It happens to the best of us. You buy a shirt or a pair of pants, and after a few months it just doesn’t suit you anymore. You’ve changed, or your taste in clothes has changed, and the garment ends up in the back of your closet, lost and forgotten until the next yard sale or spring cleaning fever forces it into a garbage bag with the rest of the unwanted. Fashion designer and Artist in Residence Timna Weber is pushing to change this wasteful fashion cycle, one transformable garment at a time.
Timna’s workspace can be found at AGA LAB, just across the courtyard in the back of WOW. The building is filled with artists and makers, as well as printing and woodworking workshops, the smell of fresh ink and experimentation permeating the hallways. Timna won’t be working here for much longer though; she’s set to move up to a bigger room at WOW this weekend.
“I had my studio here before I even came to WOW. It’s a lovely space, and it’s wonderful to have those workshops here, but I just need more light to work with. I’ve noticed myself drawing in my room at WOW more ‘cause the light is just great there.”
Timna moved to WOW last year, after finishing a Master’s in Fashion at the Sandberg Institute. The Austrian-born designer began her fashion journey in Paris, and made her way to Amsterdam via Iceland and London.
“My studies in Paris were very traditional, the old-school version of fashion school. I worked at a few different houses in Paris and Iceland after I graduated, and then moved to London to work as a knitwear designer. At some point, London just became a bit overwhelming, and it made me question if this is the way I want to work. We were producing so much, being so pollutive and wasteful. The creativity gets a bit lost in that process as well.”
Looking for a way to get out of the harmful cycle of the fast fashion industry, Timna decided to go back to school and learn about a drastically different side of the industry.
“Sandberg was much more free than my previous school and experiences. You realise it doesn’t have to be about aesthetic choices, it’s about finding a more pleasant and attractive way of working within the industry, finding ways to look at the bigger picture and change the system. I believe I’ve found that in my master’s project.”
ORGANICA, Timna’s graduation project and current main focus under the name UNFINISHED, sprung from the desire to make fashion more sustainable in a practical way.
“I know the word ‘sustainable’ is a bit worn out, but that’s exactly what it is. There has been a lot of focus on the materials and the production side of things; but there are plenty of people working on that, so I wanted to focus on something else. The use phase is what interested me most. Because if a product isn’t used long enough, it’s still unsustainable. I want to elongate the lifespan of a garment.”
The idea is simple enough. People change constantly; their bodies change, but also their taste, style, opinions. We’ve all had the experience of buying a piece of clothing, only to realise we don’t actually enjoy it much after a few months, or even just a few weeks. And what happens to it then? You can’t return the item to the store, so it stays unused in your closet gathering dust or is thrown away.
“Clothes these days are sold in such a finished state, they leave only little possibility for transformation, and additionally it’s hard to do that yourself. The user is alone, or with a seamstress, but there’s no guidance of a designer. So I started thinking about a system where garments are more starting points, where they remain open for design alterations and people can always come back to the designer when change is needed or wanted. That way, they can find a possible solution together and garments can remain relevant over time, instead of being replaced by new ones.”
Say you buy one of Timna’s sweaters. After a few months of wearing it, you realise there are some things you’d like to change about the garment. So you go back to Timna, explain what it is you’re looking for, and Timna alters the garment to your wishes, turning it into a very personal piece.
“I want people to see garments as living, transformable things, that change with us as we make the journey through life. There was one couple who shared one of the jumpers I made. She lived in Brazil and he lived in Paris, a long-distance relationship during which they exchanged this jumper. They came back to ask for a little secret pocket in the hoodie, so they could give each other notes. Such a nice idea, and it shows how a garment can create a story and become part of you after a while.”
This deeper, personal connection to a piece of clothing is Timna’s way of battling the mass consumption and wastefulness we find everywhere in the fashion industry nowadays. As consumers used to the idea of a €5 t-shirt, we’ve lost sight of the actual value of garments.
“We no longer understand the value of a piece of clothing, how many hours it takes to produce something. A cheap shirt is only cheap because somewhere along the supply chain, someone is suffering. Making people aware of this is one way to get some of that value back, but I believe a focus on experience helps as well, providing something that’s more than just a product. If you had a say in the design and have actively changed a garment to your wishes, you’re just more involved. There’s a deeper connection there that will undoubtedly increase this idea of value.”
Besides UNFINISHED, Timna is working on many other projects, all revolving around the idea of transformable garments and re-establishing a connection to the clothes we wear every day. During We Make The City in June, Timna and fellow Artist in Residence Eduardo Leon will hold an upcycling workshop in Bos en Lommerplein, during a bigger event organised by WOW. You can bring clothes that need some changing or adding on to, and Timna and Leon will help you turn it into a fashion statement using heat transfers, leftover print shop foils and even plastic bags. For another project, Timna is designing her very first wedding dress; the perfect garment to need some transforming after wear.
“A wedding dress is something you only wear once in your life, and even if you’d like to wear it again some other time, the design is so obviously a wedding dress that you really can’t. But it’s also a valuable piece, it has a meaning and a story, and is made with beautiful fabrics. For this dress, I’m working with two pieces: the bride can later wear the top with a pair of jeans, and the skirt will be dyed in a colour after the wedding, so she can wear it on nice occasions. Somehow, everything I do always comes back to this idea of clothing and transformation, something in different stages, evolving with the wearer. Hopefully, I can expand this idea in all my future projects.”
Catch Timna and Eduardo’s workshop during WOW Fashion Inside Out on June 24th, or take a look at Timna’s work presented at De Bijenkorf in Maastricht from 11th to 17th of June or if you fancy a trip to London during the LSE Fashion Show at Saatchi Gallery October 23rd.
Words by Suzanna Knight / Photo by Roman Ermolaev
by WOW Amsterdam
Rather than seeing garments as finished products, I see them as works in progress. Open to change when needed, to stay relevant in our lives and offer longevity that goes beyond the material value