Bonne Suits was founded in 2014 to reimagine personal style and to challenge the fast moving fashion industry.
The design of our suits is minimalistic. We call them ‘the poor man’s suit’. This provocative slogan refers to the way poverty forces an individual to make the most of the bare minimum. Our suits force the wearer to create an identity out of a suit that gives none by itself.
Bonne Suits is a response to the overconsumption and production of fast fashion. The current emphasis on novelty, choice and uniqueness makes people consume more and quicker. Besides having a negative impact on the environment and working conditions, the fashion industry has become oversaturated. We believe a shift is needed from the big brand model of fashion where six collections are brought out every year.
Our response is to take fashion out of the equation entirely. Variation in the design is no longer necessary. We hope to persuade people that style depends on more than just the clothes you wear. By providing a high quality and versatile product, the wearer needs to buy less and less frequently. This way fashion becomes more sustainable.
As we emphasize accessibility and personal style, we aim for our clothes to question, or even break expectations of identity. This way the suit becomes a neutral component in communicating personal style.
Accessibility is a central theme in my (Bonne Reijn) work. Many art forms seem to come paired with an elitist announcement. I try to take art out of its ‘bubble’ and make it accessible, without the intention of influencing the value or content of the art.
The same goes for the Bonne Suit. I chose the suit because it represents a stereotypical symbol of identity in our society. Suits make you think about business men of 30 years or older in a formal setting. Our re-imagination of the suit, however, is worn by 14-year-old girls, rappers and posh, middle-aged women alike.
In this way, we made an elitist fashion-item; the suit, into an item, which is accessible to all and wearable for any occasion, at any time. Bonne Suits plays with the expectation people have on something traditional as a suit. Style often seems to be linked to luxury, while it does not have to be at all. With our suits, we turn the formula around. High fashion is something elitist, but style is something democratic: everyone can have it, regardless of social position.
Another central theme in my work is collaboration. By getting together with people I appreciate or admire, I try to prevent the suit from standing alone or becoming a hollow statement. That’s why we make our clothing patterns available and accessible for artists. They can give their own interpretations of our suits in full freedom of creativity.
Among other people, we worked together with Elisa van Joolen, who used our suits for het project ‘11×17’. The Russian artist Alisa Yoffe used our suits as a canvas for her paintings. Together with Jan Hoek we set up a project in which the local Ghanaian artists Stan and Hamza painted suits. And together with the Swiss-Kosovar designer Flaka Jahaj we made suits of traditionally knitted and Kosovar fabrics. Other collaborations were with Theo Wesselo, Piet Langeveld and Esmay Wagemans.
We aim to emphasize our message by implementing our philosophy in our campaigns. In fast fashion, it feels as if design has become subordinate to the art direction; the collections follow each other quickly, have elaborate campaigns that dominate your social media feeds, but are subsequently forgotten.
We try to turn this around. Every release of our suits is shot by the same photographer (Amsterdam city photographer Maarten van der Kamp), in the same place (on the stoop in front of my house) and with – more or less – the same cast: we always ask friends as (amateur) models. There is no styling or makeup, as the models choose themselves how they want to wear the suit. This ensures that the shoot is about nothing else but the suit and the person wearing it. Which is all that clothes are fundamentally all about.