Taj Mahal in Amsterdam
10 February 2006 – A new t-shirt line
joins the name of Amsterdam to the Taj Mahal, although one might
also see a mosque in it. News from Amsterdam asked the designer
whether there is a message behind this.
Under the title World on Tour, fashion designer Simon de Boer has
created a t-shirt line with globalisation as its theme. On the t-shirts,
a hotch-potch of world cities and city symbols is printed: the Statue
of Liberty suddenly stands in Moscow, the Coliseum in Tokyo and
Manneke Pis in Berlin... a jumble of world-class cities and their
De Boer: “The t-shirts are an expression of globalisation
and the shifting identities that stem from it. People tell me that
it makes them happy to see the t-shirts. Living in the era of mass
media, we are forced to look at the world in a different way, and
therefore at ourselves as well. Because of internet among other
things, the world becomes smaller. The pictograms on the t-shirts
are an expression of this. We can recognise ourselves in them”.
At the same time, the shirts are a symbol for idealistically striving
for a better world. A world in which everybody has the same rights,
in which people care for each other, in which the differences in
income and working conditions are not as absurdly large as they
are now, and in which health care and education are properly available.
In short, for all that is described in the Declaration of Human
“The world news can be very depressing, but I think that there
are also positive sides to globalisation. I think that the world
is more and more concerned with these issues. Things are being done
about them, albeit slowly and not enough. The t-shirts express an
ideal that is floating above reality. They are meant as a moral
support. This is how I as a designer – not a politician –
try to do my bit”.
De Boer has been launching fashion collections under the label
‘Be Your Own Master and Creator’ – a Friedrich
Nietzsche quote – for the past ten years. “I see myself
as a fashion designer, but I also try to make a connection with
philosophy. One of my sources of inspiration are the cynics who
where active in Athens in the fourth century B.C., of whom Diogenes
is the most well-known. When Diogenes was asked where he was from,
he used to say: ‘I am a world citizen!’ So he was far
ahead of his time. And even though he wanted nothing to do with
fashion, he might have appreciated my t-shirts”.
The idea of the World on Tour t-shirts came about by joining the
name New York to the Eiffel Tower. “I still think that this
is the strongest combination, these are really two super symbols
being put together. I also thought about making a t-shirt joining
Baghdad with the Statue of Liberty, but in the end I decided not
to. I tried to make it not too bluntly political”.
Many people think that the Taj Mahal on the Amsterdam t-shirt is
a mosque. Looking at it this way, one can easily interpret the t-shirt
as a commentary on the controversy in the De Baarsjes district on
the height of the minarets of the new mosque that is being built
De Boer does not mind if his t-shirt is being interpreted in such
a way. “I am well fed-up with all the fuss in the media and
in politics about the multicultural society. This only serves to
drive people apart, to pigeon-hole them”.
“I think that the people on the streets are way beyond that.
Of course, there are problems here and there, but fortunately, for
many people the multicultural society is something self-evident.
And something fun and enjoyable. Just imagine we still only ate
Dutch sprouts. Yuk”.
The shirts are ‘not big business’, according to De
Boer, but sales are going well. Amsterdam is most popular, followed
by New York and Berlin. Orders not only come in from the Netherlands,
but also from countries such as the USA, England and even Japan.
In addition to the current series, a Baghdad t-shirt may be created
– but not with the Statue of Liberty. Almost certainly, a
London t-shirt will be created as well. There are thoughts about
channelling some of the profits to a charity.
People who have acquired a t-shirt are encouraged to send in photos
of themselves while travelling – for example, in front of
the White House, on the Mt. Fuji, or riding a camel with pyramids
in the background. These photos are published on the website. De
Boer is also considering organising meetings for people with a t-shirt.
In any case, the initiative is meant to have an impact. “Of
course, the project will only be really successful if you keep on
running into World on Tour t-shirts on the streets this summer,
so that people start wondering what this is about”.
The t-shirts are sold only through the World
on Tour website