Yamuna Forzani's knitted fabric masks

25 May 2020

Part of a series of interviews with KABK alumni, highlighting their creative initiatives in times of Corona.

As of June 1st, we are all obliged to wear a face mask in public transport, yet nobody is eager to wear a dull basic mask. Luckily for us, Textile and Fashion alumna Yamuna Forzani dove right in and started making these super colorful and very Yamuna like masks! The masks are a true hit and sell out like crazy, so we’d like to know more...

Yamuna Forzani's knitted masks
Outfit © Yamuna Forzani, model: RaeZor Beam

How is Yamuna holding up in these times of quarantine?

I’m good, I live by myself, so I've basically been using my creative output as a coping mechanism. A lot of people have been saying to me like, wow you’re thriving so much. I really don’t think it’s the case necessarily, I don’t think I’m any healthier than anyone else in a way, I just think it’s my way of dealing with the current situation. I also think art is a great way to escape and to get yourself into your craft, that’s how I’ve been holding up.

Before I started making the masks, I was making outfits for friends and sending it to them, they would make nice photographs which turned into a little campaign that basically naturally turned into making the face masks, I was trying to stay busy.

Yamuna Forzani's knitted masks
Outfit © Yamuna Forzani, model: girldicc

What has changed the most for you since Covid-19 hit?

I think the biggest thing that has been the most difficult is that a lot of my work also includes workshops and working in my community which is the ballroom scene. I’m not able to see those people anymore and that’s really been difficult.

We’ve been trying to do a lot of things online, we have for example hosted a few online balls. That is how we are trying to, keep the community alive and thriving in these times. Also to lift up everyone’s spirit. Not everyone has the best situation as you can imagine, being queer and maybe having to stay at home with your family is not always the best or the most ideal situation, or not be able to like escape that.

We are trying to do the most in that and organise classes via Zoom, so that’s really cool. That’s sort of like the biggest change, a lot of my work is about having a lot of people together and that’s basically impossible. I was also organising a big event in June that would’ve been at the Theater aan het Spui and that is canceled, I really hope we can do it in 2021, let’s see.

Yamuna Forzani's knitted masks
Outfit © Yamuna Forzani, model: Daan Timmer

You just mentioned a Zoom meeting, is that your main platform nowadays?

I’m organising this event on Zoom with Rae Major from the community whose also an artist. I am in the Kiki House of Angels and he is from the Kiki House of Major; we’re going to organise this competition on Zoom. We will also live stream it on Instagram so you can really watch what is happening. it’s a way to kind of get people involved and get creative during this time. We’re going to have lip sync battles and best dressed costume battles, the person who wins will get a face mask. It’s a way to keep everyone busy and entertained.

You also teach at the KABK’s Fine Arts department. What has changed there?

I’m also doing classes online. Seeing that I’m not able to teach them physically, we’ve been doing a lot of at home DIY weaving on a small loom, using a frame and making small samples, which has been really great. It’s difficult to teach a craft digitally and also promote to try to scale things down because people don’t have the space to weave on a big loom, or are able to tuft, or make things on machines that the KABK has to offer. So we are trying to figure that out.

Yamuna Forzani's knitted masks
Outfit © Yamuna Forzani, model: Jowi Kemper

How is that for you personally? You have your own studio space, do you have machines to work on there? Or did the limitations of having no machines also inspired you to make these caps?

Yes, I’m definitely limited; usually, I work in Tilburg at the Textielmuseum, they are closed now but luckily reopening on the 1st of June. I really look forward to going back there and start working, I really love it there.

Yamuna Forzani's knitted masks
Glow in the dark green UV knitted masks © Yamuna Forzani

Luckily you get to wear your own face mask in public transport, so you’ll be safe! What role do you see for yourself as a young fashion designer in tackling social problems like the effects of Covid-19?

I think my role as a fashion designer is not a typical fashion designer’s role anyway, it’s very multi-faceted. I see myself as someone who will remain positive and tries to think in solutions, trying to uplift the people around me even if I’m not feeling so uplifted myself. That is the role I want to take. Within my textiles and my philosophy, it has always been about creating a utopian world.

For a lot of people this time of quarantine has given them the chance to reflect upon their own lives and the whole Covid-19 situation, but also on what life was like before. Maybe after all this has happened, we’ll come through with different ways of being. I hope that will bring better things. Hopefully my role is to uplift people in this time by making colorful friendly masks and organising fun events online.

Yamuna Forzani's knitted masks
Glitter blossom mask © Yamuna Forzani

You talk about creating a utopian world, at the moment we see the world around us is anything but utopian. How do you keep yourself motivated to keep creating and making stuff?

Even in times like this, there are so many beautiful things to appreciate, even when you are out on the street, I feel like there is a bigger sense of solidarity these days. You’re really getting to know your neighbors. Even in line at the supermarket, you see people chatting with each other with their masks on. I feel like the quarantine is also bringing out a softer and more vulnerable and compassionate side in people. I think that is really what motivates me, to focus on those positive sides. In times of crisis a lot of human elements come out that are really beautiful, you get to appreciate things you took for granted before, like that little chat at the Albert Heijn. Nowadays everyone is forced to take things slower somehow.

What is the first thing you’re going to do when the Covid-19 quarantine is all in the past?

The first thing that I’m going to do is go dancing with my friends, we’ll have a nice hug and not feel afraid, that’s what I want to do 😊

Thanks Yamuna, keep up the good work!

Want to know more?

Check out Yamuna’s textile works and online queer community

Check out her website. For daily updates we recommend you start following her via Instagram. The face masks are sold via her webshop.
Act fast cause they’re selling like crazy!

Get to know our Textile & Fashion department

The combination of the two disciplines within one department is unique in The Netherlands and inspires the curriculum of the Bachelor Textile & Fashion programme at the KABK.