Ahimsa: Showing Kindness to Dresses

The word Ahimsa, which gives an important clue about the Kipöz’s design approach and methodology, refers to an attitude of  kindness and non-violence towards all living things.By adopting the concepts of recycling and do-it-yourself method in her sustainable design journey, Kipöz aims to transform and deconstruct the fragments of garments, and at the same time, avoiding harming them. She describes her production process as ‘articulation’ and ‘grafting’. Instead of using scissors to take the pieces apart, she makes use of an extractor manually, ripping off the pieces and re-stitching them together. In this way, the sartorial method of the designer emphasizes utilization of the inactive/ waste materials and garments. She describes these materials as ‘surprise materials’, and working with them gives the creator an opportunity to design innovative forms, and embark on a journey into unknown territory.
Kipöz cultivates traditional arts and craftsmanship by enhancing both the authentic and the sustainable characteristics of dresses in her designs. It is easy to understand the sensibility and responsibility in this design process, which allows the building of a transparent and confidential relation between user, designer, and producer.
When entering the exhibition, you will be delighted by the seemingly familiar traces which reflect the designer’s memories. Each of these designs clearly conveys their own unique and personal stories. Kipöz’s initial inspiration for this project was her grandmother’s cotton dress, dating back to 1940’s, which was passed down to her. The designer has transformed this valuable, but inactive piece into a new dress, by creating a collage which includes other mementos from the grandmother, and also a more recent garment, a torn shirt belonging to the designer ; she states  “I have immortalized these dresses by giving them a second life”. Thus the dress is at the beginning of a cycle in which various surplus and waste fabric can be used in later creative designs.
The structure of the exhibition has been created in conjunction with three experimental approaches, named as Nearest Things, The Old News and De-structured. The first of these, Nearest Things were more related with the possibility of the creative design solutions within the reality of daily life practices.  In this section, the designer showed how an ordinary object can be transformed into a monumental piece, through the use of cotton string market bags, a symbol of  a nostalgia in Turkish culture, and creating a structure by tying hundreds of bags to each other. Thus, thanks to its permeability, she not only ingeniously created a perfect visual texture, but also has given a new meaning to this  ordinary object.
In contrast, The Old News was very similar to the hybridization of the beauty of the natural, and the seduction of the imperfection. These dresses recall natural aging, imperfection, and aesthetics of recycled waste materials. Moreover, they are embedded with fragments of memories of the past. On the other hand, De-structured dresses reflect both a rather reductionist design approach, and re-interpretations of the memories associated with the clothes. Kipöz deconstructs the pieces through  a process of draping the fabrics around the body, morphing them to create new layers between body and space. Through these layers, the memory of the previous form of the dress is retained through its incorporation into a new design experience, for example a previously  invisible pocket suddenly becomes visible through hand stitches, or the absence of the collar recalls its former presence;  In the process of extracting the structural map of the dress, the designer highlights the relation between the dress and its memory. Thus, the dress becomes a document housing for the previously lost memory, which is now recovered.
During the exhibition, Kipöz shared her own personal memories with the audience, and presented the other lives of dresses. Sometimes she embarked on a sartorial journeys , with a flamboyant shirt from 1970’s harboring so many memories, or with another worn-out shirt turned into a skirt. The symbolic use of her grandmother’s sewing machine as a mythic object was the protagonist of one the installations of the exhibition entitled Next. In this exhibit the random patchwork of the unused fabrics and parts of the garments which had been produced during the design process represented an ironic imagery, set in contrast to the linear mechanization of the fashion industry.
Kipöz has taken great pleasure in displaying controversial designs highlighting the corrupting system of fashion. Her rebellion is against stereotypical and spiritless production and consumption of industrial and mass fashion system. She asserts “I wanted to produce dresses that leave something behind; […] Like us, they have also memory and resistance to something. Design can be a solution to the conformist, extravagant world of fashion. Perhaps it is possible to engage in seduction, luxury, the new, and ecology at the same time”.
The exhibition stresses the potential of slow fashion rituals to humanize fast fashion. Kipöz absorbs the viewer in  a time warp to encourage the recall of social memory, and to forces us  to find our own displaced roots. As far as possible he tries to keep her process transparent and open to interpretation, which involves the production of  open-ended designs. In her designs, new lives and experiences of old and meaningful dresses are encoded. In addition, both  the unworn and unused,  and also the damaged, and stained dresses destined to be thrown away, are transformed into  a ceremonial design experience, through the  revitalization of  the memory of the traces remaining from real life experiences.This process of revitalizing the design experience creates an empathy between the audience and the designer, by incorporating the concepts of the philosophy of Ahimsa.

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