This isn’t simply an article, nor is it just a fashion shoot. This project is the collaboration of a multidisciplinary group of Japanese creatives living in Berlin, brought together by hu!’s art director Natsuko. She developed the concept inspired by a poncho made by her friend Claudia Hill. The poncho in the pictures is the sister poncho of the „Travelling Poncho“; it has been produced for the same performance, with the same processes, and from the same materials.
A distinguished and dignified appearance with a pure aura that reminds you of the air in the forest. If you have met Claudia Hill, you would understand what I mean. Maybe it comes from being trained as a dancer. It is a certain atmosphere that one can feel from a person who pursues something wholeheartedly. Something very sure and pure.
Claudia is a cross-disciplinary artist who has been active since the mid-1990s when she started her career in New York. She presented her work in various forms of art such as costume design, installation, and performance art as well as fashion, with her own eponymous label.
The “Traveling Poncho” project was launched in 2011 when Claudia decided to distance herself from the fashion industry. But she was and still is interested in textiles as material and in interaction with people. “The poncho started more as a conceptual piece. I worked with materials that are very special to me and I took them apart or cut them into pieces, then wove something new out of them. It works almost like a medium. And I decided to send it around the world because at the time it was not possible for me to go on tour in person.”
To name a few, the materials she used were sample material from her first collection, indigo-dyed fabric from her first trip to Japan, children’s kimonos, and some fabric of her mother’s bought in Switzerland when she was young. All of it she had been keeping for some time and none of it was bought for the project. “I like using what is already there. You can look at it as trash because most things are damaged with time. But they still have the essence. I combined them and made something new which gave it a whole new value. It’s the principle: When you put one plus one together it makes three. It’s like, to work with less to make more. It can be very worthy when you can see quality in it.” The poncho which also was included in a performance show is now travelling around the world. From east to west it went to so far eleven countries.
There are two rules that need to be observed when conducting the project.1) It must be delivered in person. “It’s about making contact. The poncho is being delivered in person and two people get to meet who would normally never meet. And it´s also about the notion of speed. I just didn’t want to participate with this project in the common notion of the speed that we have. Sometimes it goes really fast like within a week but sometimes people had it for a year and nothing happened. It’s nice that it has its own rhythm. I just need to find the right person and work with their schedule. Somehow it is growing in a very organic way.” 2) All contributors must send documentation of their interaction with the poncho to Claudia. It can be a video, text, photo and drawing but it needs to be documented. So far, what she received was different with each person. She also collects emails exchanged between the two parties; the poncho deliverer and the poncho receiver. “Because of the time issue again, it’s interesting to see what happened at these moments. For instance, Occupy Wall Street was just starting in NY, and that was actually the meeting point of the person who passed it onto someone else. Then [there is this e-mail that says] ‘Ok, let’s meet at Occupy.’ When I read through these memories and parts of e-mails and texts it really gives an interesting picture, like a mini-contemporary history lesson. That’s why the texts are important to me. Images and texts form one big piece of tapestry. I plan to make a book out of it in the future. ”
Claudia loves the interaction between people. When I look back at her past projects, there has always been a group of people involved. Even fashion design was and still is to her some sort of medium or tool to communicate with people.
“When I made clothes my motivation was to make objects that become part of people’s lives. They don’t necessarily have to be fashionable objects. For example, people who bought a cape or coat of mine 15 years ago still have it. They still wear it. It became their companion. It’s not a throw-away object. It can keep you company throughout your life. In that way I wanted the Travelling Poncho to function. It is like a temporary friend.”
Claudia said that the project still has momentum. She doesn’t know when to finish the journey but also doesn’t want to put an abrupt end to it either. Might there be a couple more years to go … ? What we know is that the poncho will continue to expand its story and network of people around the world, and actually the journey of the poncho is an act of making a big tapestry of an organic network by weaving time and people together.