The Beauty and the Brains — Fashion & Philosophy symposium

Combining complete opposites generally leads to thought-provoking discussions. Linking fashion, with its glamorous and superficial connotations, to philosophy, aligned with grand ideas of wisdom and reason, allows us to think about both subjects in new ways.

For two days, multidisciplinary thinkers were brought together in Amsterdam to explore how adjacent fields can transform how we think about fashion. Philosophers, including our own Rebecca Breuer, started a discussion among the audience of (young) professionals. Organised by Thoughts & Fabrics, the Symposium left the apparent distinctions of fashion and philosophy aside. The event also lent itself to introducing the high-end womenswear brand iNDiViDUALS to a new audience.

Rebecca Breuer Fashion Philosophy symposium

Rebecca addresses the audience.

In her lecture, Rebecca Breuer introduced us to the pros and cons of homogeneous thought, or uniform thinking, in which we order and structure our surroundings to make them easier to understand and categorise. The downside of this commonly used way of thinking is that there will always be one overarching structure. In relation to fashion, this has to do with identity. We try to classify people through the brand names that they wear.

Limiting our definition of identity to one suggested by homogeneous thinking does not do justice its complexity, especially in the context of fashion. As Elizabeth Wilson suggests, “we need a variety of ‘takes’ on fashion” in order to avoid a single sociological explanation. If we want to understand how the relationship between fashion and identity evolves, we must change the homogeneous way of thinking into a heterogeneous one, in which we don’t look at one overall structure, but focus on the connections.

Fashion & Philopsophy Symposium

Fashion & Philopsophy symposium by Thoughts & Fabrics

As a homogeneous thinking society, we agree that our brain has a left and a right side. We have gone so far that we label left-brain people as more organised and systematic and right brain people as more creative and intuitive. The brain may have two sides, but does not work separately. The complexity of the mind and the interplay between rational thoughts and emotional impulses inspired iNDiViDUALS’ SS16 collection, created by multidisciplinary teams of third and fourth-year AMFI students. The garments are surprising combinations of geometric silhouettes and soft, formfitting contours. Edgy sport meets contrasting fluent, silky fabrics. The way iNDiViDUALS works is representative of this heterogeneous thought: students from design, management and branding combine their powers to create a new ‘take’ on fashion.

The SS16 collection by iNDiViDUALS

The SS16 collection by iNDiViDUALS.

Later during the Symposium, Patricia Pisters, Professor of film at the UvA and director of the Amsterdam School of Analysis, proved again the captivating effect of merging different professions. Her lecture on the multidisciplinary nature of ‘Metallurgic Fashion’ cited Dutch designer Iris van Herpen’s SS16 collection ‘Quaquaversal’, which means “going off in all directions”. Van Herpen’s work process brings scientists, artists and biologists together and by matching these seemingly opposite fields of work, we can expect a surprising collection every season.

These examples of conceptual thinkers in contemporary fashion show that this industry can be a powerful tool for enacting change, for exploring principles and for generating thought-provoking discussions. In order to continue this debate, we need platforms that encourage experimentation. We need to continue to bring people from different disciplines together to consider how we can restart a system with many challenges: a system in which there should not be only one point of view, but rather one in which any point can be connected to another.

‘It’s not easy to see things in the middle, rather than looking down on them from above or up at them from below, or from left to right or right to left; try it, you’ll see that everything changes’

(Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari 1980 — A Thousand Plateaus)

A concept should be a tool for thinking, it needs to be visible in society and maybe even open up a perspective that many people would never see or think about. With iNDiViDUALS’ strong notion on the human mind that inspired the SS16 collection, they combined two things that are often seen as opposites. The brand’s heterogeneous way of thinking and working shows that beauty and brains are a perfect match.


iNDiViDUALS is a collective of third and fourth year AMFI students changing with every season, allowing them to create a continuing narrative, responding to the evolving Zeitgeist. Find out more at

Several other speakers were present at the event that stretched from Friday in Hotel Droog to Saturday at the Doelenzaal. Find out more about the Symposium on the Facebook event page and the Thoughts & Fabrics Facebook community.

Article by second-year International Fashion & Branding student Sanne Nooitgedagt.
Photos by Janneke van der Linden.

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