Alexa Pollmann, a London-based fashion designer, has recently paid a visit to Bangladesh with a view to exploring more about the garment industry and staging a theatrical parade on the occasion of one hundred years of women’s suffrage movement. She has founded ‘Peut-Porter’ (a platform for displaying self-initiated research projects) which has already created quite a stir among cross-sections of people. As a designer Alexa believes that a garment is not just a piece of cloth rather every garment narrates a story. However during her stay in Dhaka she along with two of her friends (Sabine Roth and Kat Thiel) spared some moments from her busy schedule to talk about Bangladesh’s garment industry, its workers, women empowerment and her extensive research works:
You are fashion designers based in London. So, what has actually motivated you to work here in Bangladesh?
We don’t think about the product rather you have to think about the whole story of the product – where did it come from, who made it and how is it finding a place in the world. Moreover we had the factor of exchanging ideas in mind. We teach at different universities in London and our students have no idea of production. So we want our students to know what’s going on here and include that in their own designing process.
There is some kind of negative connotation related to our garment industry in the Western world. You have already worked with the garment workers of our country. What is your observation?
First of all, the women that we met were incredibly impressive. All of them have amazing personalities and a lot of them have quite difficult stories. But the way they overcame them and the way they present themselves now in their position is, I think, quite inspiring. And it definitely makes you feel humble to see that. I hope they can have a voice and tell the stories because it’s very important for this country to hear them as they are the backbone of this industry.
You have come up with another project styled as ‘Nari Shakti’. What kind of changes are you planning to bring about in our society through this project?I hope that we will be able to empower the women that we worked with. A lot of them are already very empowered but some of them also have some stories which are not necessarily talked about. There are lots of necessities to be openly talked about and I think that’s what we just hope to do with this project (having people discuss about it).
Let’s talk about your works. How did you come up with the idea of creating a platform like ‘Peut-Porter’?
It’s just happened. There wasn’t really a premeditated plan. It’s our frustration with fashion system (at the same time we have a passion for it) that created a feeling among us that we need to criticize it and do something. I think that was the beginning motivation. Moreover there is a huge foreign debate within design about how designs can actually work in a way that it supports the system. Not just to find simple solutions, rather our goal was to open up space for these exchanges and discussions.
You have talked about a future form of government in one of your works named ‘Indivicracy’. Do you really believe that there will be a time when people living in this world will not be restricted by the mere idea of border and region?
I strongly believe in it. I think this is the only way forward. Believing in a good thing will make it happen. That’s my kind of idea.
Will you please elaborate the idea of ‘design culturing’?
New cultures and nicer cultures need more power for the existence of our world. They need to be looked at and scrutinized. Design culturing is basically about using design as a tool and creating a new culture (a new way of living) so that we can use their knowledge and create common knowledge for solving our man-made issues.
Last but not least, what do you think is the way to reduce the widening gap between the garment workers and the capitalists?
It’s a huge challenge. The starting point should be to bring them together in different groups who don’t usually meet because segregation is always a problem. So, I think education is the first place to start with.