AUSCHWITZ FASHION WEEK
INTRODUCTION. My wider curiosity surrounding this topic began over six years ago, when visiting a website presenting ‘funny’ and user generated content, such as memes, aimed at younger viewers. The first image, was an image including extremely distasteful and offensive text. The picture, taken from the website, is showing four children detained at the Auschwitz concentration camp. My collection talks about the history which millennials cannot relate to, however the tragic past event is still relevant however rarely mentioned in modern society. This complex collection topic derives from a confusion and angriness about the values that should be left behind with the end of World War Two, however they keep coming under white supremacy as well as conservative governments. There are many corruptions nowadays, including gay camps, depurations flights, regulations of the Polish government and white washing that relate to the history of the Holocaust and I could go on and on with examples.
PHOTO. CLICK TO SEE THE PHOTO The photo itself does not denote much negative connotation. The added sentence “Razem ponad kilo” (Eng. “together above the kilo”) transforms the image into one wholly disrespectful and offensive. It was very distressing for me to discover at such a tender age, that someone had created a picture to spread this message. The photo shows no respect to the history and event which happened during World War Two. However, it is easy to see that as my generation did not live through such an era, distance and detachment has enabled this cavalier perspective on the Holocaust. But it’s extremely important now to be educated about the past as the present leaves some expression that we see the same values in some areas and mostly politics. I began researching the Holocaust straight after seeing the image. Becoming obsessed with the topic, history and the aesthetic attached to it, I decided to dedicate my final collection to this subject and I treat it as patriotic duty. After deciding to continue during my final year of study at London College of Fashion on Fashion Pattern Cutting course, I stopped my research after few months. During this time, the topic changed its meaning as well as a context for me. It’s not about the tragedy of Holocaust but about the wrong way we look at Holocaust those times.
NAME. Trying to avoid visual references that would suggest the Holocaust, the name became important part of the statement. During research, I stumbled across an article titled “Auschwitz Fashion Week” which he then applied to the collection. The piece is talking about size zero in fashion as well as drug use in an industry while describing them with holocaust related dictionary. Using this title to name the collection to point out how the Holocaust is used out of its meaning. In my opinion describing anything using holocaust takes away from the genocide of about 6 million European Jews and others, committed during World War Two. It is the deadliest set of recorded events in the history of Western civilization and should be treated with a certain distance and respect and be used to educate.
FASHION. The Holocaust topic has been explored through art in many forms, music, film, and other mediums but not specifically fashion, an everyday medium being used by me to depict a uncommon conversation. We all make a statement by what we put on consciously or unconsciously. However, for me fashion is the most comfortable and easiest medium to speak with and the most difficult as it’s not taken seriously in many cases. For some fashion is an area of interest and more approachable thank so I hope to bring awareness to those who might not know much about the Holocaust. Being able to dig into the Auschwitz archive and read ‘Moda made in Auschwitz’ embraced me to fully explore this topic through fashion. The author Maria Jezierska says that fashion was one decency to survive in a camp.
MEANING. I am not Jewish myself but The Holocaust is a huge part of polish history and during my study in a British University I realize not many people were aware of this history event. The younger they were the less they knew. During my visit in Auschwitz the tour guide said with each year anniversary celebration there is less and less holocaust survivors. It’s sad that in few years we might not have them to talk to, ask questions and we are the last generation who can access them directionally to pass their knowledge and most importantly make facts straight.
KEY GARMENTS. FLAT GOWN (look 1) A design envisioned at the age of seventeen. It was important to keep that design as it represents my first ideas inspired by the Holocaust. When visiting Berlin, I went to see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, walking around the concrete block brought feelings which translating into the flat gown design. Peter Eisenman said that “There is nothing symbolic in a material, it just is and reduce it to a pure presence.” Which is a radical interpretation of the memorial and comes down to what you feel and see when you enter the space. What he said about his work its relatable in a process of building the collection. HAIR (look 2) I used hair in his collection to highlight the meaning of identity which we struggle to understand and accept. The prisoners were striped form their one by being shaved bald. Seeing massive glass container full of hair really translated the scale of the Holocaust and who got victimised. FLAT LOOK (look 3) creating flat trousers and flat semi-couture top are inspired by the project Yolocasut which took important role in explaining the way we respect and use the memorial in berlin. TAILORING (look 2 & 5) I took original pattern from 1940’s as a homage to the Jewish artisans and artifices who were also masters at tailoring. Most of my tailoring techniques are based on Jewish craft. And Jewish history is also about the craft which they had to offer to be assimilated. PINK. Pink colour symbolizes pink rectangle label from Auschwitz worn by homosexuals, mostly men. TRIANGLE GOWN (look 4) In at least 76 countries, discriminatory laws criminalize private, consensual same-sex relationships, exposing millions of individuals to the risk of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment – and even, in at least five countries, the death penalty. The half circle dress is creating the shape of pink rectangle and it’s covered in my own feather technique. It takes literal inspiration from labelling system from death camps. TAILORING PIECE AND SINGLE LEG TROUSERS (look 5) inspired by queer icon Leigh Bowery. After reading comments under article which talked about Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, some of the comments sounded like complain about two guys kissing and that they are not representing LGBTQ+ community fully. The fact is that mostly gay men were victimised. The Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism should hold a message about the past which will benefit future. SWASTIKA TOP (look 6) Draped on a men’s mannequin and repeated 27 times to follow the shape of Swastika. The Nazi symbol is supported even in 2018 and most of the time by a white man. WALL GOWN (look 7) In Auschwitz at the side of the block 11, there is a wall which was reconstructed and back in times used by SS men to shot several thousand people there mostly Polish political prisoners and, above all, members of clandestine organizations. FEATHER FABRIC (gowns) I developed feather fabric inspired by decoupage, a technique that always intrigued me, then applied it on clothes. After researching into burned wood works, I discovered Italian artist, Aron Demetz and his work: Resin, Burning, Advanced Minorities. His sculptures are human shaped made in wood and burned as finish. Applying feathers on a thin nylon between special mix of few types of glue. Feathers creating texture which remain me of burned wood which represents all 6 million victims.
SEE THE COLLECTION AT @OWSIANKA