The deliciously satirical brainchild of designers Joris Suk and Tessa de Boer, this fake (but real… but fake) fashion house-cum-creative-studio lets the cracks of being shine through to present a world of faded theatrical glamour. Boasting full-on free-the-nipple aesthetics and dressing club kids and Instagram poseurs alike, Maison the Faux offers fashion fetishism underscored by a deeper socio-political message.
Based in Arnhem, NL, Maison the Faux was born out of a mutual appreciation for the garish and the ravishingly loud, and an aversion to the consumerist world of desire and narcissism upon which the fashion industry is built. Joris Suk and Tessa de Boer met at university of the arts ArtEZ in Arnhem and soon realized they shared the same modest ambition to liberate the human form from the confines and restraints the fashion industry places upon it. They promptly set out to launch a fictitious fashion house and an irreverent, genderless fashion line with the aim of shaking up the industry from the bottom up. That was three years ago, and within that time their grassroots approach has seen Maison the Faux host an array of satirical exhibitions, performances and theatrical spectacles that hold a magnifying mirror to the blatant ridiculousness of an industry in dire need of critical scrutiny.
The brazenly bold and twisted image of beauty that Maison the Faux presents—think: patent leather, thigh-high boots, fishnet stockings, frills and mesh, over-sized deconstructed silhouettes slung atop the physiques of girls and boys of all body types—unsurprisingly had all heads turning at New York Fashion Week earlier this year. Speaking of their penchant for intrinsic deconstruction and the barely suppressed urge to tear down static clothing tropes to then ruck and distort clothes on to the body, Suk and De Boer affirm that this is essentially what Maison the Faux is all about: “The act of deconstructing helps reinterpret fixed ideas of how things should be done.” As a hyperbolic backlash to the beauty ideals propagated by a capitalistic system, the creative concept studio—posing as a grand couture fashion house—aspires to dissect the evils of the fashion industry within every collection they produce.
As the fashion industry evolves in these times of political turmoil and media-saturated landscapes, designers are visibly translating the new world order into their designs—be it through printed slogans, colour, pattern and fabric or the cut and silhouette. After all, fashion is a social barometer reflecting society and social change, where designers are the visual interpreters of social cues. In the fashion landscape in particular, images are not merely a reflection but also an instigator of social reality. Notably, the images fashion continues to propagate—flawless, Photoshopped campaigns and unachievable beauty ideals—shape certain perceptions and consequently create new realities.
The indisputable power that visuals have to not only reflect a certain reality but also actively shape and influence that reality, is something Maison the Faux are well aware off. Instead of letting the system run its course, these enfant terribles set out to use the visual capacity fashion holds to help construct a reality which is a lot closer to the one we actually experience—albeit still highly subjective. Challenging the status quo from within its confined space and set parameters through the use of similarly propagandistic tools, Suk and De Boer hope to reconfigure a system built on desire into one which “does not set rules dictating how people should behave and who they need to be”.
So-called “humanwear” is one means through which Maison the Faux aim to create such a boundless environment, and their diverse castings are another. According to the design duo, “everybody and anybody should be able to be a part of Maison the Faux; we don’t like to think in target groups or contribute to this box-creating manner of marketing. If you feel Maison the Faux, the doors of the house are wide open.” This idea is realized through smudged lipstick and mesh dresses adorning male physiques alongside bound body suits encasing all body types. Suk and De Boer’s designs have consequently graced the likes of trans model and activist Andreja Pejic, outspoken artists such as Lady Gaga, Trina, Sevdaliza and Ariana Grande, and some of the most radical club goers out there.
That these designs speak especially well to shadowy clubs is far from surprising; after all, these dimly lit worlds embrace diversity with open arms. To resonate with such a crowd was a consciously made decision, and one from which the “humanwear principle” stems. Considering how they want the Maison the Faux wearer to feel in their clothes, De Boer concludes: “We want them to feel exactly like who they want to be and feel amazing about doing so.”
Although De Boer is quick to denounce the aimless state of contemporary fashion, she maintains that she and Suk see beauty in this despair; fashion, she alleges, is what establishes “a big part of our identity, on both an individual and a societal level. What we wear explains who we are. It defines us and can help express our identity.” The mystique surrounding the fashion industry—specifically the notion, as she so candidly puts it, “that there are all these things made and produced each season but nobody seems to know why”—is what both terrifies and excites Maison the Faux’s founders. Don’t let their blatant piss taking of the fashion industry misdirect you away from their intricate love for fashion as an art form, however; it is evident in each of their intricately conceptual designs.
First and foremost, Maison the Faux reflect on the creeds of the capitalist system where satisfaction is an ideological impossibility, and through it challenge the consumer to reflect on the constant state of being in debt to oneself. This is especially true for their Chubby Chaser and Faux Cosmetics collections. Where our current fashion system enforces the notion that humans must constantly work on and improve themselves by means of consumption, both Chubby Chaser and Faux Cosmetics are representative of our voracious, obsessive and borderline out-of-control appetites—whether for junk food or global commerce—to keep making and keep on buying. Suk and De Boer seem to attribute this to a basic human trait, something that resides in all human beings, asserting, “It’s human nature, it’s why we are who we are.”
Faux Cosmetics especially questions fashion’s quest for constant change and its tightly interwoven notions of the failing body. Both the cosmetic and the fashion industries focus on the body as something that must be beautiful and at the same time falls short of being so—feeding into a belief that the body can be improved through consumption. Reflecting on this, De Boer asserts: “Getting old and ugly is something, especially in fashion, that everybody is fighting against. Anything with a flaw or something deteriorating symbolizes death knocking at our door. I think the only way to change this is acceptance and stopping to try and hide or erase.” In fact, “getting old and ugly is not really something we can avoid. So let’s make ugly and old desirable.”
Finally, on the notion of moving to one of fashion’s capitals, Suk and De Boer are adamant: “Everything we make and create we do in Arnhem, a small town in the Netherlands. It’s a place where we can really focus and reflect on a lot of things.” And that is where their strength lies and likely will always lie—a fictive but global house, firmly planted on Dutch soil.