PEOPLE: Fashion design as an expression of zeitgeisty inclusivity
Few things in our society consistently unite individuality, diversity and broad-mindedness in such an inspiring and vibrant way as fashion does. Creating fashion has not so much to do with someone’s background and intelligence as with their creativity, imagination and craft skills. And all around the globe, fashion’s message needs no words.
This wonderfully integrative aspect of fashion is at the heart of the “People” social fashion project, which is an integral part of Drugstop. Drugstop is a support centre operated by Karuna Int. e.V. in Berlin that offers support and shelter to young people aged 13 to 27 – no matter whether they are struggling with drug addiction or mental health problems, are homeless or have dropped out of school.
Integrating playfulness and creativity.
Drugstop gives these young people the chance to be actively involved in the organisation’s own fashion label. Two fashion designers are at hand to teach them everything they need to know about creating clothes, accessories and design objects for the annual People Edition: from the initial idea and research to the design process, drawing up patterns and making prototypes, all the way through to producing a collection and selling it online or in pop-up stores. The young participants are encouraged to leave any inhibitions they may have at the door and are integrated in the extensive creative process, which also facilitates interaction with other people.
Because the project is not meant as a therapy, the participants’ language, background and symptomatology are irrelevant. Rather, it’s all about the ideas, imagination and craft skills that go into creating a real, sellable People Edition in collaboration with the professional designers. Inspired by the collectively developed annual Edition theme, their different realms of experience and cultural roots feed into the eclectic, cool style of People.
Working in teams to create a real brand.
Depending on their individual talents, preferences and blossoming strengths, the young people learn traditional handicraft techniques such as sewing, weaving, embroidery and pottery. They create their pieces in the organisation’s own studio, where they also learn about sustainability, the conditions in global production and, above all, the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.
Focused on social sustainability.
Generally, high-quality, natural materials are used, and the prints are made with organic, eco-certified dyes. People’s main focus, however, is on social sustainability. Being an active part of a public brand and a cool fashion label gives the young designers a sense of their “official” value, regardless of their personal problems. They develop their own voice and find their place in society.
In 2015 People received the Federal German Government’s BKM Award for Cultural Education for its inclusive concept and proactive fostering of talent, self-discovery and resocialisation through individual empowerment.
Both the human rights organisation Terre des Hommes and the Volkswagen Employee Foundation support this vision of fashion as an expression of a co-creative, socially diverse future. Each and every object and fashion piece in the People online store bears testimony to the inherent joy in this unconventional crossover. The young designers pour their heart and soul into their pieces and present a blend of ideas and styles that immediately put a smile on your face and make you crave these must-haves. // Uta Gruenberger