Sunset. You descend the stairs into the usual U-Bahn station. It’s been another exhausting day at work. The train doors open and, as you slump into the nearest seat, the music coming through your headset starts dragging your thoughts away from everyday frustrations. You absentmindedly observe your commuting companions, knowing that this short-lived relationship will be swiftly exhausted upon arrival. The flux of people around you knows no rest, in the frantic and entangled web of movement that is urban displacement.
The human tapestry around you is made up of fellow workers who just left their dim cubicles, sweaty kids returning from a football match at the park, a teary-eyed couple sharing a hug with a look of uncertainty in their eyes. And then the wide-eyed tourists, the hopeful drunkards, the parents with their strollers, the construction workers who try every day to close a hole in the Swiss cheese that is the city of Berlin. Others have chosen—or have been chosen by—the underground as their preferred habitat, place of business, and trade.
Some sing or play music, others sell pictures or even magazines—usually this one. Today, “working class” can also mean an army of people who bargain and haggle each and every day in order to survive. For them, a trip on the U-Bahn is more than just an afterthought, you realize, approaching the end of your ride. A ride, you think, is a metaphor for one’s whole life: some people get off earlier, others never really make it on the train. Our trajectories take us through stations, exchange hubs, whose spaces remain consistent in the face of the continuous flows that shape identities.
As you step into your flat and begin your undressing ritual, your mind goes back to that concept, identity, and how it applies to the clothes you are shedding and scattering around your room. You are especially fond of secondhand garments: the stories behind them intrigue you more than an Agatha Christie novel. A patchwork of faces and moments invades your thoughts as you visualize recycled embraces, distorted silences; past lives lived by and within your clothes. It’s as if multiple ghosts of this city were summoned from those different backgrounds. Different people with different stories, each with their own identities; their own ways to express them.
While everyone strives to affirm their identity, especially through their appearance, social context plays a crucial role in providing—or not providing—the appropriate tools and resources to do so. Most people don’t notice that strolling through a shopping mall, or even a flea market, and selecting the clothes most congenial to their “style” for themselves is not an option available to everyone. Poverty, exclusion, and marginalization severely limit one’s chances to define their wardrobe in a way that matches their identity. The “luxury of choosing,” then, must be acknowledged when producing clothing that aims to embody a plurality of identities and experiences.
That is what AWC attempts with its secondhand project: a conceptual regeneration of each piece, which finds new meaning thanks to the insertion of a new constellation of values and emotional patterns. “Reappropriate to reanimate” is the spirit of this research: garments are given a renewed conscience by acknowledging the many identities behind them. Every person has been molded by an entanglement of stories, experiences, and affections, identities that have many ideological implications. Our wardrobe should reflect that, and AWC's clothing offers a canvas on which to translate one’s personal background, one that can become the blueprint to acknowledge that identity has many points of origin. In doing so, it becomes natural to imbue each garment with the feelings and emotions you have lived within them, so that with every wear, you are transported back to moments in your memory. A felt sweater can take you back to the first kiss with your significant other, or the shirt you wore on your daughter’s first birthday. Akin to Proust’s madeleine, the piece of clothing has soul, one that comes alive as an active subject and no longer a mere object; a flimsy, exogenous packaging. Only as long as you value yourself and your feelings, then what you wear will actually be valuable.
- IMAGE CREDITS
Images by Agustín Farias.
Shooting art direction: Giorgia Belotti & Ebi Dahir Ali.
Models: Roberto Belr, Andrea D'Arsié, Flavio Di Sapio, Miguel Angel Espinoza, Melani Jayamanna, Margherita Mezzetti, Barbara Prenka, Hannah Rettl, Mattia Varini, Rosie Veli, Elisa, Hoda.