Are you ready for this year’s fashion purge? Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard’s last project — The Casual Pleasure of Disappointment — launched during New York Fashion Week. We had a unique opportunity to interview Gahee Lim, head of the design team, and find out more about how she came to lead the project .
“Fashion is driven by an infinite cycle of disappointment and desire.”
The opening of the exhibition which ran throughout March, revealed Melgaard’s new clothing line to the public, and saw $500,000 worth of his personal clothes being given out on a first-come first-served basis. The audience were let in at a capacity of 100 at a time, and given a Melgaard designed bag to fill with whatever clothing they wanted.
The title relates back to Melgaard’s break from art and his debut into fashion. The exhibition was centered around the false promise of new clothing and the disappointment consumers feel once these clothes are taken home. For Melgaard, “fashion is driven by an infinite cycle of disappointment and desire” and this message sits at the core of all of his creations. In a recent article with Melgaard, he likens this obsession to “people in relationships who get addicted to being disappointed…but they just compulsively need them and their disappointment.” Referring to his work as one big project, “a gesamtkunstwerk”, Melgaard explains that it should be experienced as a whole, rather than focusing specifically on individual items.
Working in partnership with Babak Radboy, the artist/designer duo had transformed the Red Bull Arts space into a multilevel psycho-pathological retail store, from where they were exhibiting their unisex clothing line influenced by the obsessive and destructive aspects of fashion consumerism.
Head designer Gahee Lim – who recently graduated from Parsons’ MFA Fashion – describes the exhibition space as being a collection of “emotional auras”. Bjarne does not explain how the different zones related to him, but it is clear that they all played a part in the telling of Melgaard’s personal story and development as an artist. The majority of the themes are unquestionably somber.
What particularly absorbed Gahee was Bjarne’s brilliant and dramatic manipulation of what was once a white walled square room. Gahee is referencing the ‘Red Room’ located in the basement. The room was completely camouflaged in red carpeting, as a way of creating an intimate and intense atmosphere.
Launched on Valentine’s day, Bjarne’s new streetwear collection is infused with flagrant and provocative language, marked with daring statements like “Not Your Gay Friend”, “Relapse” and “I hate Rihanna” to name just a few. The new line is a part of Melgaard’s larger ‘Bad Dad’ collection that critically explores youth culture and in particular the exploitation of youth today. Co-director Babak Radboy explains their concept by asking you to “imagine you’re with a younger guy for years, and are just sick of hearing Rihanna all the time – you just want to listen to the Carpenters.”
Gahee explained how “consumerism is such a heavy subject, especially in New York with things like Black Friday.” When asked what the intentions of the exhibition are, she goes on to explain that Melgaard “isn’t trying to give an answer, but is conducting a kind of social experiment…to make people think.”
Melgaard is the first to acknowledge that the project’s attack on consumerism could not be more relevant to today’s current affairs. Perhaps revealing his new collection in a dramatic manner such as this free-for-all fill a bag method, could trigger a wider reflection on the false sense of need that so many of us are preoccupied with today.
The initial opening was a physical representation of Melgaard’s message, the animalistic nature in which the store was ransacked of designer clothing demonstrated how the culture of today is more concerned with quantity than anything else. The Red Bull Arts space became an environment to assist in the psychological and physical fashion purge, not just of Melgaard’s own wardrobe, but on a much broader scale.
Melgaard chose streetwear as his medium of communication, to make the exhibition as personal as possible. Gahee explained that Bjarne mostly wears streetwear, from Supreme to HUF, thus the materials he chose were intentionally “true to his character” and coincide with how he chooses to express himself. In a way the exhibition was a visual representation of Bjarne’s personality and make up the foundations of his nature. The sizing, materials, clothing are all connected to Melgaard, whilst the physical architecture of the exhibition itself represents different aspects of his personal experiences.
I asked Gahee to talk about her individual experience, challenges she faced and what she learnt from being head of the design team. Gahee informed me that she was selected by Bjarne because of their similar themes of work, “their love of diverse materials and bright colours,” and their complementary end goals as artists. Pressured by deadlines, the team had to work fluidly in order to maximum their creative efficiency.
The team of 10 was made up of individuals who all had particular skills in fashion such as knitwear, accessories, or sewing. It was Melgaard, Radboy and Gallagher who conceptually organised the direction of the pieces, but it was the role of the design team to decide which path most accurately represented Melgaard’s style.
The variety of specialised designers resulted in a team that could equally contribute their expertise to create the final masterpieces. Gahee recalls how her peers would do as much as they could with one of the outfits, and then they would hand it over to the head of knitwear, who would then begin his alterations. This continual interchanging “was a constant cycle of alternation”, and required a high level of cooperation and constant communication amongst the team.
I asked Gahee to tell me what she sees herself doing in the future, and before I can finish my question her face lights up. She quickly responds by informing me that she desires to “explore her creative options as a freelance artist,” she particularly wants to explore “the areas between fashion and music” and the area of “artist merchandise.” Gahee elaborates by explaining how musicians often sell their simple logo design on a t-shirt, and that is the end of the artistic process. Gahee understands this as “a market to explore, and by being more considerate about the fabrics and silhouettes” you can create something truly unique.
It’s not only clothing she wants to experiment with, there are “different sorts of items you can use that can represent you artistically, in a visually distinctive way.” Gahee references Beyonce’s Lemonade album as an example of how we are living in a time where the arts are becoming entirely interconnected; fashion relates to music, music relates to film. Venturing into these overlapping world is exactly what Gahee plans to immerse herself in the future.
I ask Gahee what she thinks the role of the artist is today, thinking of the many celebrity political speeches that have caused controversy. It seems as if half of the public finds it remarkable and the other half finds it obnoxious and distasteful. She begins by telling me that “contemporary art today is very reflective,” and that in particular “in New York with the current political situation, artists can use their influence to raise public awareness to current issues.”
Gahee reflects for a moment, peering out over the view from her apartment. She acknowledges there is a need for artistic intervention when it comes to facing these concerns, and “wants to challenge people, to get them to think about new things” in order to help to contribute towards raising a greater awareness.
When asked to name her favorite aspect of the project, Gahee tells me that it “was honestly the organic nature from which the project was born.” Having been introduced to the project by a friend, she reveals how it wasn’t a sterile proposal which lacked authenticity or meaning, it was unique in that it came together like a puzzle, and these pieces just fitted perfectly together.
Words Bella Russell Hills Photography Sophie Brockwell