#Justin Orlick’s Beyond Courage: A Holocaust Retrospective through the Lens of Fashion

Every year I submit multiple fashion entry’s into the #Scholastic Art and Writing awards competition.  This year, my goal was to create a piece of fashion that was more than just something pretty or unconventional for the judges to look at.  I wanted to use fashion as a vehicle to tell a story, send a message, and make a statement.  Below is the inspiration behind my Silver Award Winning entry.

Justin Orlick:  Beyond Courage

Justin Orlick Award Winning Design: Beyond Courage: A Holocaust Retrospective

For my Scholastic Gedenk Award for Tolerance submission I selected my dress “Beyond Courage: A Holocaust Retrospective.”  As background, in the “Beyond Courage” design I utilized fashion as my vehicle to make a statement and tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of the resistance movement.   The final design highlights the courage and strength of the Jews during the Holocaust and those that risked their lives to save others.  The theme of this dress was focused on the history of the Holocaust highlighting the lesser known resistance movement.  My goal was to pay homage to the people (Jewish and non-Jewish) who lost their lives while telling the stories of survivors who lived to document the event to be sure it never happens again.   As a historical back-drop I incorporated photos and illustrations of both the survivors and victims.  Each wood piece was hand collaged with stories, poems, photographs, illustrations and artwork from the Holocaust.  This dress was intended to represent the strength and heroism demonstrated between strangers during this tragic period in history.  The dress took over 300 man hours to complete.

The foundation of the dress was made from over 150 pieces of recycled wood that were individually hand collaged with graphics, paper and other multi-media elements.  The wood pieces represent the barracks in which the Jewish people had to sleep in the concentration camps.  The wood is hard and imperfect and uncomfortable like the conditions in the camps.   I also utilized smaller pieces of wood hand painted in black highlighting the names and faces of survivors and victims.  While only a small part of millions, these people were selected for their participation in the resistance movement both during and following the Holocaust.  The black and white faces on the black background are very graphic in normal light but in black light shine bright like living spirits.  The wood pieces are connected with wire representing the barbed wire around the concentration camps and shows the connection between all of the survivors and those who died or were murdered.

The top of the dress was made from a yellow linen fabric similar to the garments the prisoners were forced to wear in the camps.  The mustard yellow color of the top represents the yellow badge (or yellow patch) also referred to as a Jewish badge which was a cloth patch that Jews were ordered to sew onto their outer garments to mark them as Jews in public.   The hand crocheted yarn, which overlays the top, graphically and abstractly represents the Jewish star itself.  I used a “cobblestone” yarn for the belt and top as it represents the cobblestone streets in the ghettos. Finally the black skirt underneath the dress is made from a softer material.  It acts as backdrop for the wood pieces but also let’s light shine through as a representation of hope.

The underlying message:  Never again!