Project history - Banknotes that traveled from Venezuela and were showed off as a national dress
Updated: Oct 14, 2019
The idea of making a money dress arose from an economics essay submitted in my first term of my degree, entitled: Why are Venezuelans using banknotes for artistic purposes rather than buying necessities?
In December 2018, students from Anglia Ruskin University received invitation from the student’s union to participate in the Global Week in March 2019. To get involved in the event, any way of representing one’s country was encouraged. For instances, students could perform a cultural dance, share their national delicacy, among others. I decided to engage in the event. My way of participating would be through showing off my national dress in a fashion show, but the novelty would be that it would be made out of real Venezuelan bank notes.
I hoped to create a dress that would be shocking and would help people to experience, in a tangible way, the currency crisis in Venezuela. I intended to deliver a speech accompanying the performance, on the state of my country, and to call upon others to stand up and assist Venezuela.
The first stage, finding the raw material
Finding the raw material (the banknotes) was probably one of the hardest challenges for making this dress. The dress was made up of around 2,500 banknotes, sent to me by a friend studying at the Central University of Venezuela, Jamy Ayala. As well as the notes that I collected myself from family and friends living in Spain and the UK.
The main procedure was based on, approaching several gas stations to collect the cash that the employee would have received during the day and that because of its devaluation where not going to be of any use. It is worth noting that in Venezuela each gas station is served by a government employee who is responsible for helping with the filling of petrol directly to the car’ tanks and who receives the payment from customers for the petrol too. A subsidized tariff rate has existed since 1996 (Amman, 2014). Therefore, petrol has remained very cheap for Venezuelans citizens since then. In spite of the currency devaluation. Therefore, this cash in the gas stations is handled as a representative and insignificant payment, which is even not collected any longer by the government. Also, limited amount of cash was collected from bank agencies and through posts shared between our friends.
The second stage, getting in the UK the Venezuelan banknotes
It is not legal to send any currency by couriers, which almost stopped the project. But after a couple of phone calls, people flying out of Venezuela escaping from the situation brought money their suitcases. Some of them who arrived in Madrid left the money until someone could bring it to me to Cambridge.
The third stage
Since my knowledge about fashion and design is limited. I began looking for the right person that could make the dress. I called the artist Susan Stockwell to get feedback from her experience. I was supported by a student from the ARU’ fashion and design faculty. Unfortunately, three days before the event the student stopped making the dress due to concerns about the legal implications of using real currency. However, due to the catastrophic hyperinflation of the Bolivar, the currency does not hold enough value for this to be of any consequence. It is, essentially, a paper dress. I was forced to make it by myself if I really wanted to achieve my goal. In spite of all the challenging timings and issues faced, the dress was finally made in collaboration of very close friends, whom I deeply thank for their tireless support and believing in me. The dress was finished on the afternoon of the 19th of March 2019 in Cambridge, UK.