Laboratory of world cultures “Trading Style” – A Museum as Trading Post

 Atelier, Misha Hollenbach and Shauna Toohey, P.A.M., Weltkulturen Labor Atelier
Atelier, Misha Hollenbach and Shauna Toohey, P.A.M., Weltkulturen Labor Atelier | Photo (detail): Wolfgang Günzel, 2012

A fresh wind is blowing through the Weltkulturen Museum (Museum of World Cultures); remixing masks and moccasins, animal skin and fur clothing, and crocheted backpacks, Black Forest Bollenhüte (traditional felt hats), bridal headdresses and feather necklaces. In the exhibition „Trading Style“, all these anachronistic objects of gold and tin, raffia, cotton, bamboo or fish skin, can be marvelled at in a new context.

Through 27 October 2013, under Teimaz Shahverdi’s artistic direction, the Frankfurt Museum of World Cultures is showing more that 500 historical objects, photographs and films – but this time, one will seek in vain for classical ethnographic categorisation and commentary. Instead, young fashion designers serve as the artefacts’ mediators. Four international fashion labels accepted the museum’s invitation to come to Frankfurt and browse through the depots and archives; they all had already experimented with global trends and traditions, and were open to the unconventional experience that awaited them here.

International labels in the laboratory of world cultures

Assemblage. POSSIBLY WITCHDOCTORS, Former Cape Province, 1930 and Cassette Playa, Carni Cannibal Palace, Photo: Alis Pelleschi, 2012/13 Assemblage. POSSIBLY WITCHDOCTORS, Former Cape Province, 1930 and Cassette Playa, Carni Cannibal Palace, Photo: Alis Pelleschi, 2012/13 | © Clémentine Deliss, the museum’s director since 2010, created the “Weltkulturen Labor” (laboratory of world cultures) for exchange actions of this kind. The “Labor” consists of flats, studios individually supplied according to the guests’ wishes with sewing machines or batik utensils and office spaces equipped with modern technology. During their residencies, the fashion designers could work with objects of their choosing at any time of day or night, and were provided with information by the custodians. What emerged from this “field research” in the museum were new prototypes for textile designs and fashion collections, jewellery and accessories: “The Collection of the Collection.” This can now be admired in the exhibition Trading Style.

Field researchers in the museum

  • New Tendency und Studenten der HFG Offenbach, Weltkulturen-„Limited Edition“ Foto: Wolfgang Günzel
    New Tendency und Studenten der HFG Offenbach, Weltkulturen-„Limited Edition“
  • Assemblage. Frau im Totenkleid, Thailand, Foto: Hermann Schlenker, 1964/65 und P.A.M. Deep Forrest Remix, Foto: Max Doyle, 2011 ©
    Assemblage. Frau im Totenkleid, Thailand, Foto: Hermann Schlenker, 1964/65 und P.A.M. Deep Forrest Remix, Foto: Max Doyle, 2011
  • Atelier, Carri Munden, Cassette Playa, Weltkulturen-Labor Foto: Wolfgang Günzel, 2012
    Atelier, Carri Munden, Cassette Playa, Weltkulturen-Labor
  • Atelier, Buki Akib, Weltkulturen-Labor, 2012 ©
    Atelier, Buki Akib, Weltkulturen-Labor, 2012
The label A Kind of Guise from Munich arrived as the first visitor to the laboratory. Yasar Ceviker and Susi Streich along with their team were especially enthralled by the traditional patterns and colours of Mexican textiles and objects. They also transported influences from Indonesian and Melanesian artefacts – soap packaging, theatre masks and knitted costumes used in a naming ritual in New Guinea – into prototypes of their apparel pieces. At the conclusion of their residency, an unpretentious and casual summer collection emerged, with washed-out colours and simple, contemporary cuts.

Initiations

Cassette Playa, a luxury label for women and men is known for its cult graphics and digital printing. The young London designer Carri Munden was captivated by Melanesian initiation rites, tattoos, and ornamental scarification and from the Brazilian Amazon Basin. In the “Labor,” she studied the construction of identities with the designs, and found inspiration in the images, objects – and also from the people who wear these objects.

In her designs, she combined these “tribal” attributes with the individual style of the street, where “tribal affiliations” are likewise communicated through style and clothing.

Tribal street fashion

Buki Akib, Kuti Trouser, FELA A/W 2011 Buki Akib, Kuti Trouser, FELA A/W 2011 | Photo: Milly Kellner, 2011 The masks and spirits of Oceania held a special attraction for the life-style label P.A.M., behind which stand the couple Misha “Perks” Hollenbach and Shauna “Mini” Toohey from Australia. They also highlighted the relationship between indigenous tribal culture and street sub-culture, and transported it into a series of prints and collages: a remix of ancient patterns and modern street culture in “global tribe” style.

Synesthetic designs

Music, most of all, is a special source of inspiration for the Nigerian designer Buki Akib. In the Weltmuseum Labor she transported the sounds of gongs, akogos (finger pianos) and drums into new textile patterns and acoustic jewelry to be worn on the body as rattles and clappers. Akib describes her creative experience in the magazine Essential Homme in the following words: “This collection was about a feeling, following my instincts with the sounds I heard from the instrument. I knitted delicate fabrics from monofilament to illustrate the spiritual connection I felt. I had my weavers in Lagos make the bold prints on the aso-oke fabric to imitate the sounds of the water drums.” Her fashions blend traditional Nigerian knits and weaves with innovative forms, giving rise to extravagant, highly-contrasting pieces. Strong colours and colliding, in part three-dimensional patterns and textures characterise her future-oriented, cosmopolitan style.

Magical jewelery

Saskia Diez, Magic Ear. A new collection of limited edition jewellery inspired by objects from the exhibition “TRADING STYLE – Weltmode im Dialog”, 2013 Saskia Diez, Magic Ear. A new collection of limited edition jewellery inspired by objects from the exhibition “TRADING STYLE – Weltmode im Dialog”, 2013 | © The source of inspiration is also flowing during the exhibition: in February 2013, a first Weltkulturen Limited Edition arose; cloth bags by the label New Tendency and the students of the Offenbach Academy of Art and Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung /HFG Offenbach). Saskia Diez’ new jewelry edition is conceived as a dialogue with the objects of Trading Style. Her work places particular emphasis on the protective function and magical significance of jewelry.

Clémentine Deliss draws artists, designers, fashion creators and architects to the museum, and turns them into new communicators of the objects in the museum’s collections. Historical, ethnographic objects, photos and films are brought into contact with modern work methods and are updated by them: the objects from far-off worlds shine in new splendour, in a new dialogue between past and future fashion worlds. And the question as to what fashion says about our society, how styles spread and identities are created, is answered almost nonchalantly, as if an afterthought, through these designers’ products.
 

The exhibition is accompanied by an publication: Clémentine Deliss (Hrsg.), Teimaz Shahverdi (Hrsg.): Trading Style, 264 Seiten, 204 Abbildungen, Deutsch und Englisch, Kerber-Verlag, Bielefeld.