Having worked with organisations such as Greenpeace, NSPCC and Google, founder of design collective/agency Lovers, Alex Ostrowski, is well versed in the makings of brands and campaigns… but definitely not pyjamas. That, he says, was the main temptation. “It was almost like a dare! And it definitely snowballed,” he remembers of the beginnings of his passion project Dreamjams, which has been two years in the making. “There’s the element of the unknown in all projects, but this is very much outside the normal territory.”
It didn’t even begin with the desire to making clothing, but instead, a vision of the final campaign shot. Inspired by depictions of creative collectives of the past, such as the attendees of the Bauhaus’ epic costume parties, and the crafty members of Kindred of the Kibbo Kift, Alex pondered, in a similar group shot of his agency’s collaborators, “What would all the Lovers be wearing?” Also referencing images of synchronised swimmers and dancers in formation, Alex and his team set out to create that image, and in turn, the clothes within.
Whereas fashion usually allows for its wearers to tailor their look to their personal identity, Alex wanted the opposite. “Everyone approaches clothes with the mindset that it’ll ‘make me look like me’ but these aren’t like that. These make everybody look the same, like print studio aprons, creative overalls that help you have ideas. It was asking whether that could happen, could we create that?”
For this aesthetic, Alex looked to clothing that was “a bit far out” with ceremonial flair and the feel of a creative uniform, such as David Bowie costumes. He worked with illustrator Bráulio Amado to design the purposefully loud and vibrant print, and fashion designer Sadie Williams, who he “bombarded with questions,” Alex says. “If she hadn’t been so generous in humouring me, Dreamjams wouldn’t have happened.” Sadie designed the cut, a winged shirt and a super-wide leg trouser, made in silk satin “to make you tingle!”
The most unusual aspect of the project is a specially made sonic artwork by Kira Belin, unlocked using a hidden password stitched into the clothing. Kira, a sound artist for films and experiential projects, has created the so-called “sonic hourglass” for the wearer to listen to while in their Dreamjams. It features recordings she’s made in Alaska, the white sands of Mexico, the Rio Grande river, and by apparently looping Puccini through a fishbowl.
“It’s one hour of creative stimulant,” Alex explains. It is the Dreamjams’ “most enabling factor” for creativity, he says. By donning these garments and listening to the soundtrack, the wearer – according to Alex – is saying, “I’m neglecting my creative self. I’m going to give myself time to create, and I’ll use these tools to help me.”
“It’s a provocation really,” he continues. “There’s a lot of talk at the moment about taking time out for wellbeing, but we don’t make time for our imagination. Our creative muscles are worn out. Creative people are expected to bring out ideas constantly at any minute of the day. This project is about treating a part of yourself that you’re not treating well enough. A ritual for creativity. Sit in them, and let your mind wander.
“It’s liberating, it’s kind of absurd. There’s an element of Emperor’s New Clothes about it – clothes can’t make you dream! It’s not that they mystically activate something, but there’s a placebo effect.
“It’s also a mating call out to your fellow creative souls. In my fantasy, all the Dreamjam wearers will start a WhatsApp group, or start companies together, start a community. We’ve just put it out there to see what’ll happen.”
Watch the Dreamjams in action, as worn by dancers from the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance (thanks to a connection through the campaign photographer Paul Phung), in a film by Jay Maude, below.