As the world came to a staggering halt during lockdown, the vibrant life of Fashion alumnus Karim Adduchi slackened to a slower pace. Shows and events were cancelled or postponed; private clients briefly retreated. Usually working on multiple projects simultaneously and with a closely knit team, Karim now sat alone in his studio, quietly, like “in the beginnings,” when he had just steered from fine art to fashion at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and worked day and night to make ends meet. Or before, when he had been painting portraits in Barcelona during his art studies there. Or even before that, when Karim had learned to speak through drawing, after he and his mother moved from Morocco to Spain to rejoin his father who had started working there a few years prior.
Just as much at ease with the unexpected slowness as he is with the hectic schedule of a critically acclaimed fashion designer, Karim describes his current setting: “At the moment, I’m in my atelier. This is where I make samples and bespoke pieces for clients. It’s a bit messy and, now that things are going back to normal, people are coming in and out again. For a while, that wasn’t possible, of course, and it was just me, by myself, with my own thoughts.
Can you recall those thoughts? The ones that come with the quiet?
I thought a lot about how lucky I feel to be a creative person, because creativity keeps you going. Sometimes it may seem like being a creative is the most fragile place to be in society, but we are also the strongest ones. Just look back at any crisis in history, at wars and pandemics: it’s always creativity that pulls people through. Even when there’s nothing left, we have our creativity. People tend to think: I need money to make something, or: I need a big platform for a project to work. But you don’t need anything! All you need is an idea and the creativity to break it down into solutions.
For me, these passed months in lockdown made me appreciate that strength more than ever. I felt so lucky to be able to draw and experiment in my studio. Many people don’t have that, you know. They don’t have that experience, that sense of creativity that assures you there’s always a way out.
So, while everything slowed down to a stop and got canceled, I started to make a plan with friends from the World Makers Foundation. We thought about how we could address the creativity in people and have them feel less lonely. I always want to bring people together, to create community, but because it wasn’t possible to bring people together physically, we came up with a project that would connect them in a different way, each from their own home.”
The project, titled Social [Distancing] Fabric and tethered to the foundation which Karim recently co-founded, was casually posted on Karim’s instagram feed:
In this time of isolation, we want to connect, be creative, and make something to remember this time with color and hope. Join our collective embroidery work, and work with others, from your home. We will send you an envelope with fabric, needle, and thread. The fabric will have a drawing by designer Karim Adduchi. You can embroider the drawing according to your taste, using your technique and choice of colours (…).
To Karim’s sincere surprise, the responses skyrocketed, expanding the sum of the collective fabric into two-hundred parts in total. And it could have been many more.
“Participants just kept signing up! It’s such an example of the fact that people want to be creative, especially in a time like this. By now, we got about one-hundred embroidered pieces back and I’m really impressed by the work. Technically, the pieces show a lot of skill, even when coming from someone who might be embroidering for the very first time: the rhythm, the composition, the solutions people come up with, the precision of the stitching, or the freedom of it…”
These coming months, the fabric’s puzzle will be pieced together, and in the process, Karim and his team will carefully collect every scrap of information that comes along with it: the embroidered pieces of fabric themselves, the age and whereabouts of participants, their background, their religion, small notes or long letters with personal stories; even the envelopes. All together, the Social [Distancing] Fabric will amass into a huge, embroidered collage that is planned to be exhibited in the Amsterdam Museum by October.
Quite literally a fabric of our time?
“It is. And it should be! Fashion is a social document, just like photography, and painting, and journalism… It has to reflect the now. All the projects I work on say something about our time. And as artists, that’s the story we need to tell. Every human being has a story to tell, but our job is to tell that story not only to ourselves, but to others; so they can learn something, question things, so that they feel understood and less alone.
Anyone becoming an artist started that path for a reason: once in their life they saw something, read something, heard something that made them feel good, that they could instantly relate to. People need to relate, people need to feel welcome, and that’s only possible if the story is human and real. It’s a challenge, but it’s important.
Fashion, mostly, is an industry that sells dreams, but I’m not interested in the dream, I’m interested in reality. I need to draw from my own experience, from my own life, so that I actually have something to answer to. You can’t fake it, really. If you do, it’ll just be superficial.”
This attitude has made Karim’s collections stand out from the beginning, from the moment his graduation work caught the world’s eye: the personal stories they tell, threading together glimpses of Karim’s youth memories, nomadic ancestry, and traditional crafts from the country of his birth. His choice of material, like Berber carpets, reflect his cultural heritage; the shape and silhouettes of his garments capture something of both the natural and societal landscapes of North-Africa.
Even the titles of Karim’s collections are like short stories in themselves: She lives behind the courtyard door, She has 99 names, She knows why the caged bird sings. “In the end, clothing is clothing; what makes it art or fashion is the story that comes with it” is a favoured quote in articles and editorials about Karim’s work.
Considering your story, the fabric that you are made of, what threads were spun during your studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie?
“Studying at art school highly influenced my approach to fashion. Normally, when you’re educated in a fashion school, you’ll be taught how to make a collection, how to make it commercial, but you won’t be taught to come up with innovative ideas. You won’t learn about the possibility to match fashion with music, or art, or social work, because the focus is so explicitly on fashion itself.
Just imagine only having an atelier where you can sew and stitch! At the Rietveld, the acces to other workshops allows you to link all kinds of other disciplines to your own. Ceramics, wood… Once I found a chair and I made it into an outfit. Your brain is constantly shifting its perspective. You’re constantly pushed out of the box, so to speak.
That open mind was perfect for me because I love to experiment. I love using all kinds of material, to feel it with my hands, to listen to what it wants to become, to grow with it and mould my way through the process.
I remember that, during my studies at the Rietveld, my fingers were always bleeding because I used my hands so much! It was hard: I had a full-time job next to school, working in a restaurant every night from 6-2, I was tired all the time and the communication with teachers wasn’t always smooth, but I loved it and I did my best. And in the end, it all paid off. It was a relevant time. Thanks to my education, I don’t see my work through the lenses of fashion alone. I’m a creative! And especially in our time’s current fabric, that makes me feel very lucky.
1988 born in Imzouren, Morocco
1983 moves to Barcelona, Spain
2011 BA Fine Arts at University of Fine Arts, Barcelona
2011 moves to the Netherlands
2015 graduation from Fashion at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie with collection She Knows Why The Caged Bird Sings)
2016 opening Mercedes Benz Fashion Week with collection She Lives Behind the Courtyard Door
2017 collection She Has 99 Names
2018 placed on Forbes Europe + Middle East 30 Under 30 To Watch list
2018 Amsterdam Culture Business Award 2018
2019 first ready-to-wear collection Maktub at Paris Fashion Week AW 19/20
2019 co-founder The World Makers Foundation
2020 cover dress for January Vogue Arabia
2020 Social [Distancing] Fabric project