Project White T-Shirt is one of those great ideas that make you say to yourself…”Why didn’t I think of that?’. This ambitious concept has flourished into an exhibit of 31 progressive designers from 13 different countries across the globe. Curator Ritchie Chan speaks with us about how a good idea is worth the pursuit, and the reward.
What is Project White T-Shirt?
Project White T-Shirt is Triple-Major’s charity initiative, in which 31 designers from 13 different countries were invited to transform and redefine the basic white t-shirt. The pieces are being exhibited in galleries and stores worldwide, as well as on www.projectwhitetshirt.com where you can see video interviews with each designer. All the pieces will be auctioned off with proceeds going to Designers Against AIDs.
How did this project come to be?
I think the fashion industry these days is too consumer-driven and monotonous, so I thought of the idea to start a project in which progressive designers worldwide could add something new to the fashion industry. Using the white t-shirt as a platform for designers to exercise their creativity came to mind naturally because it’s the most classic and basic article of clothing out there. I also thought it would be interesting to learn about each designer’s creative process, so I decided to do video interviews with most of the designers and uploaded them online.
How did you curate all the designers for this show? Why did you chose these particular artists?
I’ve always been interested in progressive fashion, and I did a lot of research beforehand to look for designers who would be comfortable with transforming clothes, or who just have a more creative approach to fashion in general. Eventually the designers I selected turned out to be a mix of personal favorites and recommendations from other designers.
What was the most difficult challenge that you had to deal with when working on Project White T-Shirt?
Collecting all the pieces from the designers was a pretty difficult task because they’re all in different countries with different schedules. But thanks to their kind support, we managed to receive everything before the show.
How long did it take to bring the show into fruition?
We spent about 10 months putting up the show. I came up with the idea for the project last April and then I spent several months traveling to each of the designers’ studios to film their creative process. The exhibition finally started last December in Welcome Hunters in LA, and we’ll be continuing to show in other cities including Hong Kong and Beijing. So the exhibition tour will end next fall.
When I was visiting L.A. a few friends and I checked out your show at Welcome Hunters- a gallery/store. Great show I must add. We were all impressed by the designers you chose and the execution of your show. Did it take a while for you to put it up?
Yeah, we spent a lot of time and effort putting up the exhibition. To turn the space into a simulated laundromat, we made foam core washing machines and other laundry supplies by hand, which I think at the end added a sense of humor to the show. All the t-shirt transformations are pretty unique, so we had to find interesting ways to display them. For example for Siv Støldal’s tent t-shirt, we bought these little kid mannequins to fit inside the tent. Although the installation process was a lot of work, we really enjoyed the result.
Why did you choose Welcome Hunters and Space 15 Twenty to show Project White T-Shirt in L.A.?
They came to mind naturally since they’ve hosted exhibitions involving some of the participating designers before. For example, Welcome Hunters’ installation with Daniel Palillo and Space 15 Twenty’s pop up shop with Slow and Steady Wins the Race. I thought it would make sense to exhibit in venues that have already shown interest in these designers.
Were you happy with how much passion all the artists put into their pieces?
What I was most excited about was how each designer approached the project with a different departure point. Some of them brought their own stories to the t-shirt, like Mundi, who wore his t-shirt for six days around different parts of Reykjavik to create its own experiences; while others established a new definition of t-shirt, like Anntian, who made a t-shirt for a horse and later re-draped it for a human body. All 31 pieces have their own unique characteristics, which I think is what makes the project interesting.
My favorite piece that I saw at the gallery was the one by Unholy Matrimony’s Brett Westfall. Can you tell me the process and story behind his piece?
It’s one of my favorites too. Brett buried two white t-shirts in his garden for 185 days and resulted in a t-shirt eroded by soil and roots, as if the earth had eaten away at them. The concept that nature has its own aesthetic value and power is very inspirational.
You traveled globally to meet all the designers. How was that for you?
Traveling to meet all the designers allowed me to understand a lot more about them and their designs. When I met the designers in person, I could really see how their lifestyles, families, and friends influenced their collections and vice versa. For example, Karolina Kling’s whimsical personality is reflected in her humorous dream catcher t-shirt design with little characters that you can move around the net.
Do you think how you dress defines who you are as a person?
Fashion means everything to some people and nothing to others–that’s what I find most interesting about fashion: not about the style itself, but about the story behind a style. People always have to wear something whether they care about it or not, so the way a person dresses is the best reflection of a person’s background, culture and living environment.
Do you have any future projects on the go?
Yes. After a trip to China last winter, I realized that progressive Chinese designers are underexposed. Triple-Major’s future upcoming project will have something to do with showcasing new talents from China.
Project White T Shirt at Space 1520