Fashioning the Free Market is an exquisitely vibrant coffee table book that expertly weaves together photos of fashion and art, and a narrative that questions our current consumerist culture. It shares a glimpse into the world of handcrafted, up-cycled, gifting and swapping culture and apparel, and asks the reader to join.
Fashioning the Free Market grew out of an ongoing interactive installation called the Free Market of Detroit. It's a semi-nomadic multi-genre experience, where the admission is one item to give. By entering the environment, everyone becomes part of a circle of giving; and co-creators within a living art piece that highlights fashion and objects as cultural markers; as bearers of story, symbols of community wealth, and opportunity for recreation.
The artist's intended purpose is to explore and reframe value, uplift beauty, and do her part in freeing minds/saving the world. The book will be available for purchase in September of 2019, launch details coming soon. The following is an article published in Riverwise Magazine, by Halima Cassells about the ethos and origins of FMoD:
My father owned one pair of gym shoes for as long as I can remember. Literally ONE pair. He had a few pairs of shoes for the office, and a couple for dress-- and that was it. He wore this pair of 1978 Nikes everywhere on the weekends; out to the garden in the backyard, to the grocery store, to the wood shop in our garage. And I was extremely embarrassed as a preteen when he wore them to take me anywhere. "They fit, and they do their job," he would say "no need for another pair." One day I noticed the sole began to peel, and there was a small hole. I excitedly showed him thinking he and I would go shopping for a new pair. I was wrong; I was dismayed when he went to the shoe shop in the Eastern Market and had the sole repaired. They were not for fashion, or for others to like. They were valued for their usefulness. This lesson (although super-hard to swallow at the time) became extremely important and central to my life as I got older.
Fast forward a decade or two... to the birth of my second daughter. She and my eldest are nearly eight years apart. I had no baby stuff just laying around when she popped on the scene. And I definitely did not want to buy a bunch of stuff that would no longer be useful after 6 months or a year. So I decided to host a backyard barbeque with a swap table. The bottom of the invite read, "Please bring any gently-used outgrown children's clothing or toys, we will have a swap table at this event." We were a small group of family and friends, and somehow we amassed a giant mountain of stuff... some stuff I was SUPER grateful to have, some stuff other people were happy to walk home with, and some that was eventually donated.
This was so successful that a group of friends began hosting these events around Detroit and the Free Market of Detroit was born. For five years it has continued to expand; adding several different elements; DJ's and a dance floor, a photo booth, open mic, and live performances, artists who sew and help facilitate fashion up-cycling workshops, as well as other unique experiences for participants to enjoy. In the past year, the Free Market hosted 10 swaps in schools, community centers, churches, at festivals, urban gardens, and conferences. Much of the success is in the interaction between people. "It made me so happy to see someone wearing a shirt I helped her design and sew at the swap over a year ago, I cannot even tell you," Diana, a Detroit-based multi-talented artist told me a few weeks ago. Sharing the stories behind the object, knowing you gave or received a gift from someone you know, and co-creating useful items together are all ways that we enjoy building community.
The admission to every swap is one item. Everyone is entered into the circle of giving this way. And if folks show up without anything, we ask them to make a pledge to pay it forward or host their own swap with family and friends the next time they have a get-together. Why? We want to inspire people to re-evaluate their things and think about how we can share and better put it to use. Once I told a woman that to get a pair of snake-skinned heels she wanted she would have to leave an item. "Anything?" she asked, "yeh anything that you are ready to let go of," I said. She lived around the corner, and asked me to hold the shoes, she would be right back. She returned with the most wonderful bags of clothes and books and toys, and a look of relief on her face. "I have been wanting all this stuff out of my house for so long, thank you," she said as she walked away with the heels under her arm.