On the occasion of the URBX Festival organized by the city of Roubaix, the Anti Fashion association asked Sophie Bramly to follow the young people of the districts, in order to show a city and a youth in full effervescence, creative and combative. For three years she has followed about fifteen young people from the association, to discover the renewal of Roubaix through their eyes. She sent us the following text.
As a stranger to Roubaix, I only knew an anxiety-provoking picture painted by the media: a succession of alarming figures centered on poverty, the catastrophic unemployment rate, rising delinquency.
Until 2019, when I discovered an alternative landscape that quickly won me over.
Through the Anti_Fashion Project association, I met dozens of young people from the neighborhoods, operating in teams, finding their strength as much in the group as in the creation of upcycled clothes, with which they free themselves from any notion of fashion. Here the garment is not used either to claim a better social status by an accumulation of logos, but to stage an eccentric code, which draws from all kinds of locker rooms to tend towards flamboyance. Clothing is an outlet for venting their necessary need for extravagance, a palliative for a complex entry into what is so strangely called active life. Although the group is a priori heterogeneous, the differences are abolished: neither gender, nor religion, nor skin color, nor social background seem to have the right of citizenship and it is difficult to say what this is about.
I chose to follow them, to discover Roubaix through their eyes. Observing them, it seemed to me that this new generation from Roubaix announces something tremendously contemporary, promising for the future.
The creative energy which is theirs is an echo of that which I encountered in New York, forty years ago, at the time of the birth of hip-hop: an unprecedented system which knew how to build innovative codes to transform a dark horizon in a new society. It is probably not by chance that they have in common with them this love of their city, writing its name everywhere with the same exuberance.
Admittedly, the textile factories have long since deserted the city, but the fabric survives otherwise, intrinsic to the city, still creating a palpable social bond.
My gaze, faithful to my enthusiasm, undoubtedly disguises the gray areas that persist, inherent to the brutality of the industrial world. It is undeniable that we are witnessing here the unbearable divide, increasingly deep, between obscene wealth and striking poverty. Roubaix is unfortunately a symbol of this, but it seems to me that chaos also brings with it the singular force necessary for renewal.
In the same way that Montaigne, in his Essays, sought to move away from the travel commentaries read in the guidebooks, I seek here to depict a new expectation which seems to me to shed a warm light on the city. “Did I leave something to see behind me? I will return ; it’s always my way. I trace no certain line, neither straight nor curved.
1 Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais (III, 9, 985b).
The RBX50NEUF100 exhibition presents 120 photos of the photographer, in the former Banque de France, 1 place de la Liberté, 59100 Roubaix, from June 13 to July 31, 2023.