iNDiViDUALS shifts things up

The Amsterdam brand’s new generation leaves a message to the fashion industry.

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We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again—collaboration is the way to go. In times that call for segregation and caress a boosted ego, we choose to join forces with others and push the limits of collective creativity. And who better to take as a model for exemplary collaboration than Amsterdam’s very own fashion collective, iNDiViDUALS. Initiated by AMFI and run by 30 of its third and fourth year students from the fields of Branding, Management and Design, the platform is a fusion of talents where the ambition to challenge norms meets practical skill and sharp decision-making.

With a new generation taking the reins each semester, iNDiViDUALS is a continuous narrative that’s ever evolving. Currently run by its 25th generation, the brand finds itself in a distinctively transformative period. Shifting the platform’s focus towards a total reconceptualization of how the industry functions, GEN 25 is making some serious moves to generate meaningful conversation around fashion as a tool for socio-political change. Intrigued by iNDiViDUALS’ new direction, Glamcult sat down with the team to discuss the ego, balance and, naturally, the impeding future.

What is the new direction you’re going into?

iNDiViDUALS has been around for more than 12 years, and, traditionally, it’s been all about bridging the gap between education and the industry, allowing students to experience and learn from the fashion world as it is in its mainstream form. After a 10-month re-organisation, iNDiViDUALS changed course form mimicking to challenging the industry. As GEN 25, we prioritize value decision-making over profit decision-making. We do, naturally, need a business model to survive as a brand, yet we want to reconsider what drives us conceptually. Do we need an entire collection? Do we want to present our garments on a catwalk? Are fashion events necessary at all? With these questions in mind, we’ll also be focusing on sharing the knowledge we gain throughout this process. We’re here not to teach, but to inspire; and we want to do that radically yet respectfully.

Why is collaboration important to you as a collective?  

When you collaborate, you share knowledge. And, specifically at iNDiViDUALS, collaboration allows us to familiarize ourselves with all aspects of the fashion world, not solely with design, but also branding, management and so on.

There’s 30 of you! How do you deal with everyone’s artistic ego?

By putting the brand first. iNDiViDUALS is a company, and it comes with its values. Everyone who’s here wants to challenge the system, this connects us all and it allows us to put our mission of breaking through the industry’s walls first. That’s how we cope with the ego: through this shared, ambitious goal. And the beauty of it is reflected in the name iNDiViDUALS too: your individual skill adds to another individual’s skill, and you all amplify each other.

How do you, as a brand, deal with the tension between the desire to grow financially yet be responsible to the workers and the environment? Where’s the balance?

It’s hard—everyone wants to fill in a gap with their vision yet they do need profit to be able to do so. We believe that a way to find balance is to focus on what your target audience is, who you’re trying to communicate your vision to. This doesn’t mean that only that niche group will respond to your work, but having this focus allows for growth that is sustainable and responsible.

Tell me about your new collection.

[All laugh] Is there a new collection?

I’ve seen some cool coats hanging around, so something must be happening…

A fundamental change for us has been a shift from working towards an entire collection to creating one garment only. For our generation, the core concept is the Swagger Coatan item of clothing that gained popularity in the 1920s. The name ‘swagger coat’ is, obviously, not used today yet the functionality of the coat still persists in fashion and society. So, we started with this idea and proceeded with intensive historical, social and cultural research on the values of the ‘swagger coat’ with an aim to reconceptualize those from a contemporary frame. The coat’s influence on this generation of iNDiViDUALS didn’t end with the design, however: it was also the inspiration for our overall visual language, tone of voice, branding methods and so on.

How do you wish to present the garment? I heard about your glorious relaunch event that… didn’t really happen? 

[All laugh] We started brainstorming for an event at which to relaunch iNDiViDUALS and present GEN 25’s new vision. We had big ideas, but in the end we looked at them and realized that what we had come up with would have resulted in the typical fashion event: free drinks, a DJ, sponsors and cool people that come by solely to be seen. And we didn’t want to perpetuate that, we wanted to be a mirror to the industry, to spread a message and enthuse conversation. All of a sudden, one of our team members asked through a laugh: “What if we don’t do an event at all? What if we even stage the event?” And this was a risky idea, because literally everyone at AMFI goes to these fashion events. People might never truly know what goes on during them, but nevertheless—and we confess to being part of this agenda too—they all go to be seen and see each other, to have a couple of drinks and catch up; it seems like the garments’ value is never really at the forefront.

Giving the idea a second thought, we were hooked on the proposal to stage the whole thing. Hence, we started working towards the production behind ‘faking’ the event online through stories, videos, staged pictures and so on. And the idea of a staged event perfectly fits our concept as a brand as well: “Only do what is necessary.” Is it really necessary to make a whole event when we can film it and share it with everyone anyway? These days, it’s actually the post-party Instagram pictures and videos that people look at, and we also consciously wanted to generate FOMO in people so as to force them to reflect on whether all the cool events they see online are really that cool, or if they were even real.

Why was it important to reveal that the event didn’t actually happen? I mean, you could have easily fooled everyone and moved on without disclosure…

It’s imperative for everyone who follows us to question the nature of the things they see online: “How much of that is real, how much of it is staged?” We follow brands and models on Instagram, we look at their stories and feel part of something bigger, yet we never know how much of that is true. By revealing that our party was staged, we dared people to reconsider how they feel about such events in general. And of course, we didn’t want to be rude or to preach, we simply want to engage in a conversation.

GEN 25 seems to be very involved with socio-political issues. Where is the line between politics and aesthetics, art and activism, however? Is there a line at all? 

Just because of how society functions today, design has become accessible to the point where almost everyone can create their own pieces and sell them online. Yet, having the vision for a sustainable future is what makes art a form of activism. Fashion becomes a piece of art if you focus on sustainability; that’s the modern day challenge which unites aesthetics and politics. It’s unique when you can make something that’s aesthetically pleasing yet made with responsibility. And also, we don’t believe fashion is at all only about art and aesthetics; fashion is functional, it’s a mirror of our times, but it’s also always political since you shape how you present your identity to the world through your style. Hence, fashion can be used as an effective tool to change how society functions.

How can fashion brands actively change the status quo? 

We should start not with changing the end-product, but with shifting the mentality of working.We need transparency and collaboration, and we should focus on sharing our knowledge and working with others. Brands can sometimes keep their privacy to a point where they become inaccessible. What we, as iNDiViDUALS, find inspiring is brands that are open about their practice, that uplift other brands too. We want to be part of a fashion community that supports each other and allows for everyone to flourish, instead of striving to be best by hiding research, methods, results and so on. It’s not about yours or our brand only, it’s about the industry as a whole.

Where should fashion be headed in the future?

Multidisciplinarity is the future.We ourselves are currently working on certain garments that are hand-made and others that are entirely digital. We wish to see the differences between how those two mediums function, but we’re not siding with either. It’s best to combine the two mediums and compare; going into one extremity is never productive. It shouldn’t be one way or the other, we can use the best of both worlds and combine them in unique ways.

Words by Valkan Dechev

All images courtesy of iNDiViDUALS

 

www.individualsatamfi.nl

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