Antwerp student Clara Huber took a break from education after her second year, and it might’ve been the best decision yet. After three months in New York (where she interned for Proenza Schouler), the 23-year-old came back more inspired than ever and started researching female artists and the feminine body. Her BA collection was colourful, boldly feminine and unexpectedly personal.
Tell me about your BA collection, where did the initial inspiration come from?
Last year I went to New York for an internship at Proenza Schouler. In the weekends I visited a lot of exhibitions and interesting places. The city just has so much to offer! It was the first time I was able to read and absorb so much of the cultural background of a city, and I constantly found new inspirations. While I got particularly interested in the works of female artists such as Tracy Emin, Marina Abramovic and Pipilotti Rist, I was also inspired by the way artists like Yves Klein introduced the female body as a powerful tool to create art. This was a crucial feature in my collection. Being fascinated by their strong characters and very feminine art, I decided to look for more artists in that direction and read a lot about them.
I realised that what interested me most was the artists´ personal life and how this aspect is reflected in their work. In Abramovic’s case for instance, her personal relationship and artistic collaboration with German artist Ulay were important elements within her work. Their story reminded me of my parents. They are both artists, so I grew up surrounded by their work. It was very interesting to study their work now that I am older. Even though they work in different fields -my mother is a photographer and my father a painter- I realised that their works have a lot in common. They often deal with the same topics and images that are clearly recognizable, although they express themselves differently. My parents complemented each other´s work: while my father was very organized and his paintings are very graphical, my mother was more emotional and her photos quite organic. I have tried to integrate these aspects in my collection. I think the most visible aspect they share is their common colour language, an affinity with certain colours. It is a colour palette I unconsciously also use in my own work, which for this reason became very personal.
Thinking of the final result, where did your focus lie?
I am very interested in different textures and how they work together. For my BA collection I wanted to experiment with new materials and dare with colours. Just like in a painting, my aim was to create strong contrasts, both with colours and materials. For instance, by combining a soft knit with embroideries, or fur with stiff leather. I got a sponsorship from Furlab Amsterdam and learned how to use the materials in a responsible way as well as a lot of new techniques. I really liked the seams of the fursewing machine and started to use it in my other pieces. The flat seam allowed me to work with very stiff materials and I used a lot of patent leather as well. For my first silhouette I wanted to create a pullover that was furry-soft and sharp, graphic and organic, all at the same time, so I decided to embroider on knit. It was quite difficult to embroider on something that is stretchy and fitted, but I am very happy about the result.
Please tell me about those amazing boots, they are gorgeous!
Thank you! They are selfmade. I stiched the leather and embroidered it with a machine and a friend helped me to make the heel from wood. I cut the sole from a very cheap heel and used it 🙂
Was there anything a friend shared with you that was particularly helpful?
I am studying and living together with my best friend. She was a great support during the intense fun time and long working nights. Sometimes the amount of work can overwhelm you, but having fun in your work and surrounding yourself with nice people can make the impossible possible.
What would you have liked to know before starting this school year?
During the year I realized that a good time management can mean everything. I can be quite a perfectionist but also a dawdler and sometimes I get stuck in details. Somehow in the end I always manage, but I wish I had organized myself better since the beginning.
Looking at your final collection, what are you most proud of?
I am proud of the nice people I met and collaborations I did. I used to be very shy, but the necessity of finishing my pieces and the pressure of the deadlines made me overcome my discomfort. I was actually amazed by how helpful and passionate people can be. I am very thankful to them and I hope I can give something back one day.
I loved your ethnical costume, could you tell me a bit more about it?
My ethnical costume comes from Bad Aussee, a little village in Austria. Approaching this project, I always thought I would make something exotic, a colourful costume from Africa or Asia. But during my research I found the book Dusk by photographer Axel Houdt which researched carnival costumes in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I realized that there are a lot of very nice traditional costumes from villages nearby.
I fell in love with the Flinserl costume, because of its mask and the beautiful worked out details. The Austrian carnival tradition celebrates the end of the winter and beginning of spring. Like in a play, different characters represent this transaction and the Flinserl figure – with his most elaborate and shiny costume – represents spring. During my research on the costumes from various countries I realized that the male costume are often more elaborate and beautiful than the female ones. I really liked the fact that a woman leads the Flinserl parade and that it has the most beautiful costume. All of the costumes are unique and embroidered with real silver sequins. A housewife would need a whole year to produce it and there is only one tailor in the village making the costumes. The people from Bad Aussee are very proud of their tradition and were friendly and helpful. I talked to the only tailor that still produces these costumes and the other inhabitants were happy to share information. I learned new techniques and the strong relation to my culture inspired me for my collection.
Who do you admire and why?
I really like the work of Dries van Noten. I think it is exceptional how contemporary but also timeless his creations are. His work is full of research and craftsmanship and he manages to create a new mood for every collection and yet still remaining truthful to his own and unique style.
Images Joseph Huber