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Elisa van Joolen

‘When we think of fashion, we often first think of shopping, but fashion is so much more. In my work, I want to explore and break through this unambiguity, thus creating awareness of the underlying social and economic processes of clothing.’

PORTAL 006 (2020)

Together with De Appel and the Comenius Lyceum in Amsterdam Nieuw-West, Elisa van Joolen is producing a new edition of PORTAL (2017–present) for Refresh Amsterdam. In each edition, participants are asked to take off a piece of clothing, place it in front of them on one large sheet of cloth, and outline it with black tape. Then they answer questions about this garment, for example, about its origin, material, ownership, and (emotional) value. Next, led by Van Joolen, the group connects garments with similar characteristics using colour-coded tape. The intersecting lines on the PORTAL sheet reflect a chaotic interplay of intersecting personal stories. The result is a collective canvas on which the differently coloured lines show how a web of connections between personal, economic, social, cultural, and political fields can be found in our clothing.

Elisa van Joolen

Amsterdam-based designer Elisa van Joolen (The Hague, Netherlands, 1983) investigates the stories behind the clothes we wear. What are the social and economic structures in which seemingly ordinary designs are created? Which values are central in the fashion industry, and which do we, as designers, consumers and critics, ignore?

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Photo credit: PORTAL 006, Elisa van Joolen in collaboration with students of Comenius Lyceum Amsterdam and De Appel, 2020.

Researchers: Ali, Dina, Fatima, Hafsa, Halime, Israe, Khaled, Mohammed, Rabia, Safae, Sara, Youssef, Zülal 

Production and research assistant: Anouk Beckers 

Photography: Jimena Gauna

Thanks to: Comenius Lyceum, David Smeulders, De Appel, Niels Schumm, Roos Mol, Roy Ruiters, Samuel, Uta Eisenreich and the students.

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