A conversation with Ruben Jurriën, owner of the label RUBEN JURRIËN, AMFI Fashion and Design student and intern at Jimmy Paul, talks about his activistic approach to clothing. With his latest collection, his goal is to make men in dresses normal again and to ditch the dress code.
June 20, 2021
Text: Agata Leszczynska, Claudia Roerdink and Sanne Alofs
Photographer: Joana Kazmaier
Ruben often uses activistic texts on interesting and funny shapes that make you feel cheerful. With his own brand he explores the boundaries of commercial fashion and haute couture. The inspiration for this collection ‘’IF ONLY I SAW THIS WHEN I WAS YOUNGER’’ came from his own childhood. There is little to no LGBTQ+ representation in children’s TV shows or biology books. It’s made to make people happy again, while bringing across a strong message. The garments are made from recycled materials. Materials such as inflatables and baby blankets. With this collection Ruben painted the picture of how he wanted to dress in his childhood, if the rules of gender norms weren’t forced on him by society.
How do you feel about the restrictions your parents laid on you?
'They wanted to protect me from the negative reactions. So, I certainly don't blame them. I think that if they had allowed it, I might have had negative reactions. I am just so sorry that it is necessary, even now. Maybe I should just put on the skirt and see what happens. I think it's very good to let children grow up with the idea of "wear what you want". Fortunately, I do
see it happening more and more, for example, boys going to school in a dress. Unfortunately, there are many parents who see this as a phase and are very much against it, which is a pity. I hope it's going to change very soon.’
To what extent have the rules of society changed you as a person?
'I can be whoever I want to be but just not in the way I dress. The fashion world may have triggered me because I wanted to make the clothes I didn't have and couldn't wear. I think it was also a motivation to make the clothes that I missed out on before. It sounds negative of course, but it has actually shaped me into what I am now as a designer. I want to bring back that flamboyance in my designs for people who identify as men. I think the whole gender thing is stupid anyway and I want people want to wear my clothes because they want to wear them'
How can we normalise men in dresses?
'It would help a lot if more famous people did it. They are just in the picture a lot and are seen by a lot of people. Harry Styles did it last time, but it's seen more by the older generation. I would find it very cool if queer people could be seen in children's series. For example, a non-binary character in Sesame Street, children grow up with that and then it becomes normalized and it's not something strange or weird anymore. What I really like is that Tim Hofman and Lize Korpershoek switched outfits at the Televizier ring. They are seen by a lot of young people, our generation and also older people. It would be cool if you see more men on the street with dresses or just wear what they really want to wear. I think you just inspire people.'
What would be your perfect party dress?
‘Probably the pink dress from my collection. I love the shape, the playfulness of it and the emotion of wearing something that comes out of my mother’s childhood. Paired with pink socks, it would be a perfect outfit. I would wear it to a festival like Milkshake. The statement of it is truly what I want to tell the world - drop the gender labels! That dress would truly be my perfect party dress.’
Who do you hope to inspire?
‘I hope to inspire youth and the people who are going to have children. Children are born with a clean slate; they are completely new to this world. They are shaped by their upbringing. If I had seen more men in dresses or skirts on TV as a child, it would have been much more of a representation of how I feel. It would be cool if you see more men on the street with dresses or just wear what they really want to wear. I think you just inspire people. That's why I hope to inspire children but also people of my age. I hope to inspire teachers so that they see that things can and should be different. Our generation is very activistic. I think that if it comes to us, something will be done with it. It would still take some time before it is fully accepted, but I hope that I inspire people to just be themselves. After all, children are the future, and they can make the world a better place.’
What advice would you like to give to someone who feels the way you did back then?
'You should have a home where you feel safe. In that house you can experiment and do what you want to do, that is your safe zone, enjoy it! Try to see what is possible. Maybe a pink flamingo dress is too much for you but start small, for example with a hairband and expand. I understand that it is scary to wear a dress outside, but you should totally do it. Roll in it slowly.’
This is a publication from Garment Magazine, made by students from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. You can find The Party Dress issue in stores on the 25th of June!
© 2021 by Garment Magazine.
Garment Magazine is an independent production made by students of AMFI.
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