Sicily, Ashish Gupta, and the complexity of human nature.

Clarice Gargard

Clarice Gargard (28) is a Dutch journalist, presenter, and filmmaker. She is currently working as an online content editor at; the opinion website of VARA, but she basically can turn her hand to anything. As tv-host for AT5 she once did an interview about mafb, but Gargard also freelances for NTR, Vice Media, De Correspondent and NRC-Next, among others. And as if that wasn’t enough, this girlboss also organizes debates and events on cultural and social issues in Amsterdam. 

What are you most passionate about in life?
I think I’m passionate about a lot of things, but what really motivates me is fighting for social change and equality. I think it’s important that we strive for equal rights, opportunities and treatment for all and to address the issues that divide us as a society. I also think that it’s important to share stories so we can learn from them and connect with each other, enforcing more understanding. 
Name three countries you think were most special to travel to and why?
South Africa - That was an eye-opener for me. I think there isn’t any place with such a rich, delightful and yet appealing history like South Africa; from the native Koi-San people to the blacks, colored and Afrikaners. It’s inspiring how different tribes, cultures and heritages live together as one. Although they went a long way to accomplish social cohesion, they’re still infused in the country’s multifaceted identities. 
United States – I was born in the US but grew up in the Netherlands and later on I travelled back regularly. The US as a country and its dynamic fascinates me. On the one hand there is so much racial tension, profiling and injustice and on the other hand there is this nationalism that applies to everyone regardless of skin color. You are an American first. They don’t have a name, like we do in Holland, to collectively define every ‘other’ person from another country. It recognizes individuality of people and groups more. A testimony of respect in a way. 
Sicily – When I was in Sicily for holidays I was unabashedly stared at and sometimes they even touched my hair or shouted how beautiful they thought I was. At first, I thought they’ve probably never seen a black person before, but then my friend reminded me that a lot of refugees arrived there from Sub-Sahara Africa. She made me realize that it’s more about perception and how they probably don’t encounter a black person who looks or acts like I do, in a way that may be more relatable to Westerners. This made me realize that we – in general - have so much stereotypical ideas about a person when it comes to arbitrary features. It doesn’t acknowledge the full potential of a person. 
What are your thoughts on fashion, art and design?
I find it inspiring how it’s constantly changing and evolving or even revisiting the past sometimes. There is no repetition in these fields, maybe imitation but there isn’t a single era that is duplicated because they are all narrated by a different time. In most cases of art or fashion and design you can find a connection to the zeitgeist, since that is ever changing and so is the work. It’s an echo corresponding to life and it’s vitality and turning it into something tangible and entertaining or riveting to think and feel about. 
Are there things that you find lacking/bothering/frustrating about the fashion, art and design industry?
Even though diversity is a topic that is getting a lot of attention, I believe that there is still not enough done yet to represent the different kinds of people that inhabit our world. There is always a certain idea about what is aesthetically pleasing, desirable or of high quality and it’s always centered on Western and hetero-normative masculine ideals and perspectives. Mostly in fashion you see that beauty standards are upheld that tarnish a positive body image for perfectly healthy and good-looking women. The tendency has become a rigid habit you see everywhere from fashion, design and art to media, literature and politics. It’s a shame because we’re missing out on elevating ourselves by remaining one-dimensional. 
Who inspires you in the fashion industry?
Ashish Gupta is doing some really interesting things; incorporating edginess and subculture of skate and punk into his designs which automatically comes with a sort of broadening of what is feminine and masculine. His models are always diverse as well. He makes it seem effortless and all the attention goes to the clothes, because that’s what it’s about eventually. 
I also really like Alexander Wang’s use of geometrics in his garments, and the overall vibe and the futurism appeal. It’s less traditional and more revolutionary with a kind of cultivated rawness, yet it’s still very sexy. Even his own appearance challenges the way we look at gender.  
And of course, the original gangster Coco Chanel. Even though she promoted ‘femininity’, she also designed suits for women, said and mostly showed that a woman from any upbringing can do and be whatever she damn well pleases. 
The fashion fest is all about awareness. What does awareness mean to you?
It is basically the drive behind my work. I think it’s necessary to inform people and make them aware of things they might not have known or give them another perspective on certain issues, and simultaneously I learn a lot myself which I can implement in my own life. Without awareness there can be no change and it dooms us to repeating the same mistakes. 
With this blog we want to create awareness around topics like gender, identity and diversity. Do you take these topics in account in your work, if so can you tell us how?
They’re issues that I address in my work by providing other perspectives on the way we are constructed to experience our gender or identity. We’ve been told that certain things are normative or appropriate when we’re of a certain gender. As women you have to strive to be ‘feminine’, attractive, smart but not too much, and docile when it comes to a member of the other sex. We have inflated the egos of men and taught them that being ‘masculine’ is essential to who they are. If our behavior doesn’t confirm to the rules of society it will causes insecurities and doubt. It can lead to anything from inequality, depression and other mental illnesses to explicit violent behavior. I think we should experience the complexity of human beings as more fluid instead. You don’t have to be what is prescribed, but simply how you feel or are and when that becomes the norm it will relieve us of so much unneeded pressure and give us the realization that constructs imprison us. By promoting diversity we’re strengthening ourselves and others.
Is it possible to design for a gender fluid reality?
Yes, but we need to change the idea behind what is masculine or feminine first. The whole point of experiencing gender as fluid is that everyone can be as they are, instead of trying to fit into a mold. Even the terms are suggestive, implicating men as more masculine and women as more feminine. I prefer to think that you have a certain type of energy that results in behavior that is (for lack of a better term) ‘manly’ for example, and has not so much to do with what you have between your legs, if I may say. Those constructs haven’t really changed. They might get more challenged in the fashion and art industry but it’s not seen as normative - maybe more as ‘creative’ and something unique -. This should actually be mainstream.
Digital technology and globalization ensure that the creative sector is subject to strong changes. What do these changes look like?
Changes and influences are coming from all sides. There was a sort of acceptance or acquiescence of the status quo before. And even though there was resistance then, we must not forget the work others have done before us. There is more of an interconnected global movement. The expansion of available channels that have been created by the existence of social media, are amplifying voices from all over. It makes it possible to create platforms beyond the regular ones, spaces that are direct, accessible, self sufficient and reliant. They make it almost impossible to deny that there is a definite change coming, if it isn’t already here. And there is no way in hell we’re going back!