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Searching for the New Luxury?


Res Materia is an artistic research project by fashion designer Sanne Karssenberg that proposes a personalized form of the reproduction of garments and an alternative form of value creation.

The title Res Materia is inspired by the Latin phrase Res Publica, meaning ‘public affairs’ or ‘commonwealth’. Res is a Latin noun for a substance or a concrete thing. ‘Materia’ is Latin for material. In this project, the material and the thing, or in this case, the textile and the garment, are the starting point for an embodied reproduction of garments—an attempt to bring change into ‘public affairs’.

In this project, a person brings in a garment with a history, or a special emotional value or personal memory.

This is a piece that one would not throw away but also no longer wants to wear. The garment is then shredded and its remnants are re-used as a layer on another garment by the same wearer.

The added layer provides a new aesthetic component and is a way to repair torn or worn out pieces of the second garment.

The added layer does not hide its recycled aesthetics, but rather turns recycling into an added value. Hence, this specific technique emphasizes the garment’s transformation into its next life. The old remains present within the new.

A cardboard packaging material is used as a frame during the transformation process. The resulting product is a combination of the transformed garment and the cardboard. This item will be shipped back to the wearer in this casing. It is up to the wearer to keep the garment as an artefact, or to unpack it and wear it again. If worn again, the same transformation process can be repeated endlessly. A desire for the new is altered into a process of change.

In times of mass production and overconsumption, this project presents the process of re-using or even upcycling worn clothes that have a special meaning or affective value for the wearer as an alternative strategy for value production. Instead of merely representing ‘the new’, Res Materia explores how clothes can express personalized forms of upcycling. In doing so, Karssenberg contributes to a critical fashion discourse.

Different wearers are invited to join the project as participants. The garments are a starting point for a dialogue about the individual’s relation to the garment and fashion’s societal impact. Both the material specifics of the garment, such as the brand and textile composition, and its personal history, like the favourite place to wear the garment, are revealed as part of the material value production.

Sanne Karssenberg

Sanne Karssenberg obtained her Masters in Art and Design at the Sandberg Instituut, Fashion Matters in 2017. Her work is situated in the intersection of art and design, with a strong focus on materiality and textile.

She investigates and designs alternative perspectives and strategies within fashion. The relation between individual identity and global production, which she critically analysed in her MA thesis and project, are her main points of interest. Her work explores the role personalization can play for a possible future of embodied fashion design by focusing on the relationship between the wearer and their garments. She employs different media and forms to investigate how individual stories reflect and relate to larger societal structures.

Currently, she develops self-initiated projects, working both collaboratively and on commission. She lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.