This wearable art questions notions of Dutch heritage and the multicultural youth.
A streetwear powerhouse and an iconic institution join forces for a capsule collection that is literally wearable art. For their programme Van Gogh Connects, the Van Gogh Museum got in touch with Amsterdam-based brand Daily Paper to revitalize Vincent’s colourful masterpieces and open them up to a broader public. The programme’s objective is to stimulate the inclusivity of youth from multicultural backgrounds and heighten the relevance of Van Gogh’s art among them. But the collection goes much further; it also challenges deeply rooted issues regarding who has claim to which aspect of Dutch heritage. As one of Daily Paper’s founders, Hussein Suleiman, rightly poses: “the moment we claim that [Van Gogh] is our hero, Dutch people become uncomfortable”. To get to the bottom of things, Glamcult reached out to the museum’s programme manager, Martin van Engel, and Daily Paper’s Hussein Suleiman himself, to discuss how two seemingly opposing communities build the bridge for a society that embraces all.
How did the conversation between Daily Paper and the Van Gogh Museum start?
Martin van Engel: The mission of the Van Gogh Museum is to make the life and work of Vincent van Gogh accessible and to reach as many people as possible in order to enrich and inspire them. Diversity and inclusivity are of paramount importance. Building on this mission, the four-year learning pathway “Van Gogh Connects” explores how the museum can become more relevant to young adults with a bicultural background.
One of the ways that we’ve tried to do that is through active cultural participation. For instance, if you ask people between 18 and 30 years old about what kind of culture they consume, they’d most probably say fashion, or making fashion, theatre, music; very active stuff overall. So my thought was that we needed to look at and connect with the organisations making that culture on a local level. If we look at fashion, Daily Paper is one of the most successful labels in the Netherlands, so when I saw Hussein [Suleiman] at an event in the Soho House, I immediately approached him and asked if we could work together. My initial thought was to work through a documentary. But he actually said that we could take it to a next level, make wearable art and develop a clothing line that connects with the museum. For me, that was the starting point of this collaboration.
And Hussein, what is it about Van Gogh Museum that makes it relatable to Daily Paper?
Hussein Suleiman: Daily Paper is a reflection of the three founders—Jefferson [Osei], Abderrahmane [Trabsini], and myself. The people who’ve been following our brand for a while now know that a big part of our collections have to do with the quest of finding parts of our own heritage and then translating those into clothing. A big part of our brand’s DNA is our Dutch upbringing, and growing up in the Netherlands we learned a lot about Vincent van Gogh, but I found out that we didn’t know enough about him after all. So we started doing a bit of research and realized that there are a lot of similarities between Vincent van Gogh as a person and us as entrepreneurs. Plus, every time that we collaborate, we feel that it has to add something to our story. The Van Gogh Museum was willing to offer us full cooperation and let us use almost all of the artist’s work, so we were not limited in the design process. All of this made the opportunity one we couldn’t miss out on.
Both of you find it very important to bring communities together. Why do you think now is the time that this is happening, why is now the right time for the two platforms to unite?
Martin: If you look at the Netherlands, and if you look especially at the multicultural youth in Amsterdam, a lot of research shows that the feeling of social inclusion or belonging to the Netherlands is lower in multicultural youth when compared to people of a non-multicultural background. The majority of multicultural youth don’t feel like they’re “Dutch” citizens, and that has to do with discrimination. Our collaboration aims to bring together diverse communities from the fashion and art world with a collective purpose in mind: acting as a bridge between two institutions—art and youth culture—in order to forge a stronger and more accessible relationship between the two. The collaboration is not only a gesture of creative expression; it is also about celebrating the work of one of the most iconic Dutch painters, whilst recognizing the importance and impact of multicultural youth.
Hussein, Daily Paper already speaks to that multicultural community. So what’s in store for your platform with this collaboration? Which world do you think it may introduce your community to?
Hussein: Personally, I love to read comments that pop up under our Instagram pictures. The community do take time out of their days to voice their opinion, and the responses to this collaboration have been very diverse. One comment can be, “My favourite painter and my favourite brand working together, wow…” while another could be people saying not so nice things, like, “Is this necessary?” But I think people’s overall consensus is that they find it amazing, they love how colourful this collection is too. But when we talk about culture, heritage and history, I think it’s interesting to see how other people are looking at the collaboration. Some say Van Gogh is Dutch heritage, but then I realize that some people don’t see us [Daily Paper] as Dutch, yet I see myself as Dutch. People say, “Oh, you guys are doing something with Dutch heritage,” but actually our brand is Dutch, it’s also Dutch heritage. Some don’t see Vincent van Gogh’s work as part of my history, which is interesting.
Martin: You mean the multicultural youth don’t see Van Gogh as part of their identity?
Martin: That’s what we have also seen in our research programme. Of course we’re talking about wearable art in the context of this interview, but the thing behind it is that everybody should feel included in the Netherlands and in the museum. If people can feel that through this collaboration, that’d be beautiful.
Hussein: Another thing is that Dutch people would claim certain things as their heritage although those things didn’t originate here, but were rather taken from somewhere else. Still, can I also claim Vincent van Gogh as my history? Apparently not.
We’d like to know about the design process too, since the paintings are very textual; on some you can literally feel the paint dripping or moving. What role did textures and materials play in the design process of this collection?
Hussein: We used new techniques in denim for a big part of the collection. For example, we have a very famous silhouette, the cargo pants and the cargo top, which we usually make in cotton. However, this time around we made them in denim, because we figured out that the paint looks so much better on that material. The other thing that we did was to use laser cut for the first time. We burned into the denim and made some of these artworks come to life in the highest resolution possible.
Because they’re wearable pieces, maybe someone’s everyday item even, was there a sensation or feeling that you had in mind that the wearer could have?
Hussein: With most of our collections, although the clothing has research put into it, we try to not disclose it towards our customers. They can just feel for themselves the garment has information and thought behind it. With this collaboration, we did want to give the consumer some background information about the artworks that they’re wearing, hopefully making them interested into researching more on the topic.
At last, and we normally hate asking this, but is there something we might have missed and you wish to talk about?
Hussein: Well, if you let me add some sauce to the story here, why not. [Laughs]
Go for it!
Hussein: I remember the day that this rapper I really liked, his name is Ronnie Flex, became the “Ambassador of Freedom” for the Netherlands. It’s a very big title that one can get, since on the 5th of May when the Dutch were liberated, there are festivals all over the country, and then the Ambassador artist will fly with a helicopter to all of these places. I remember that Ronnie was on a talk show and told the hosts that Anne Frank was his hero and that he had tattooed her on his arm. They were so surprised by this, “How can she be your hero, you’re not even Dutch…” they wished to say, but of course couldn’t. Everything about their vibe gave off this mood of: “Anne Frank is Dutch! This is Dutch heritage, Dutch history, how can this be your hero…” What I got from that interview was that even though it’s his personal hero, and even though the Dutch stimulate people to integrate as much as possible, once their heroes become our heroes as well, they become uncomfortable. The same goes with Vincent van Gogh; the moment we claim that and say that he’s our hero, this is someone that we look up to and this is our history, is the moment that they become uncomfortable and not wishing for us to truly integrate.
Words by Valkan Dechev
Photography by Nick van Tiem
Hair and make-up by Bastien Zorzetto
Production by HERC
The full 21-piece collection will officially be available in-stores, online and at selected retailers worldwide in February 2020.