Developed as part of the first Dutch Invertuals Academy led by Dutch Invertuals exploring the theme True Matter, exhibited at Dutch Design Week 2020.

‘True Matter’ shows an expression of the global shift from a careless to a caring attitude. Participants were challenged to work with raw materials from their local context, and to play with their surroundings. Not only in terms of resources, but also in terms of techniques, craftmanship, politics and traditions. Because designers joined from Colombia to Israel and fromThailand to Chile, the exhibition sheds a light on a diversity of local identities and gives us insight into what truly matters globally.

Topi-cology is a series of hats (called topis in the Gujarati language) inspired by abandoned birds’ nests found and collected during the Covid-19 lockdown. They are explored as objects of shelter and vitality, and as indicators of a place’s ecology and material identity. When the garden’s resident hawk, named Hawkwafina, began to territorially swoop down at anyone that came near the tree that held her nest, this project considered - 

How can we translate a nest’s characteristics into a collection of woven wearable shelters that allow a human to co-exist with other species in their environment without threatening or displacing them, while also contributing positively to their local ecology?

This research into weaving techniques, materials and methods of production took place through interactions with my immediate environment and community, significantly my grandmother. Her experience with plants and their properties led to an intergenerational exchange of knowledge and inherited practices, some of which have evolved to address modern ecological activity and materials. Everyday spaces, practices and materials – from garden waste to discarded plastic – are used to explore the localised range of human and natural activity reflected in birds’ nests, and create forms that are similarly random yet structured, soft yet resilient.

The Neem Halo
Bamboo, banana stem (both natural garden waste) and bark from a neem tree that fell due to monsoon rains.

Twine made of banana stem is treated with a maroon dye produced from neem bark, which has natural cooling, disinfecting and insect repelling properties. Along with the hat’s wide brim, this offers shelter from the heat, sun and insects, and the neem’s distinct smell may even keep people away at a time of social distancing. The waste and by-products of the dyeing process also have a purpose. The leftover dye and bark are respectively added to enrich fertiliser, and burned to repel mosquitoes and cleanse humid spaces in monsoon.

The Turmeric Topi
Banana stem, gum, turmeric

Inspired by weaver birds’ nests, this hat’s tall shape has a chamber to keep long hair off the neck, and clears the space over the head to protect it even when overzealous birds swoop down and fly low. Banana stem fibre has been dyed with turmeric, well-known for its significant healing, spiritual and revitalising properties, and then moulded and cured in the sun, making the wearer a walking beacon of good energy and taking the phrase “just put haldi on it” to a whole other level.

The Ragpicker Rain Hat
In collaboration with Rajiben Vankar. Waste plastic, cotton thread, banana stem

Inspired by a local tendency to use plastic bags to protect the head from rain in the absence of an umbrella, this hat is made using skills from two of India’s most critical industries that embody traditional knowledge and modern solutions – handloom weaving and ragpicking. It is made of discarded one-time-use plastic collected, sorted and sold by ragpickers, communities of mostly women who run the most effective plastic waste gathering movement in the country. Rajiben, a textile artisan who has trained as a traditional handloom weaver, is one of many who save tons of this material from reaching landfill by upcycling it into woven textiles and products. She created the textile that was constructed into this rainproof headpiece.

Photography and models - Ananya Patel and Varsha Nair

Exhibition photos by Ronald Smits

Watch the DIA True Matter documentary here.

Ananya Patel (India) / Andrea Michael de la Peña Aguirre (Mexico) / Beau Weber (USA) / Billy Ernst (South Africa) / Carolina Pacheco Glen (Chile) / Daniel Blacher (South Africa) / Elly Nielsen (Denmark) / Halah Al Juhaishi (Iraq/France) / Jesse Kiemeneij (the Netherlands) / Juli Bolaños-Durman (UK) / Kawisara Anansaringkarn (Thailand) / Laura Casañas Maya (Colombia) / Maria Gracia Ego-Aguirre (Peru) / Nicky Vollebregt (the Netherlands) / Sabrina Manasap (the Netherlands) / Steeven Macal (Guadeloupe) / The Architecture Story (India) / Tal Preger Galili & Sahar Kedem (Israel) / Walter Mingledorff (USA) / Wen Zhan (China / Hong Kong)

Concept, Program & Organisation Dutch Invertuals
Design Director Wendy Plomp
Project Management Esther Severijns
Moderator & Article Julian Ellerby
Tutors Raw Color, Mieke Meijer, Xandra van der Eijk

Lecturers and critics Philip Fimmano, Jólan van der Wiel, Niek Pulles, Nina van Bart, Jeroen Wand, Bram Vanderbeke, Tijmen Smeulders, Dienke Dekker, Edhv / Architects of Identity, Daphna Laurens, Carlo Lorenzetti

Bram Vanderbeke - scenography
Edhv - graphic design campaign & digital experience
Julia Veldman - documentary
Laura Houseley - copy designers
Mark Brand - web development
Raw Color - campaign visuals (program)
Roos Pollman - sound design
Schimmel & Schweikle - 3d visuals & video

Supported by
Brabant C
Cultuur Eindhoven

Press: For more information contact Esther Severijns via