HIGH FASHION LOW COUNTRIES – KNOTORYUS TALKS TO JAVIER BARCALA
On October 12th the exciting exhibition High Fashion Low Countries opens as an official part of the MODO Parcours 2012.
I got to preview the expo back in June and later on interviewed co-curator Javier Barcala and KNOTORYUS-favourite Manon Kündig who is one of the fashion graduates selected to show their collections during this event.
First up : The KNOTORYUS /JAVIER BARCALA -TALK
KNOTORYUS: Hi Javier, thank you for talking to me! How are you?
JAVIER BARCALA : My pleasure! David Flamée has told me so much about you guys! I am good. I flew to New York immediately after the Amsterdam opening. I am a bit tired, but excited.
KNOTORYUS : For this project you initially chose 3 Dutch and 3 Belgian designers to create an exclusive capsule collection.
JAVIER BARCALA : Yes, Lena Lumelsky, Celine De Schepper, Katrien Van Hecke, Jantine Van Peski, Pauline Van Dongen, and Natalie De Koning.
KNOTORYUS : Could you tell me a bit about the selection procedure? How did you decide which designers you wanted for HFLC?
JAVIER BARCALA : I have been working on this project with my co-curator Eve-Marie Kuijstermans. We wanted to enlist designers who show a different approach to sustainability. Who combine high fashion with new technologies or who could mix innovative craftsmanship with couture. Also, we wanted designers to make use of the slow fashion you see in local crafts.
KNOTORYUS : For me personally, the work of Jantine Van Peski stood out.
(above image : Jantine Van Peski)
JAVIER BARCALA : Jantine represents the couture side : slow fashion using a craft which in her case was the macramé. I don’t think she is interested in producing 6 collections a year at a big fashion house. Instead she wants to focus on sustainability while still producing contemporary garments.
KNOTORYUS : I really like the fact that the designers had to enlist the skills of local arts- and craftsmen.
JAVIER BARCALA : We encouraged them to explore techniques that were new to them. For instance Katrien Van Hecke is used to dying her own fabrics so we wanted her to look into innovative technologies this time. She went to the textile lab in Tilburg and she worked on a jacquard weaving-technique to make one of the dresses. The designers really used this project as an opportunity to try something that they had never done before.
(above image : Javier Barcala via Diane Pernet)
KNOTORYUS : For you personally, why do you think that this is an important project. Have you been involved in sustainable fashion for a long time?
JAVIER BARCALA : I have another project called “The Believers”, which I started almost three years ago because I think it is very important that the fashion world cares about the environment. When I was working for Designers Against Aids, we were already producing our collections in organic cotton. I got very influenced by Katharine Hamnett: she was the first person to talk to me about sustainability. However, I am also incredibly inspired by emerging designers, so I went to different platforms looking for new ideas because I wanted to now what else could I do besides using organic cotton. Through “The Believers”, I wanted to collaborate with emerging designers and create exciting new things that are sustainable and high fashion, cutting edge and avant-garde at the same time. Nowadays, The Believers is shifting more towards technology because I think it is very important for the future of fashion : what can we do with the available technology? I am exploring new techniques and some of them happen to be in favour of sustainability. Which is excellent of course.
KNOTORYUS : I adore the idea behind this, but on the other hand isn’t this a bit of a vanity project since it is probably not possible to commercialize slow fashion products? Which means everybody will keep on buying from the fast fashion chains…
JAVIER BARCALA : In the video (below) you can hear Lena Lumelsky saying : “The future is in couture”. I think she is right. Not just because the materials are expensive, but also because the pieces are well crafted. I think that there is a market, but it’s a different market. Some of these designers are into commercial work and I think that kind of fashion is on the rise.
KNOTORYUS : What is it that you guys – the curators- want to accomplish with this exhibition? Do you want to raise awareness?
JAVIER BARCALA : We have several goals. The Dutch Embassy –who initiated this project- wants to explore new initiatives between Belgium and Holland and they want to inspire these two countries to start working together more often. This is the first time that you can see all these organisations – Flemish Fashion Institute, Modo Brussels, Amsterdam Fashion Week… collaborating. This really is a pioneering initiative. From our side we really hope to inspire new designers to research the materials they use, to care for sustainability, to collaborate with artisans and craftsmen from their own countries, to really make use of the resources and technology we have in Belgium and Holland, to collaborate with other designers and to research the collections before commercializing. We are not only aiming this message at designers but also towards buyers and investors so similar projects can be financed.
KNOTORYUS : How about the customers. Or even just the people who come to see the exhibition? What do you want them to take away from this?
JAVIER BARCALA : After premiering the film, I immediately got the reaction : “Gosh, I never imagined how much work goes into one piece.” From the moment you understand that, you also appreciate the worth of the clothes. Veerle Windels said it best : “Instead of shopping so much, try to enjoy a piece.” And it might sound old, but that does not make it less true : go for quality, not quantity.
KNOTORYUS : Alright, I am really excited to see the full exhibition!
JAVIER BARCALA : We are opening October 12th at the Centre for Fashion and Design in Brussels (MAD Brussels) and it is a full-blown show with 18 pieces, short films, screening of the entire movie and we are also showing a selection of the most innovative fashion graduates in Belgium and Holland among which -as you know- the super talented Manon Kündig. Students who we picked as the most outstanding examples of innovation: whether it is their eye for detail, their craftsmanship, their use of digital printing… There is so many young and new talent who in my opinion can easily compete with what is already out there. So, I hope you all will come and have a look!
Nieuwe Graanmarkt 10