We talked to Jojo Gronostay about DWMC’s showroom presentation during Paris Fashion Week to learn more about the brand’s concept and its future.
Dead White Men’s Clothes, short »DWMC« is a transdisciplinary project by artist Jojo Gronostay. Operating at the blurry border of art and fashion, DWMC is an attempt to find new ways of mixing the two.
The artist behind the label purchases donated second-hand apparel on a market in Ghana’s capital Accra in order to then bring them back to Europe. There he labels all pieces again and places them in a luxury and high-fashion context. Working within the manners of an art edition, all pieces are one of a kind. But instead of being displayed in a gallery the pieces of Jojo Gronostay are presented to the viewer as a runway ready collection of clothing. In form of an exclusive compilation and with each item having its own number they are ready to be bought and worn.
By selling clothes in completely limited editions and having them signed by their creator himself, they found a way of subverting the present marketing strategies of the ever increasing fashion industry. It is an answer to the sickness of over- and massproduction.
The work heavily criticizes consumerism and investigates the diversity of value on a global scale all while comfortably escaping the acceleration of given structures. We sat down to talk about the shift of markets, their new campaign and next steps.
When did the idea for DWMC first develop? What changed until now?
I started working on the project 2 years ago. During my research for another work of mine I found out about the Kantamanto market - one of the largest second-hand markets in Africa. When I heard about the name »Obroni Wawu«, the concept of creating a fashion label from the donated clothes there seemed very logic to me. And at the beginning of the year, I joined forces with AmsterdamBerlin GmbH, who are now my partners in the project.
Even though you stated that the label’s profits are donated to support young African designers, the quite high prices of the pieces may surprise some. What was the reaction of the fashion scene like so far?
I would say the reactions were mixed. If you think about it, 100 Euros for a Vintage T-shirt is quite expensive. Nevertheless, there are always two sides from which you can look at it. DWMC is an art project and 100 Euros for an art piece is not that much. We as a »label« are really interested in this duality. I think that the price is an important part of the project.
You buy second-hand clothing pieces on big markets in Ghana, simply relabel them and sell them again as high fashion pieces. The end products, however, have a very edgy street style aesthetic. I wondered how you select the original pieces?
We have flown to Ghana with a certain idea, a direction in which it should go, but of course we had to remain relatively flexible. In the second collection we had the help of the stylist Peninah Amanda. I find it interesting how fast the fashion cycle changes nowadays, the pieces that were thrown away a few years ago are now back in trend…
The garments have originally been produced for other fashion brands.
Have there been any copyright issues so far?
Not, yet. But we are still young, so let’s see what happens in the future.
Besides taking the things full circle, there is not much intervention.
Have you also thought about redesigning and upcycling?
Yes, that is definitely a possible step for upcoming things.
It becomes obvious after a while that this project is meant to provoke thoughts and draw attention to consumerism more than it is destined to sell staple goods. Like with art editions, every item comes signed and numbered.
Was that again to raise the value of the, when you look at the cost of the material and production, relatively cheap garments?
Yes, in art in general the price is always linked to its symbolic value. If you only look at the material, no painting is worth 100. 000€. In our case there is not only the symbolic value, but also the value of use. We like to play with that. So we rather present it with the idea of a fine art print. Every piece is unique.
I really like how DWMC is loaded with a whole story and I’m especially interested in the intersection and separation of art and fashion. So, regarding this very project: Where do you see lines and meeting points between the two?
I think the arts and fashion industry are two different systems. But with DWMC we try to keep the overlapping areas as big as possible. The project should do both: Ask questions about neo-colonialism, capitalism and fashion and at the same time the clothes must work as a fashion label for themselves. The structure of the project itself also shows how art has changed in the recent years, similar to fashion. The art world became a huge cultural industry, one increasingly run by a celebrity principle and increasingly linked to big corporations.
Despite all this, you still launched the line around Paris Fashion Week in the usual environment of a showroom also including an opening party.
Could you imagine to actually create a full functioning fashion line in the future?
At this point, I would say no. I presented the first collection in an art space, this time it was important for us to try something different and to show it again in a new context.
The campaign video found on your website as well as the lookbook features white people only. They are shown in various situations and settings that represent their wealth and status - playing polo on horses, watch their iPhones, drink champagne, etc… What is the story behind this moving image?
The Campaign is made by Amsterdam Berlin Gmbh and directed by Moritz Grub filmed by Kevin Klein. The video shows a very old concept of luxury and should ask questions about what luxury can be in the future.
What is coming up next for DWMC?
Probably, the next collection.