Das Leben should be heading into. We are able to make sure it will develop in the same way as our needs and therefore it will always give the right context to our work. I also like the fact that I’m surrounded by talented designers, it gives me the opportunity to reflect on my own work.
You all share quite a surreal and quirky aesthetics with your designs; do you think this is why you compliment each other? Do your ideas ever clash?
I think this reinforces our movement, but besides those aesthetics, we work with overlapping themes as well. Sometimes our ideas do clash but this is not a problem at all, it can bring tension into the collective, in a good way! Our ideas clash in the sense that every member has a very particular style in the individual projects we do. The fact that we do have different opinions and individual ideas is exactly what makes us stronger. We have a ‘Das Leben am Haverkamp aesthetic’, which we exhibit with our collective projects, and in our own projects we can do whatever we want to do.
Although you all create separate work, do you inspire each other or does it always stay very separate?
We share a studio, which looks like a big playground with semi-finished stuff and experiments lying around everywhere. It’s unavoidable to not get inspired by the other designers. During the process of our individual work we discuss a lot and reflect on each other’s work, but in the end we all have strong, individual styles, which ensures that our work doesn’t become a blur. When we’re working on our collective projects we are, of course, collaborating and making decisions together.
As a collective, you say you are interested in the “tension between individual and collective identity”. What is it you find fascinating about this?
When it comes to fashion, we might think that we have a unique individual identity but in the end everyone is part of a particular group identity. For someone who isn’t part of this group identity it is hard to notice any visual individual differences at all. For example: people who belong to a certain subculture thinks they are unique and that they have a strong individual identity, at the same time outsiders are regarding them as a stereotype, which is a fascinating contradiction. Fashion is all about showing who you are, who you are not, who you would like to be, or who you don’t want to be anymore.