The new fashion incubator De Wasserij’s opening in November last year was a festive event. The building on Sint Agathastraat in Noord was a hive of activity for four months until everything fell silent in mid-March. But this didn’t stop fashion stylist Bernadette van Wijlen, fashion photographers Julie Vielvoije and Iris Tempelaar and shoe designer Jolanda van Eijk. To call attention to the work of their fellow residents and themselves, they shot the Nobody campaign – fashion without bodies in the empty streets of Rotterdam.
How did you, as residents of De Wasserij, come up with the idea of a joint campaign?
Bernadette van Wijlen: ‘I was in the middle of a fashion shoot for a customer campaign on 12 March when I received a message: the fitting that was scheduled for the next day was cancelled. That evening I opened my mailbox: one cancellation after another. From that moment on, my work stopped completely. Logical, because fashion stylist, like hairdresser, is a contact profession. Julie and Iris, the fashion photographers with whom I share my studio, also saw their assignments drying up. Our customers, commercial fashion companies, have been hit hard by the crisis. Designers at De Wasserij are also struggling. We got together to think up a way to help each other, and we came up with the idea of setting up a campaign to make our work visible. To remind people that we are here.’
How did you do it?
‘We selected a garment or accessory from each participating designer that represents his or her work. We took all the items into the city. We hung the pieces on a tripod and photographed them in the places where it is normally busiest, the hotspots of Rotterdam. The images show that everyday life has come to a standstill but that the creativity in the city is very much alive. That is something I feel very strongly about: I love my job; I want to keep making beautiful things!
You distributed the images via social media. What effect do you hope for?
‘The campaign is intended to increase our visibility. It would, of course, be great if it also leads to purchases. All the products in the photos are for sale. Those who use the discount code Nobody2020 will receive a nice discount or a free accessory with their purchase, such as a mouth mask from Berend Brus or a matching storage cover from Kukka. I hope the campaign reminds the people of Rotterdam that you can also shop locally.’
What’s the atmosphere at De Wasserij like?
‘Very good. The building is spacious, so most residents can continue working in their studios. It’s very helpful in times like this to be surrounded by positive, inspiring people who are all trying to make the best of it. We’re in the same boat, which is a completely different feeling than when you are alone.’
If you don’t have a job, renting a studio space can be an insurmountable expense.
‘Yes. But SKAR (the foundation that rents the workspaces at De Wasserij, ed.) has come to us with a great proposal: you can earn back one month’s rent, for yourself or someone else, by helping with odd jobs on different properties. My fellow residents and I are going to do that, and have already registered for painting.’
How does the future look?
‘I am generally a positive person! I’ve had to fight to get to where I am now. Our sector is not expected to be able to do anything until September. I will have to hope for the best until then and I’m confident that it will work out.’
Could you use some help?
‘I would rather go back to work yesterday than today because nothing makes me as happy as making beautiful things. This also applies to Julie Vielvoije, Iris Tempelaar, Jolanda van Eijk and all of the other residents at De Wasserij. So, if you have a great idea and can use our creativity, don’t hesitate to contact us via De Wasserij!
Text: Elsbeth Grievink
Photography: Julie Vielvoije & Iris Tempelaar
Styling: Bernadette van Wijlen