Interview: Mads Dinesen About His Collection “Pain Is Felt By All”

“Pain is Felt by All…” is Mads Dinesen’s graduation collection as a student of the Berlin University of Arts (UDK). It was shown at the Berlin Fashion Week and deals with the colonial history of his home country Denmark. You find the complete shooting on Runway Passport.

“Pain is felt by all” is based on the idea to make Danmark’s past as a colonial power with all it’s dark sides of colonialism visible. How did you gather information about this past and how would you describe the way you “translated” this information into fashion designs?

The research of my work started quite a long time ago, and will not stop anytime soon. I think it is a responsibillity to be aware of the past, and to learn from it to be able to understand how our society works today. For this collection i spend a huge amount of time in museums and archives, trying to make a map of images that connect the countries that formerly were under danish influence. I talked to artists, writers, musicians and researchers from a lot of the nordic countries and tried to get a good historical foundation to then freely make my own statement, which isn’t necessarily historical correct.

In the collection I have used this typology of clothing details into different pieces. I also incorperated casual / streetstyle elements, to break up the historical and ethnical look. The abscence of colour is a decision I made, to bring some very recognizable details out of context and give them a more universal meaning. Every culture uses similar elements of represantation in clothing and decorative elements, and I wanted to use these to make an army of ghosts without national heritage, to bring the past back to life…

Do you think fashion in general is a field where political topics and discourses are underrepresented? Was that a reason for you to start the project?

I do not think that political topics are underrepresented in fashion, I just think we stopped thinking about what some of them mean. if you look at   the streetstyle of the masses, a lot of political, religious and ideological symbols are used as decoration in high street fashion. Che Guevara, Christiania, and so on – you have to ask yourself if the 13-year-olds even know what they mean. The reason I started the project was a very personal one. I had very little knowledge of Denmarks colonial history, and i was shocked to discover how brutal and long it was. As a Danish child and teeanger you are not teached about this in school, and with this collection I wanted to focus on political and historical ignorance. My own and the those of others.

Did the fact that you live in Berlin, the capital of a country with its own very dark history, somehow influence your decision to start this project?

Yes. When i moved to Berlin five years ago, I was confronted with a very different way of understanding and working with history. I was very intriged by the way Germans deal with their negative history and at the same time are a proud people who celebrates their great authors and artists. I was introduced to the German foklore costumes and started then researching on the Danish. That made me stumble over our colonial history and from there on it rolled.

You study at the UDK, how would you describe the athmosphere there, what kind of influence does the school have on your work?

My faculty is called “industrial design”, and we share our building and the first year of the studies with product designers. I’m studying “experimental textile and fashion design”. When I started studying I had huge problems coming trough the first year, it was so draining doing all these product design-assignments. Now I am really happy for this first year that gave me a huge knowledge in working in all the different workshops of the university, and it has increased my own boundaries of what fashion is.
The athmosphere is very relaxed, and very friendly. After the two first years you move up on your main studies, and all years are mixed, which constantly makes you work in different groups and with different people.
My professors Stephan Schneider, Valeska Schmidt-Thomsen and Grit Seymour are all very different, but all work on developing each students own personal style, so we have a lot of freedom, and we are only demanded to argument for our choices and designs. Now, just before the end of my studies I feel confident in working on my own stuff, and feel I have a backpack full of working tools and experiences.
The UdK has a structure that allows you to work across faculties and courses in a very interdisciplinar way, which has really had a huge influence on my work. I have been working with artists, musicians and costume designers on different projects in and outside of the university, and hope to be able to continue this. I think that the Berlin fashion schools slowly are beginning to mark themselves in a international context, and I am very proud to be a part of this.

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