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4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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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 symbols.

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 Rights.

“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 there.
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

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