A New Habit
The 800th anniversary year of the dominicans in the Netherlands was about ‘standing still, sharing and celebrating’. One of the highlights of the jubilee-campaign: the re-interpretation of the Habit, by renowned Dutch design studio Byborre. This characteristic piece of clothing – a black cloak on top of a white cloth – has looked the same for centuries. So we asked ourselves: how would it look like if we would design it in 2016, following the functions and symbolic meaning that it had 800 years ago?
This meant worlds colliding for both the Dominicans and Byborre. Designer Borre Akkersdijk: ’My first thoughts on the project were very negative. I associated the Church with the abuse of trust and power. But Willem Dudok (from the agency Johnny Wonder) convinced me there was something there, and he was right: the more research we did on the Dominicans and their habit, the more excited we got. Through our conversations with Dominicans, we discovered that the brothers and sisters dominicans are about something completely different: being connected, respecting your fellow human beings as well as materials.’
On the other side, there was unease as well: the Habit is ’like a second skin’ for many of the dominicans. It’s quite something to give a designer carte blanche to make changes to something that’s such an integral part of your integrity. It speaks volumes on both parties that they found the trust to make this work - and create a stunning new habit that not only sparked attention from all over the world, but also was a bearer for a much bigger story: about 800 years of dominican search for truth and meaning.
When Dominicans walked the streets, they wanted to be seen as normal people, not drawing too much attention to themselves. And – ironically – this is exactly what happens nowadays, because a person in a habit is a curiosity. We wanted to go back to the essence of the message of the habit: we are one with the people around us. That is why we made an almost ‘normal’ collection. We tried to figure out both the story of the Dominicans and of the habit. Which materials do they use nowadays and in the past? How is the habit made? How do people wear it, in The Netherlands and in various parts of the world, where climate and culture is different?
Borre Akkersijk: 'During our research we came across many of the themes themes we encounter often at Byborre. Themes that felt very logical to us, that are or will be part of our own collections. For example: the Dominican Order made their habits of materials that were at hand, often undyed fabrics in lighter and darker shades, for the habit and the cloak. Or all the different layers of the habit, which refer beautifully to combining a limited number of items in your wardrobe, so they’re suited for many occasions.
Inspiration for the patterns came from different parts of the world. Dominicans are an international Order, the new habit needs to function everywhere in the world. This shows in the form language of the different pieces. For example, the tunic can remind you of the djellaba. We did not design the new habit for one culture specifically though, so every culture will recognize something and combine it to something personal. The collection consists of 12 pieces, which enable you to make dozens of combinations that together form a habit that suits you and your environment best.'
The New Habit is everything but a fashion collection. It is the essence of a wardrobe: basically you would never again need anything else. The pieces are basic and functional, they are made with what is at hand. But if you combine them, they create their own Dominican form language, unique for every individual. The collection is intended as open source, so it can be produced locally with the fabrics that are at hand. For the Netherlands, we chose technical fabrics – water repellant and dirt reluctant – but in Africa you would use different materials and finishes more suited to the local climate.
Akkersdijk: 'We’d like to see people who feel connected to values of the Dominican Order wear pieces of this collection. In this way they can share in carrying out the vision of the Dominicans: using less, living sober, being together and communicating all of this through what you wear. We also hope the project evokes discussion and inspiration, both within the Dominican Order and in the outside world, about how your appearance can be a part of your message. So far, that worked out pretty nicely.'
Executive Producer: Luke Smits
Agency: Johnny Wonder | Willem Dudok (Strategy) & Agatha Hartendorp (Account)
Client: Dutch Dominican Order | Arjan Broers (Communications) & René Dinklo (Prior Provincial)
Photography: Roel van Koppenhagen
Model: Marc Madeleyn
Special thanks to: Ummelen & Ummelen, Sam Vis