Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Localising global garment biographies

Localising global garment biographies wants to bring highly diverse people together to collaboratively research how the changing value and lifespan of clothing has an impact on relationships between buyers and users, and producers. Engaging Rotterdam residents (Rotterdam Museum), as well as Indian textile producers (farmers, ginners, spinners, dyers, knitters, stitchers – GVK Society), the project foregrounds diachronic as well as longitudinal perspectives to reveal the structural inequalities at play.

Erik de Maaker

Museum Rotterdam, MBO ZadkineModeMuze, TU Delft, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Grameena Vikas Kendram, Raddis CottonREAD, tex.tracer, Oikos: Ecological Solutions and the Erode College or Arts and Sciences

Project Description

Proceeding from the heritage garment collection of Museum Rotterdam, the project will invite Rotterdam residents to create affective and historical biographies on the origins of garments, which are then linked to accounts of Indian textile producers. These biographies will be shared through digital tools, drafting linkages between users and producers. This will encompass an experimental online digital environment that can be accessed by smartphone, and should be multi lingual, presenting the history of dedicated garments, their materiality, location and transportation. It will allow for and encourage commentaries from users and makers from around the world. Localising global garment biographies thus links complementary but hitherto disconnected stories, it foregrounds heritage objects to induce the kind of behavioural transformations required to arrive at fair, sustainable and circular global garment chains.

Picture credit: Raddis®System en www.raddiscotton.com

Allowing actors to redefine and increase their agency in global production chains

Localising global garment biographies is included in the encompassing NWA Living Heritage project COHERENT. It utilises the capacity of heritage to bring up associations that result in interlocutors locating themselves in a cultural and/or socio-economic sense. More specifically, the subproject intends to contribute to answering NWA cluster questions 044 and 068. Question 044 asks: ‘Can globalisation and development be reinvented in a way that, in time, will mitigate differences in prosperity between world regions?’ Inviting Rotterdam residents and Indian textile producers to identify the global trajectories they are included in is intended to create means that allow such actors to redefine and increase their agency in these global production chains. The subproject does so by creating innovative multi-linguistic interactive digital tools that attribute agency and foster dialogue, thus also engaging with question 068, ‘How can we promote and utilise creativity and innovation?'

Creating scientific and societal breakthroughs

Working with Museum Rotterdam, the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centres for Global Heritage and Development and PortCityFutures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), MBO Zadkine and the Erode College or Arts and Sciences, the subproject will create a scientific breakthrough researching how garment heritage can contribute to attempts to redefine unequal and unsustainable global garment production chains, thus gaining relevance towards new audiences and contexts. The interactive digital tools to be created for the subproject with the input of students from LDE, AUAS, Zadkine and Erode College or Arts and Sciences, can subsequently be applied in other contexts as well. These tools will increase the agency of users and producers of garments, which is conditional to arrive at more equitable and sustainable global garment production relations. Developing these tools and making them available to a general audience (Modemuze, Graminea Vikas Kendram), while monitoring their impact, can deliver important new insights as to how heritage can foster behavioural change (societal breakthrough).

Localizing Global Garment Biographies: project partners

Sanne studied Organic Agriculture at Wageningen University and has a strong background in circular economy in different sectors with a focus on textiles gained at the Cradle to Cradle® specialized consultancy EPEA Netherlands. During those years she would visit India and started focusing on the full cotton supply chain from seed to shelf, directly involved with all the different steps and connecting with the multitude of supply chain partners. Sanne is the co-founder of Raddis®System and plays an important role in bridging the collaboration with tribal (women) farmers in India with dedicated partners to create a joint positive impact. Working throughout the supply chain, Sanne keeps a strong overview of the ongoing developments for continuous improvement. 

Mila Ernst (MA History, University of Amsterdam) is working as an independent heritage professional for museums and cultural organizations. She is specialized in participatory approaches to digital cultural heritage. Since 2015 she is the leading figure and coordinator of the Modemuze network, a growing network of Dutch/ Flemish museums with costume and fashion collections. Modemuze.nl is a price winning national participatory online platform that connects different knowledge communities to fashion heritage. Mila Ernst is also a teacher at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam.

LinkedIn profiel Mila Ernst.

Maaike Feitsma is a researcher with the Fashion Research & Technology group of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) and lecturer in fashion history and fashion theory at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (Amfi). In 2014 she successfully defended her PhD dissertation ‘Dutch Fashion? An exploration of myths and meaning’ (Radboud University Nijmegen). Her expertise and research interest include Dutch fashion, the relation between fashion and national identity, fashion and cultural heritage, fashion curation and more broadly how studying fashion history can help us to solve contemporary fashion issues such as sustainability and gender.

Feitsma won the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes (IFFTI) Postgraduate Award in 2011 and the Hermesdorf Young Talent Prize for media attention for her dissertation in 2014. Currently she is working on her postdoc project Look Backward to Move Forward: Historical technology as a driving force for a more sustainable fashion future (SIA funded) and the project Keeping it Local (Cross-overregeling CoECI/ UT).

Logo Museum Rotterdam

Mayke Groffen works as a curator at the city museum of Rotterdam. Her focus is on contemporary urban life. Museum Rotterdam’s fashion collection reflects the life, work, mentality, taste and origins of Rotterdammers from the 18th-century merchant city to today’s super-diverse metropolis. A large part of the museum collection can be explored online, appropriated and used by a diverse audience. This inclusive approach, in which various participants add new meanings to the existing collection, is of great importance to Mayke.

Niccy Kol is a specialist in Brand Strategy and Sustainable Change processes within the textile- and fashion industry. She worked for global brands in sportswear and haute couture, as well as for a traditional African print fabric company, a sustainable e-commerce platform and developed circular fashion models. Niccy is part of the GVK society team, responsible for the development of the system brand Raddis®Cotton. Niccy has a bachelor of Fashion Management and Design of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, strategic management of the University of St. Gallen and business sustainability management at Cambridge University. In 2018 she took part in the 1st. cohort at Ashoka Circular Futures.

LinkedIn profile Niccy Kol
Raddis®: Please connect with us: Linkedin / Insta Facebook / Raddis Website

Rachel Lee is Assistant Professor at TU Delft where she teaches and researches architecture and the built environment. Her work has often focused on architectures and cities in India from a historical perspective. In this project, she is interested in exploring the spatial imprints of the international garment industry and their histories. Beyond the infrastructure of factories and malls, she would like to understand how garment value networks are spatially embedded in their environments and entangled with people’s lives. What kind of spaces does a cotton farmer encounter? Where does a weaver have lunch?

Links: Feminist Architectural Histories of Migration: On Margins (ABE), On Diffractions (CCA), On Collaborations (Aggregate)


Erik de Maaker is Associate Professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University. His thematic focus is on the social constitution of values, objects and places, and their relevance in terms of ethnicity, indigeneity, heritage, environment and religion, mainly in upland South and Southeast Asia. Current research focuses on how appreciations of heritage can inform notions of sustainability, in both local and globalized contexts.

He is author of the monograph Reworking Culture: Relatedness, Rites, and Resources in Garo Hills, North-East India (OUP, 2022) and co-editor of Environmental Humanities in the New Himalayas: Symbiotic Indigeneity, Commoning, Sustainability (Routledge 2021) and Media, Indigeneity and Nation in South Asia (Routledge 2019). He is also an author prolifically published in journals such as Asian Ethnography, South Asia, Visual Anthropology and the Journal of Borderland Studies, and he is also an award-winning visual anthropologist.

Jose Makor is opgeleid aan de Koninklijke Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten te Den Haag, afgestudeerd in Fashion design and textiles. Ze werkt al sinds 1987 in het MBO. Eerst bij de Windroos, dat later is opgegaan in MBO Zadkine. Thans maakt ze deel uit van het team International Business & Fashion en geeft ze les in Art & Design gespecialiseerd in fashion development. In haar lessen probeert ze studenten inzicht te geven in de modewereld. Het is een combinatie van skills en kennis aanleren m.b.t. de textielindustrie zoals stoffenkennis, kunst- en kostuumgeschiedenis en maatschappijleer. Er komt marketing bij kijken en tegenwoordig zijn ook duurzaamheid en innovatie belangrijk themas.

We werken binnen ons onderwijs met challenges, dat zijn projecten waar we veel samenwerken met het bedrijfsleven. Hybride onderwijs is de toekomst want het is heel belangrijk om studenten inzicht te geven in de wereld waar onze kleding vandaan komt. Wie de vezels, garens en stoffen maken en wie het in elkaar naaien. Het is een omvangrijk proces voordat het in de winkel verkocht kan worden en het in onze kledingkast hangt en wij het kunnen dragen.

Linkedin profile Jose Makor

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