#ICanDoThat episode 5 with Marije Blaasse

In the fifth episode of #ICanDoThat we interview Marije Blaasse. Marije is a fashion historian and museum curator. In this interview Marije discusses how she discovered that being a fashion historian and curator is her dream job. In addition to sharing her journey, Marije provides insight into her day to day activities. Little Red Fashion introduces Little Red Village and it's first interview series #ICanDoThat on instagram. Our #ICanDoThat campaign is a one-question interview for our IGTV that asks industry professionals across disciplines to respond to the question: "What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do within fashion?"

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The video of this interview can be found here!

 Prerecorded and posted: May 20th, 2021

Speakers:

Jonathan Joseph

Rachel Elspeth Gross

Marije Blaasse

Rachel Elspeth Gross  0:00  
All right, everyone. Hi, this is Rachel Elspeth Gross. And Jonathan Joseph. And we're here today with Marije. 

Marije Blaasse  0:08  
Yes, properly. I'm sorry. No, it's fine. You're doing great. 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  0:14  
So, our episode on what it's like to work in a fashion Museum, what is a fashion academic career like? So would you start off maybe talking to us about what it is you do on a daily basis?

Marije Blaasse  0:28  
Yeah, well, on a daily basis, I just, I look, after the collection, we have a very large collection of almost, I think it's, it's counting till 60 or 70,000 pieces of fashion. And we also have pieces on paper. So drawings or, you know, stuff like that. So it's quite a big collection and I just would be the rest of the team, of course, we take care of it. And that means that we have to give new stuff that's coming in a place in our archive, and we have to make sure that everything is you know, in a proper place, or I have to put it in the, in the system with a good photograph and a good description. And then, of course, we also have a curator, who is doing a lot of other stuff. And a conservator who is looking after. Well, the sick pieces. Yeah. So but yeah, it's it's like it's a team effort.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  1:39  
Yeah. Sounds so interesting. I mean, so you put up a show, I know some of the images that you sent, we're gonna share on our on our page. But when you talk to us a little bit about the actual, like, if it was an art show, we'll be hanging an expedition. What does that mean in a fashion context?

Marije Blaasse  1:57  
Yeah, it usually takes about a year to put up a one show, we have one big large exhibition a year. And yeah, it's, of course, because it's from, it's all 3d. And it's not just hanging a picture, like you said, we have to dress all the mannequins. And then sometimes if you have an old piece from like the 19th, or the 18th century, you have to make sure that the model that the mannequin you have is fitted for the dress. So that's, that's what, that's what they call mannequin ash. So you have to make make sure that the shape of the size of the mannequin fits the dress. So that's quite a lot of work. And yeah, it takes at least a few months to dress all, all the mannequins. Usually we have somewhere between 80 to 125 or 150, mannequins for one exhibition. So it's quite a lot. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, that's just what we do. And then of course, we have to accessorize. Accessorize is good. There's always I think it's it's the nicest part of the whole job that I'm doing is well picking out pieces and then looking what can we do with it? How does it fit? Looking nice shoes with it? We can have? Well, everything we have everything from underwear till you know you name it, we have it. We have umbrellas, we handbags, hats, stockings, and jewelry, everything. So from top to toe, we can dress a mannequin.

Jonathan Joseph  3:53  
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that's wonderful. I think, you know, every exhibition I've ever been to, it's all about telling that story. And I know right now, the story that you are telling at the museum is all about color. So now being Little Red Fashion, we are in color. So the rest of the Red Room. We talk. What is your favorite from this current exhibition?

Marije Blaasse  4:15  
Well, we just actually we just, we just unwrapped the exhibition, unfortunately, because we're still closed, of course, because of the pandemic. And we're working already on the new exhibition, but from the color exhibition, I think my favorite room was the pink room. And I usually don't have you know, one favorite piece because there's so many there's so many beautiful pieces. So it's it's really, really difficult to choose. But yeah, I think the pink room was my favorite.

Jonathan Joseph  4:54  
I took the virtual tour of the exhibition and I was of course partial to the Red Room for obvious Reason, but was lovely. I have to ask, did you always see yourself going into the museum world? What inspired you to move into this area of fashion as opposed to others?

Marije Blaasse  5:13  
No, not really. Because when I was at school, I was, I would, I liked it really much to work with my hands. And I did very much arts and crafts and drawing and working with clay and all sorts of stuff. And I think I gradually just, you know, went a bit more to the fabric side of everything. And then I decided, Okay, well, what can I do? And I actually asked my mother, what can I do when I like, you know, working with fabrics and cutting and stuff like that? And she said, Yeah, I don't know, cutting, and maybe you can be a hairdresser. And she said, No, no, no, not a hairdresser. Something else. So she really didn't know. And then I talked to other people and my Aunt said maybe you can be like, a composure. That's that somebody who is working, you know, showing clothes for people. And then, you know, and I thought I didn't know it sounds so blehhhh. Of course, it wasn't flashy enough, I don't know. But then I went to the art academy. And, of course, in the back of my head, I was like, Okay, I'm going to be famous fashion designer. That's going to be the the thing I really wanted. Yes, yeah, it was a big dream. And I think I was doing quite okay. I mean, I won a few prizes. I was even featured with one of my pieces in the L the Dutch magazine L. And so I was really doing quite okay, I thought, but then I thought, I don't know. And, of course, you have to do internships. And that's really good. Because then you can see what it's really like because at the Academy, it's, they all say all the teachers say you have to do it, you have to it has to come from within you and you have to create and of course you're doing that. But then you go on the internships, and then you're in the real world. And the whole commercial part of the fashion world. Well, that's there was just not not for me, it was too fast. And too. I don't know, they, they they gave me the first assignment they gave me was they said, okay, we will give you a sweater. And we want this, but then in 100 other, you know, versions with other colors or other sleeves or other pockets or whatever. And I was like, Oh, so is this now what I have to do for the rest of my life? And where's all the creativity? And so I was no, no, that's not for me. And I was always very interested in the story behind the clothes. So maybe I can do some study, like history of clothes or something like that. But I looked for it. And of course, I was a little bit. Well, I don't know if it was too late. But the lady who gave lessons at university in Lieden and just retired. So there were no more classes on the history of dress. And then I had to I had to move to the United States or to to England. And that wasn't really my plan. So I decided to go and visit the university in Amsterdam, where I was living at the moment, and I just asked them what if I enlist over here and do a course of the history of art, but then all the assignments on, well, clothes? How would you feel about it? And they said, Yes, of course. You're welcome. So I thought, okay, maybe I can do this one year. And well, that would be well, five years. And I, I finished it. So yeah. And this actually wonderful way, how I came in the museum world.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  9:18  
The art and that is such a place I think needs to be discussed. It needs to be a conversation there. It is not only utility.

Jonathan Joseph  9:33  
I think waiting for people to understand this happens a lot. And this is sort of some of the point with what we're doing with Little Red Village is that the pathway to a fashion career for so many is not linear. And it's not the kind of thing where you decided when you were 10 that you're going to do this thing. There are tons of kids that are like that, and we love them. But there are tons of like, well, I want to explore a little bit of this and I want to explore a little bit of this and maybe I want to try that and I think pulling back the curtain on the academic side of fashion and on fashion curatorship, conservatorship. And all of that is so important because most people I think, in general, let alone children don't necessarily know what goes into the inner workings of any Museum, let alone a fashion collection. 

Marije Blaasse  10:14  
No, but I had the same thing because I remember my mother was taking me to all kinds of exhibitions on fashion. When I was little, and I always wanted to see what was behind closed doors. I was always very curious about what what is what is behind the door that says private? Maybe Maybe there was already signs,  hey you have to go and work in a museum. I don't know. But no, I did an internship, of course, also, during my years at university, and I worked in a museum. So I think it's very important for kids as well to do as much internships as possible. And just go places and knock on doors and say, Do you need help? Because at our museum, we use a lot of volunteers. So, I mean, I think very, a lot of museums need all the help they can get. So just go there and ask and say, Hi, I'm here, I'm available. Can I do something for you? Can I help you? Or so that's how I got in.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  11:23  
I always loved the insides of clothing. I always think you and I discussed this in the past, seeing, like, I know, dress can be ornate and beautiful. But a lot of older clothing the finishing on the inside doesn’t match the outside. Which is such a contrast. And it's it's I don't know, it's like a mask?

Marije Blaasse  11:45  
Yes. No, we have we have students from it's called Meesteropleiding Coupeur Amsterdam, and they, they the people there are really learning how to make clothes fitting so. And they go and work for famous designers over here in the Netherlands or for the Opera House or the theaters. And they come to the museum and then we show them a Dior dress, and they see it on the outside. And sometimes they're already excited when they see the outside. But when they see them inside, they're almost like Whoo. What who did this to the dress! No, thats just normal. Yeah, yeah. That's so fun.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  12:38  
So you were talking before about fitting historic costume to modern mannequin II that like foundation garments? How does one do that? Is that a? 

Marije Blaasse  12:48  
Yes, how does one do that? Yeah, that's a good question. Because we use the most silly stuff to make mannequin sits. Padding a lot of padding, we even use shoulder pads. They're very handy actually, for making the breasts bigger, or the hips wider, or whatever. So now they're very handy. And just a lot of padding and a lot of pins and needles. And you have to just, you know, just try as many times before it fits. So yeah.

Rachel Elspeth Gross  13:24  
Jonathan, do you one more question before we wrap up?

Jonathan Joseph  13:27  
Sure! So well, I would love to know, you know, in your, you know, wealth of experience behind the scenes and prestigious collection. What is the most challenging aspect to you of mounting a show?

Marije Blaasse  13:41  
Maybe it's the physical, the physical part of the whole job, because it's quite a lot of lifting the mannequins and walking up, up and forth. And I think that's the most challenging. I think all the rest of it is just great fun. And sometimes, yeah, no really, It is. Yeah, I mean, I think I still, I still think I have the most perfect job there is in the world. It's great. And I don't know, I cannot stress it enough that I have the most amazing job in the world really?

Rachel Elspeth Gross  14:16  
If I lived closer, I would be your volunteer. 

Marije Blaasse  14:19  
Yeah, no, you're welcome. Please come!

Rachel Elspeth Gross  14:22  
Oh, when when all this is over. I will find a way.

Marije Blaasse  14:24  
 Yeah, yes. No, but I think the most challenging really is just sometimes it's it's quite difficult, you know, on the physical side and just lifting everything and of course we do it with the whole team and we get help from strong men but still. Yeah. Yeah.

Jonathan Joseph  14:42  
I mean, moving the Charles James, for example. Its Quite a large piece. Yes.

Marije Blaasse  14:46  
Also also, I don't know if you can see the one at my back. Is this really a great, great piece of it's a it's a Dior. By joining John Galliano and it's also quite a big piece but yeah. and if the dress is just on a hanger or whatever, it's fine, but when you put it on a mannequin, you have you know the whole dress and the whole mannequin. It's like quiet like it's two meters wide and sometimes we say it's like a three person job for just one mannequin. 

I can imagine the space the 3d space that it would take up in a room.

Jonathan Joseph  15:32  
That's also a challenge in storage to you know, you're storing you store 20 Halstons you can store.

Marije Blaasse  15:38  
Yes, no, you can have like 50 Halston. Just one of these dresses, yes. 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  15:46  
Oh, that's an amazing thing. I've never considered the comparison of volume. density. It's a very interesting question. All right, everyone, this has been so lovely. We're gonna do a longer piece. I think if you were still available. 

Marije Blaasse  16:03  
Yes. No, I'm still available now and well, yes. 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  16:06  
Wonderful. So what I'll do then is we're going to say goodbye, this one thank them for joining us and then Marije I'll send you a link the same way that the next one?

Marije Blaasse  16:15  
Yeah, perfect. 

Rachel Elspeth Gross  16:16  
Thank you, everyone. 

Jonathan Joseph  16:16  
You have to check out the longer format Little Red Village interview with Marije on our YouTube when it's posted. Thank you so much for joining us here at Little Red Village. Hashtag I can do that. This week on Instagram here at Little Red Fashion Co. I'm Jonathan Joseph, joined by Rachel Elspeth Gross and Marije from the kunstmuseum in The Hague. Thank you so much for joining us and imparting some great wisdom for our audience. 

Marije Blaasse  16:40  
You're very welcome and see you next time. Bye 

Jonathan Joseph  16:43  
Bye.

Jonathan Joseph

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Little Red Fashion Creator and CEO Jonathan Joseph is a fashion loving visionary & consultant who's loved fashion since childhood. After consulting in the luxury space for a bit, he was inspired to write The Little Red Dress. From there he realized kids who love fashion lack the same level of targeted resources from books to tech that their peers who love music or sports have had for ages. Our entire vision is dedicated to his mom, Margaret, who started his love of fashion as a kid looking for unique socks to cover his leg braces!

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