Marija Mojca Pungercar

I met Marija Mojca Pungercar briefly, on the last day that her ongoing project, Socialdress, was in residence at RogLab, a “production, educational and presentation space” located in a container on the banks of the Ljubljanica River, near the Rog Factory, a former bicycle factory in the city center. Socialdress is an interesting social and artistic project that aims to create awareness about the loss of crafting skills and its affect on the textile industry, particularly in Slovenia, as well as throughout the world. The project brings together people from the local community, either teaching them to sew or drawing on their own skills that they eventually share with others. It has also brought together people from different backgrounds, for example, the elderly and the unemployed. Although most of the participants have been women, a few men have come in to the mix as well. The participants create, design and sew clothing, handbags, as well as domestic items such as dish towels, potholders and aprons.

Socialdress at RogLab

Socialdress at RogLab

Marija has described social dress as clothing that “has an integrative effect in terms of community.” The project regenerates this traditional domestic role and in doing so underscores the benefits that come from that social model. For example, one thing that the project emphasizes is storytelling and sharing – as women come together to sew, they talk communicate, share ideas, stories and talk about their lives. While shunned in the modern era, the traditional domestic role can have a healing effect on society, as it does in this project.

I also found the project interesting in juxtaposition with the Russian avant-garde, which also had its own form of “social dress,” although an entirely different kind. The Russian avant-garde emphasized patterns and designs that would unify society, who would ideally all be wearing the same types of clothes. They also designed simple, easy-to-wear and easy-to-produce clothing, that would eventually be produced in large textile factories, eliminating the human element altogether. Even their designs – geometric and abstract patterns – aimed to eliminate the human figure from beneath the clothes. Marija’s project does the exact opposite – it is social in the truest sense of the word. Her project inspires, brings together communities, and helps individuals create something of their own in order to be self-sustaining.