Identity + Refuge catwalk

Date: 1995 - 1996
Ref: 0400
Materials: Experimental catwalk in collaboration with the Salvation Army Paris and New York, as a result of workshops conducted with the residents of the Cité de Refuge
Catalogued: Lucy Orta, Phaidon Press, 2002, pp 8-15
Exhibition history: 1995 Cité de Refuge - Salvation Army Paris; 1996 Deitch Projects - Salvation Army New York
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta

Working collectively with residents of the Cité de Refuge in Paris, over a period of four months, a small group designed and manufactured outfits made from the second-hand clothing that had been donated to the thrift store. As the residents had explained, one of their greatest losses, along with their homes, was their sense of identity in a city that had no place for them. They felt isolated, and missed feeling productive and creative.

Initially, Lucy Orta discussed the possibility of changing or negotiating their identities through the design of clothes for themselves, but it became apparent that most people felt uncomfortable working on such a personal level - a lack of confidence made it difficult for them to make choices directly concerning their own desires. They went on to design a collection with imaginary wearers in mind, discussing loss of identity through the abandoned items of clothing: ties, gloves and underwear, articles found in abundance in the thrift store. She asked the residents how they could change the identities of these objects by using multiples, without discarding pieces, to make something new enhancing the original morphology of the object.

Orta enlisted young fashion students to work along side the group. Staff and more volunteers, motivated by their creativity and enthusiasm, assembled them together and prepared the Salvation Army to host a performance catwalk. The outcome was a line of very sexy clothing for women — a slinky dress made of brassieres, a mini-skirt and hipsters made from leather gloves, dresses and jackets made of ties, which were presented to a large audience during Paris-Fashion week and in the streets of Soho New York in collaboration with Deitch Projects.

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