Last weekend, Workwear opened at the Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Curator Eldina Begic exhibition pays tribute to clothing originally designed as protection and support for labourers while they performed heavy tasks. But workwear became a potent working-class symbol, and today its presence on the street and catwalk cannot be ignored. The grand opening on Saturday featured a unique fashion show, curated by designer Ninamounah.

Visitors of the Workwear exhibition delve into the world of functional fashion. Begic has selected dozens of vintage classics, current looks and futuristic experiments. These aren’t just a testament to the beauty behind functional design, but radiate equality and solidarity, and formed and inspired countless artists and fashion designers all over the world to create items we find back on both catwalk as in everyone’s closets today.

In addition, especially for the exhibition, two Rotterdammers have created new works exploring the future of workwear. Designer Sam Cruden of custom jeans brand C.Cruden presents an installation focusing on the life cycle of a pair of jeans. Spoken word artist Elten Kiene has written a workwear manifesto in the context of the exhibition.

Unique fashion show and party 

For the festive opening on Saturday evening, the Nieuwe Instituut transformed its arcade behind the building into an enormous catwalk. The Wearwork fashion show has been curated for the occasion by designer Ninamounah of the eponymous fashion label.  About three hundred visitors witnessed the work of up-and-coming labels Hardeman, Kaam Kari LA, Schepers Bosman, Das Leben am Haverkamp, HEH, Pablo Salvador Willemars and Camiel Fortgens, who each designed a number of items that represented their personal interpretation of workwear.

After the fashion show, the exhibition of the Nieuwe Instituut was open to the general public for the first time, followed by a party in the Nieuwe Café, where Elten Kiene recited his workwear manifesto live and Sam Cruden took place behind the turntables.

The Workwear the exhibition can be visited until 10 September 2023 in Gallery 2 of the Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. For more information, please visit