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Dirty Pastel
concept & art direction: Sylvie Zijlmans & Hewald Jongenelis
photography: Sylvie Zijlmans & Hewald Jongenelis
additional studio photography: Thomas van Schaick, Sylvie zijlmans & Hewald Jongenelis
(check the ‘info’ tab for the full credits)

In 2012 Visual Artists Sylvie Zijlmans and Hewald Jongenelis began a remarkable art project in the West of Amsterdam. Together with students from the 4th Gymnasium in Amsterdam, they undertook research into the influences and effect of style and taste, posing questions like; What is it, for instance, that makes brand name clothing so popular? Is it possible to produce clothing determined by your own specific local situation?

The project ends where a normal fashion label begins: with the launch of the brand. An exhibition in a clothing shop, a poster campaign throughout the whole of Amsterdam, huge billboards in the Houthavens where the project took place and the Dirty Pastel website.

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the project

Dirty Pastel is a temporary fashion label that was developed by Sylvie Zijlmans and Hewald Jongenelis together with the students of the 4th Gymnasium Amsterdam. A clothing line and brand were produced during series of workshops led by the artists and fashion designer Saskia van Drimmelen and graphic designer Roosje Klap.
The idea for the brand arose from an earlier Zijlmans and Jongenelis project. 100 tailors in Beijing were asked to create one outfit each for a photo shoot in Amsterdam, where 100 models posed while wearing their creations. By additionally traveling to China to document the clothing makers they sought to reveal the face of the people who make our clothes. In a similar way, with the project Dirty Pastel, Zijlmans and Jongenelis directed their attention to Amsterdam West, where the whole project took place and eventually also the clothing was produced.

Young people relate in different ways to brand name clothing, however group behavior and peer pressure heavily determines what they will wear. It presented itself as a challenge to Zijlmans and Jongenelis to work together with the students to create their own clothing line which would go against the currents of conformity and would require courage to wear. Is it possible to begin your own fashion label, to do something extraordinary and unusual that others will also desire? How important are the present norms? How important is a brand name, a logo?


The 4th Gymnasium is situated in the Houthavens in Amsterdam West, an area which is currently in development, where mostly all there is are enormous mounds of sand and rusty fences. Zijlmans and Jongenelis knew it would be impossible to keep the clothing clean during the photo shoots at this location. So, if the clothing couldn’t remain clean, why not use dirt to heighten the statement? Moreover, what is more gorgeous than dirty light colored clothing? Dirty Pastel was born. The first stains were strategically painted onto the clothing by Zijlmans and Jongenelis. They provide the context for the stains that would come later during the photo shoot. Some stains are aesthetic, others cannot be discerned from chocolate milk stains or mud splotches. This is how each garment becomes unique and actually a work of art. During the spectacular photo shoots , where amongst other things gigantic mud canons were fired, the clothing gathered many more new stains. The label on the clothing states in large letters ‘DO NOT WASH’. Dirty Pastel clothing is only finished when it is stained. Dirty Pastel is meant to be worn dirty.

Dirty Pastel is a typical art project in the sense that there was no commercial clothing line established, and that a great deal of energy was put in to set up a new brand name without ever any intention of making a commercial brand. In this sense, the whole project is actually a long extended performance in which ever more spectators become increasingly more involved. Yet the whole brand/fashion label /clothing line creation process is completely real, with even an advertisement campaign in 185 bus and tram shelters in Amsterdam and an exhibition that is shown, not in a museum, but a clothing shop.

presentation & Dirty Pastel launch

As of 12th of June 2013, you can view the collection and advertising campaign in SPRMRKT on the Rozengracht 191-193 in Amsterdam. The Dirty Pastel posters hang throughout the entire city from the 12th to the 18th of June 2013. From the 10th of June till the 10th of September 2013, along the Tasmanstraat in Amsterdam West, three huge billboards are to be seen displaying images from the photo shoots at the Houthavens.

go back to Dirty Pastel ‘the story’