THE REFASHIONING OF CULTURAL HERITAGE

Date: August 12  2015
Category: cultural heritage

Fong-Leng-1974-1975-2The other day I was reading a lecture about heritage by Birgit Donker for the Reinwardt Academy that she presented in 2013. According to Donker we produce our own heritage because without reckoning, shared memories and/or knowledge there is no heritage. To me, heritage has a lot to do with perceptions of the self as an individual but also as the self belonging to a bigger group such as a trend group, a subculture or even a nation. I feel a member of these different groups because we speak the same (visual) language. We share memories and with that we reckon a similar past.

But, as much as we presume it is, heritage is not at all fixed. Just like the changing of the seasons, architectural preferences and the fickle ‘rules’ of fashion, our ideas are ever changing. Thus, as Donker puts it, “it is our current point of view, our current standing in the world that will determine our perception of how we experienced the past”. It determines what we consider ‘important’ enough to archive so that future generations can learn from it.

What then about our ‘forgotten’ heritage? Heritage that was once considered worthwhile saving, worthy enough to tell something about our past, something about our former selves. Who decides to no longer safe this tangible and intangible past? According to Donker, the most sustainable way of retaining heritage is to use it. By means of her article on Belgian and Dutch fashion, Jose Teunissen (2011) describes how designers such as Alexander van Slobbe, Fancisco van Benthum and Viktor & Rolf play with local costume. “In these cases, it was not the aim of the designers to evoke a romantic picture of bygone times. They used form and technique purely as an inspiration to achieve a lucid, modern design”.

So, let me just invite you to go through your mothers’ and grandmothers’ wardrobe and wear the things that are still there. If we won’t wear these fashions, they will forever be forgotten!

Images: Bas Kosters, Viktor & Rolf and Fong Leng @ Centraal Museum via ModeMuze

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