FASHIONCLASH Festival with Branko Popovic

Every year since 2009, fashionistas descend to Maastricht as the city hosts the FASHIONCLASH Festival. It has attracted more than 900 talents from 50 different countries. This year’s 8th edition is bigger and better, involving more than 150 designers and artists from all over the world who will showcase their work and creations to a diverse international audience. Our Maastricht Students reporters sat down with Branko Popovic, founder of Fashion clash, and Melissa Stoots at Alley Cat Bikes & Coffee the location where it all began for Fashionclash Maastricht. What started as a small scale event grew to one of the main annual attractions of the city.

Interview and photography: Brian Megens
Interview and text: Karissa Atienza

The whole idea started at the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design. When we graduated, there was no perspective for designers so it meant that most just left. It was quite a shame because there were a lot of good designers and people also weren’t aware of the Art Academy. We thought why don’t we organise a fashion show for local designers and our own work? It’s very difficult for young designers to find an affordable stage. So in 2009, we officially established FASHIONCLASH as a foundation and secured funding from the city and the province. It was also around that time when the city filed for candidacy as a cultural capital so there was a lot of buzz in the air.
For the first edition, we said let’s try something and it just exploded from there! Initially, we targeted local designers but what happened was we had 60 designers from all over BeNeLux. The first edition was a success but we didn’t sell out. We did generate a lot of media attention and people were talking about the event and how great we could do this. So we thought let’s do it again, let’s do it better and use all the things we learned from the first edition. The second edition was a great success! The shows were sold out and we had designers from 11 countries. Then we really realised that whole idea of creating a stage for young designers was not a local problem but an issue everywhere.
When we choose a theme, we always choose a theme that is connected to something topical. For this year’s edition, we have ‘heritage’ as our topic. Since we have designers from all over the world, we wanted to talk about how designers deal with their heritage. Everybody is immigrating everywhere, so how do designers deal with that? It’s what they do, designers translate their life experiences and vision to their work. At the same time, we’ll have some fashion talks and debates where we’ll talk about these things. It sounds simple but it stimulates culture and diversity and most especially, the beauty of it.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

Branko & Melissa

What is the aim and goals of FASHIONCLASH?
Ou aim is to provide an affordable stage for young designers to present their work and designs. Fashion week cost thousands of euros just to participate. Initially, we thought it was a local problem because for designers that live in Amsterdam or Berlin there are more possibilities but based on the first edition of FASHIONCLASH, we realised it was a problem for a lot of starting designers.
We are growing every year, developing the concept and the idea, and learn from each edition. We’re trying to contextually develop the idea of showing fashion as an art form which distinguishes us from all the other fashion weeks in the world. It now puts Maastricht in quite a unique place in fashion. Something we want to develop as well in the coming years is to become more of a national institute, meaning that we also do something in other cities like Amsterdam, but the festival will always remain in Maastricht. We’ve been growing more outside the country so we want to develop more nationally. Also, if we want to grow and challenge ourselves, it’s good to collaborate with people from outside the city because we’ve worked with everyone here. It also creates a broader audience.

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

How can the students get involved?
Most of our interns and volunteers are actually students and they come from different studies. We have Arts and Culture and European Studies students and also students studying International Business and Commercial Management. It also changes every year. Some years we have more students from the Hogeschool, some years we have more UM students.
For the festival, we build a team and together we organise the festival. There’s around 10 of us in the team but we need more volunteers for the festival itself. We need a lot of volunteers, for example to guide the international press, to seat the guests, help with the exhibitions, etc.  There are a number of students who are models during the show and a lot of students are also doing their graduation research with us, so students are very welcome to engage somehow.

Why should students get involved?
The whole project is a learning curve for everyone. Most get involved because they really like fashion, like fashion lovers who want to get involved with fashion and also students that are doing business but are interested in the fashion business who wants to see what goes on behind the scenes. It’s a very interesting experience! For example, Arts and Culture students who specialise in Media Culture can do a lot. We give student interns real work where they can learn from and skills that they can further develop. It’s also a great way for student volunteers to meet people. You get to meet local and international designers, other people from the city and fellow students.
What do we have for students? It’s a really accessible festival. Just come and watch! Bring your student card and we have student tickets for 5 euros which you can buy at the venue itself. It’s nothing to see designers from all over the world. There are a lot of things for free, for example the exhibition market and events in the city. There’s also a party in the venue. It’s a very nice gathering of young people from all over the world. I would really recommend it!

Would you like to be part of the FASHIONCLASH Festival? Become a volunteer by sending an e-mail to Melissa at!
The FASHIONCLASH Festival is accessible to everyone. Most of the programme is accessible for free while you can secure your spot at the Fashion Shows by purchasing a ticket. Don’t forget to check out their FB page or their website for more information on the Festival!

Photo by: Brian Megens Photography (

What (not) to wear?

I have to be honest; I was slightly surprised when my friend Luc (my help and stay; tourist office) invited me for FashionClash 2013. Why? Well first of all, it was Luc, who isn’t into fashion. Secondly, neither am I. Going to a fashion show, which includes creepy models, hipsters and other fashionista’s would not be my cup of tea. And then there is still the age-old dilemma: What (not) to wear? Especially for women, this could make or break your day. A fashion show is the place to look and be looked at. This creates an even bigger pressure. Even Luc struggled with this problem. He wore his only (clean) pair of jeans: “I’ve to keep my legs together because I have a tear in my crotch.”

Maybe the show would give us some inspiration to prevent these kind of fashion mistakes.

 FashionClash is an interdisciplinary fashion event which was held for the 5th time. The last few years I hadn’t visit the shows because of the lack of money. Furthermore TLC provides me with more than enough fashion-input and I’m a bit wary of the skinny models and arrogant designers. No. All the drama around those shows is not my thing. But sitting in the front row at FashionClash could be a fresh start of a new mind-set about fashion. The one thing we’ve learned; fashion is like art. Or better, like beer and/or wine. You need to learn how to appreciate it.

 The creations which were shown on the catwalk differed from dead Pino’s and tissues coming out the models’ noses and ears (Tate Christiane), to dancing gents with white socks and dressing gowns (Nawie Kuiper). Right Said Fred would have loved it I’m a model, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the catwalk. On the catwalk yeah, I shake my little touche on the catwalk.”

 As I said, you need to learn how to look at fashion. The line between art and fashion is very thin. Maybe the most easiest way to distinguish the two, is by looking if it is wearable in day-to-day-life. And most of the time it is not. Nobody walks in deadly stiletto’s or ridiculously big platform-soles. Nobody wants to look like he just failed his audition for the role of a tampon in the new Libresse commercial.

But that is not what it is all about.

Some designer want to use their designs to make a statement or to express themselves. Clothes are surely the easiest, cheapest and quickest way to do this.

 In the 3 hours where we were surrounded with the fashionista’s and know-it-alls of art, clothes and design, we still had no clue what to wear the next day. But we know at least 1 thing: “I know what is in next season”, Luc said “No bras. No breasts.”
Oke, we might not managed to understand fashion but this is of course, mission impossible. Even the book “Learning to look at paintings” has been in my bookcase for over 3 years. Untouched.

The Ultimate Guide to Dutch Style

So you are living in the Netherlands? Want to fit in/be cool etc etc? Well this is exactly what you need. The clear, essential and user-friendly: Ultimate Guide to Dutch Style.

The ‘Kakker’  (posh kids, well turned out)




Knee High Leather boots or plimsols


White long-sleeved

Red leather laptop

Long natural (not dyed, maybe a

Hockey Stick MandatoryBoys


Brown leather formal shoes/all stars

Jeans with biggish brown belt

Striped shirt, unbuttoned a little (tucked into jeans?)

Brown leather bag (or hockey bag) and big watch

Long hair ‘Dutch style’ (ie. Too much gel, and flipped over to one side)

Hockey Stick Mandatory (possibly golfing gear too)





Sjonnys or ‘New Kids’ (chav-ish)



Black Shiny Nicholson Jacket (with furryhood)



Lots of bling



Black or White Shiny Nicholson Jacket (fur optional)

‘Pimp’ Jeans


Big trainers




Field notes for non-Dutchies:

Many Dutch people find the following things undesirable:

– Make-up on girls (or guys!)

– High-Waisted Skirts

– Bouffant/Bee-hive hair on girls


and the following desirable:

– Simple jeans and t-shirt

– leather jackets on girls

– 1950s-style college sweaters (think American sororities/’Grease’)

– Hair gel for guys