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Souvenir Official, ‘Protect Peace’

    Most of the items in this museum that look at fashion as a form of peace activism focus on famous brands, such as Balmain and Valentino. Their international renown and influence allows them to conceptualise and narrate peace in impactful ways on the world stage, and wide media coverages gets their political messages resonating with the public – as I discuss, for example, in my analysis of Jean Gritsfeldt’s collection at Berlin Fashion Week 2022.

    However, peace activism in the fashion world can work through sales as well as through media coverage – and it is not as elitist or restricted to big brands as one might think. Messages about peace can be shared and amplified through people buying, wearing and advertising products in their ordinary lives, with lesser-known brands arguably having even more impact than famous fashion houses on people’s everyday lives.

    This is the case for Souvenir Official’s ‘Protect Peace’ collection. Designers for Souvenir Official, a German fashion brand based in Berlin, took the opportunity not just to design clothes that reflected their own vision of ‘peace’ but also to use them to start conversations on what ‘peace’ means to different people.

    ‘This time I stoped thinking about all commercial beauty and I refused working with such patterns I know from my daily life and business. I rather took the chance to give a little glimpse into my very own vision of beauty and what peace really means to me.’

    Vitali Gelwich, discussing Souvenir Official’s ‘Protect Peace’ collection: https://souvenirofficial.com/protect-peace/

    The collection consists of a series of t-shirts and hoodies with a common motto; the words ‘protect peace’ are printed on the back of all items, while the stars of the European Union’s flag are printed on the front – evoking the EU’s historical role in protecting peace around the world. This is a very pointed political statement, but the entire collection has been designed in pastel colours, so that rather than ‘shouting’ their political message in bold, vibrant colours, the t-shirts and hoodies articulate it gently. The use of pastel colours, albeit perhaps slightly clichéd, might have been favoured on the basis of colour psychology, which tends to prove that lighter colours convey a sense of relaxation, in contrast with brighter colours, which might be perceived as aggressive. The aesthetics are approachable, relaxed and comfortable, not ‘in your face’.

    The photoshoot which Souvenir Official used to launch the collection also contributes to their visualisation of peace.

    ‘Vitali Gelwich teamed up with Walandi Apoussidis, Affa Osman, Niki Pauls and Patrick Glatthaar to form the vision and spirit of the campaign. Together they found a romantic approach while moving through the beauty and brutality of Berlin, to underline the togetherness of the people they encountered in their environments. Instead of photographing models in a white studio, they opted for a more documentary perspective while following the participants and capturing their everyday moments, using analog photography.’

    https://souvenirofficial.com/protect-peace/

    One of the most notable elements of the photoshoot is its inclusivity, with the models chosen for the campaign representing a wide variety of cultural backgrounds and age groups. There is a strong focus on young people, perhaps suggesting hope for the future, but also a coming together of different ages. The ‘everyday’ nature of the shots underlines the message that peace can be protected by anyone and everyone, in any place and at any time – not just by the architects of the European Union but by all of its citizens. As other items in this museum underline, the most sustainable kind of peace-building often happens through everyday practices, and the choice of using commonly worn, comfortable clothes conveys the idea that peace is fought for by every individual, thus portraying and prioritizing small-scale efforts. This idea can be empowering, as more often than not, peacebuilding is seen as something far away from our individual agency.

    The theme of unity comes across particularly strongly in the photoshoot, through the repetition of the ‘protect peace’ message on everyone’s backs and the body language of togetherness in group photos. In short, a range of relatable models, young and old, embody the idea that peace comes about through union with each other, and the photoshoot reinforces a sense of community that goes beyond geographical borders and cultural differences, which is precisely the ethical message behind the EU. As well as photographing models wearing their clothes, Souvenir Official asked them to explain how they visualise peace, and their words are shared alongside images of the collection. This has the effect of prompting reflections and starting conversations. Just as we hope to do in our museum, this photoshoot invites people to think about what peace feels like and means to them.

    ‘Peace means that all members of society, from all walks of life, minorities and majorities, regardless of ethnicity or religion should not discriminate against other groups, but should defend each other!’ Narges, 16

    ‘Harmony and Calmness first within a human then between humans.’ Ahmad, 23

    ‘Peace is when we humans finally understand that national borders were only invented by humans in order to separate and differentiate themselves from other humans. Peace comes when we realize that we are all affected together and that we all fight against it together.’ Thommy, 18

    Some of the profits from this collection have been donate to Heyva Sor, a humanitarian organisation that has been working in Rojava, Syria.[1] Despite not being a well-known or luxury brand, Souvenir Official is an inspiring example of activism through fashion, particularly because it promotes small-scale, accessible forms of activism, enabling every individual to ‘protect peace’ on a practical, affordable level.

    What do you think?

    • What kind of impact do you think a fashion collection like ‘Protect Peace’ can really have on peace-making around the world? Is it just a marketing gimmick, or a genuine attempt to promote a sense of togetherness and peaceful practices?
    • What part can we play, as individual consumers, in promulgating peace through fashion? Does buying an item from a collection like Souvenir Official’s make us peace activists? Is it the economic investment that makes us involved, or the awareness that the campaign raises, or both?
    • If you wanted to communicate messages about peace via fashion, would you prefer an elite fashion house with a global reputation or a local, high-street fashion brand?

    If you enjoyed this item in our museum…

    You might also enjoy ‘Valentino’s Peace Dress‘, ‘Utopia/Dystopia‘, ‘Intergalactic Freedom Dress‘, ‘Isha Sadhguru’s Fashion for Peace‘ and items with the tag ‘Inclusivity‘.

    Federica Consiglio, May 2022


    [1] “Il 10% dei proventi dalle vendite della collezione di felpe e T-shirt pastello Protect Peace sarà devoluto a supporto dell’organizzazione umanitaria Heyva Sor, l’unica rimasta attiva nell’area autonoma di Rojava, a nord della Siria. (The 10% of profits from the pastel hoodies and t-shirts’ collection will be donated to the humanitarian organisation Heyva Sor, the only one that has remained active in Rojava, northern Syria).” From the article: Pantano, Italo. “Felpe e t-Shirt Pastello per Difendere La Pace.” Vogue Italia, Vogue Italia, 30 June 2020, https://www.vogue.it/moda/article/souvenir-official-eunify-felpe-t-shirt-pastello-pace.

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