Deshima PROJECT

I am Deshima. I am two cultures on one isolated island.

Living outside Japan brought me a lot of questions, such as ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What is my nationality?’. I felt lost between two different cultures, and I realized how little I knew about Japan.
When I started to read about Japan I came across the island Deshima. Deshima was a fan shaped artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki. It existed during Japan’s self imposed isolation from 1641 until 1853. It was made in order to avoid foreigners to come to the main land. The only exception was made for Dutch people, they were allowed to trade with Japan and offered the education of European science.
Deshima became a mixture of Japanese and Dutch culture, and thereby a symbol for me.

For me it was imported to design a collection in which both Japanese and Dutch culture kept their identity. Starting with research on folklore, I noticed that women in both cultures suffered from the restrictions of their clothes. During this period clothes had the function of showing the beauty of women, most of the time causing the women to choke in the waist. In Europe this showed by women wearing the corset, in Japan this showed by women wearing the kimono with the tight obi-belt around the waist.
I was trying to release women from those choking by my dresses.

I designed a collection based on the study of both culture’s folklore, with the search for my own identity always present on the background. Dealing with the choking waist during the 17th and 18th century, I designed a collection of clothes which create alternative spaces on different places on the body. The alternative spaces within the clothes provide comfort, a feeling that women never experienced before.

For me making this collection is a bridge to understanding Dutch people. By working with Dutch people and studying Dutch history I learned more about the Dutch culture and society. Deshima might not exist anymore, but it lives on inside me.