Dear iDEALS, it was through Stefan Siegel's tweet that I discovered the amazing works of Marga Weimans, an ambitious designer whose visions embodies Couture tactics and behaviors. The House of Weimans' expands itself to multiple disciplines including fashion, architecture and fine arts.
An Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts graduate, won the i-D prize award in 2005 for her graduation collection The Power Of My Dreams. With this collection she was also nominated for the Design Prize Rotterdam.
Now, Weimans' work is purchased by and exhibited at the Groninger Museum. She pushes the boundaries of the fashion industry with her designs by combining fashion and architecture, presenting bold and broad collections, from Haute Couture to Pret-a-Porter, including architectural show-pieces and minimalistic dresses. The designer continues to work closely with several artists from other fields like industrial designers and architects. Here is what we talked about earlier today.
MargaWeimans: I have an integrated view on fashion. I work as an artist, making Art Couture, but I’m also interested in how that translates to ready to wear. This combination is interesting to me Also, hypothesis and questions on how couture translates to a building for example. Focusing on the Fashion field, I consider myself as an artist.
F.M: You work as an artist, but yet the fashion world considers you a designer and you participate in fashion weeks...
M.W: From my point of view, I like investigating what fashion is about and how I could change that perception, in my own modest way. I like to communicate my message not only in a Museum context but also in a fashion context. For example, during the last Amsterdam fashion week I exhibited a building, an alternative view of a fashion house ( 99m2) and the fashion show was more of performance art with models dragging iron buildings along the catwalk. My message came through succesfully, loud and clear. This is also fashion!
Photography of work in process by Rianne Mertens
F.M: What is the process you follow for each collection?
M.W: I start with a story, a concept and the idea on paper. Then I find the materials and the shapes, which will help me tell that story the best. I start mostly with trigger questions, dealing with the development of my business. What do I want to learn or say, where do I go as a company and what is my current view on fashion. The very first collection was named Debut. I see it as papers of my diary, personal stories that later become universal.
Wonderland collection, photography by Menno Bouma
F.M: Marga, are you the type of designer who takes a lot of time in isolation, or is designing more of an error and trial process, using stimulation from your daily routine in the outside world?
M.W: The latter, it’s really about experimenting, trying and researching. My daily routine, my life is indeed the inspiration. I need time alone to digest and take a distance though, to travel. Sometimes I just send everybody, interns & assistants, home.
M.W: Yes! I lived in London for half a year and right after I started with theater costumes and couture assignments. Then I needed time to experiment avoiding to show most of my work on the website. Yet I did art commissions, exhibitions, collaborated with Couture artisans, architects, I designed a 50-meter curtain along many other things. The last collection was in July. I am also a mother of two kids, which makes things a little slow and until now my work was outside the fashion rhythm… until now. The next show will be in January 2013.
F.M: Wow, this is amazing. I didn't know you are a mother. Respect!!
M.W: Yes, totally, I miss it. Sometimes I doubt my decision. But I wanted to work on art couture and in the Netherlands there is the climate and the funding to do that. Dutch Groninger museum that also bought the work of Viktor&Rolf picked me up and it automatically enabled me to work the way I do. I must admit my main desire is to show on international platform for an international audience. But it’s coming in February. My collection will also be presented during the NY fashion week off-schedule. I have big dreams yes!
F.M: You know today, I was writing a column for a Cyprus magazine that I work for and one of the paragraphs was about you and my quote was that I see you as the next Viktor and Rolf, not in terms of inspiration or outline.It was the power of your vision and the work it embodies that led me to such conclusion.
M.W: Oh my god, thank you so much! It is important to build a good team of people around you to really break through. I must say I have wonderful people around me now; and a very good press office!
F.M: Do you take into consideration how people experience or respond to your clothes?
M.W: Yes, partly, I do take into consideration if the audience understands my story or vision, if it is clear. Also the professional audience: is it strong enough, different enough, interesting? Critical voices. I noticed people react emotionally in positive and negative sense, which I both need and like. Clothing is about emotions. It’s so closed as matter, everybody has an opinion, and nobody is neutral about it. It’s hard to digest for people that the clothes are not functional in everyday life. But I like that.
FM: Do you like stimulating emotion?
M.W: Yes! In a sense it’s like theater or another sort of entertainment.
FM: Are your collections dependent of one another? Do you link them somehow?
M.W: Conceptually there is always a link but visually I hardly look at older work. I just find out what fits the concept each time, my color palette etc. I like to work with the hourglass dress, the essence of couture as a basis. At the same time, I truly appreciate the work of others like Prada and Comme Des Garcons, who reinvent themselves in every new collection. Their documentation changes, starting from scratch each time, which is hard but also interesting. To sum up what the titles of my collection symbolize: Debut: birth of the company. Wonderland: escape from my reality as a fashion designer in a fairytale world. The opening of my fashion house. City life: resuming responsibility and making a clear business plan.
FM: How do you justify your own aesthetic?
M.W: I make Couture, which uses the ornament and the print, as ways to communicate - almost like a wax print. I borrowed elements from the language of the Baroque, the elements of propaganda, targeting the market through a visual language. This baroque layer is then placed on top of an architectural structure. Its almost a 3-D embodiment of my work process: first comes the structure, the story and finally the beauty draped on top of them all. I also think that visually incorporating and mixing the highs and the lows, the mundane and the sublime, pretty and ugly is my drive. It is exactly like life itself.
FM: Is there a distance between the pragmatism of fashion and your collections?
M.W: A huge difference, obviously. But I like that clothes can inspire or enchant people on a certain level, that they can enjoy it without having to own or buy it. On another note the work of Couture, is basically slow fashion and it is pragmatic because there is only one piece of each, hardly any waste. And when exhibited it, reaches an audience which is not always predictable.
FM: Lets focus on your recent presentation in Amsterdam.? Your models came out wearing massif metallic house-boxes on wheels. What was the concept behind it?
M.W: The concept as a whole represented a fashion house. The collection was about the internal business of a fashion house, and its functional needs. Also the city life, what is the outside reality of the house itself. Women, customers in their urban environment where they work in the clothes. Couture clothes also as something you can intensely love, within borders of obsession, a love so intense, which you cannot live without - hence the cages, with no regard to the mundane. A wonderful imprisonment, which we all can understand Couture as something which you can free yourself with - hence the end where the models walk out of the ' cages' and walk on their own.
FM: The critics mentioned it as your most wearable collection to date. What is your quote on this matter?
M.W: I was thinking of street clothes, the city itself, also fashion victims and the 'IT' girls…so it became more wearable. Conceptually I was thinking of customers, Anyhow, I would love to do more wearable clothes in the future! As an extra line next to my Art Couture. I can understand the surprise of the critics of course, but at the end this is very interesting, keeping people “on their toes”.
FM: Do you care if your collection is wearable? Is it a crucial matter of “making a living” out of it?
M.W: It’s more to see the translation in effect. Whom does this beauty represent when it’s subjected to the world of "wearabilty"? Whose beauty translates from a couture dress to an object of design? It’s a matter of scale as well. Enlarged it its a building, simplified it is ready to wear.
FM: In what ways you feel you have evolved since the launching of your very first collection?
M.W: I am able to work in a softer way, with less construction. I moved from steel crinoline to using foam or softer petty coats. Also, I am now able to translate Couture into design and architecture. Business wise, I learned that like every business, fashion is a network. A designer needs support to take off and fly.
FM: Your silhouettes are very dramatic, very monumental and a bit uncomfortable. How do you see the connection of the human body with clothes, in this case, the clothes you design?
M.W: I need the human body but I push the limits. Playing with different options of how to dress the body and how it will look like, in service of the concept or the material experiments. But I do take “wearability” into consideration! The cages I placed on wheels now and some of the dresses from my DEBUT collections are on wheels too. I don like the amount of weight clothes put on the models, so I let them roll.(laughs)
FM: What is next for you, apart from NY fashion week?
M.W: I have Amsterdam’s fashion week in January as well as an exhibition in NAi - Nederlands Architectuurinstituut