Much can be said about the term sustainability in fashion, but it often does not get a good reputation unless the visuals can speak for themselves. When we saw the sequin-heavy collection of German designer Marie-Sophie Beinke at Antwerp’s graduate show last year, little did we know about the way in which she sources sustainable fabrics, her knowledge about supply chains and her desire for a transparent industry. And that’s what it’s supposed to be like: sustainability shouldn’t necessarily be something that can easily be defined (i.e. simple organic khaki-looking garments), it should be at the heart of any highly creative collection. The winner of Bruno Pieters’ Future Fashion Designer Scholarship spoke with us to explain not only how she spent the €10.000 prize money, but why she wants fashion designers and artists to work together in cooperations, and how students can make even a small change by making conscious decisions about the materials they buy to produce their work in school.
Your work is loaded with different techniques — from full-sequined looks to drawings on fabrics. Why did you decide to create garments in this variety?
Techniques are rich. Why not use this richness? To make a tasty meal you also need different ingredients. Imagine you only use salt to spice it up. It will be boring. If you add some pepper, some chili, things that bring taste ….. It will be a feast and it will inspire others. I love chili. I want my work to be chili.
You’ve said your work is inspired a lot by the painter group Die Brücke. How would you image them in 2016, one century after they existed?
I think “Die Brücke” fit in the time they lived in, but times have changed and now it is our generation that has come together and creates art and fashion, fighting for something new, having common workspaces, doing artwork, expositions and fashion projects all in one. I read an interview with Tim Blanks on the Business of Fashion the other day. He said it was time for designers to tell stories again. Personal stories. This is what I believe in. And what I work for. This is what we need. And what “Die Brücke” did at their time.
The suits of Die Brücke contrasted with their radical outlook on art, nature and life. Which of their key outlooks do you agree with?
I love Kirchner – he put into paintings what I felt at the time when I made the collection. Radicalism, joy and an intense attachment to nature. Look at the paintings of the Swiss mountains, for example. I could spend summer months there to get back to the roots, paint, write, create and collect ideas for a collection. I like the way they worked as a group – I like cooperations and groups of artists and designers. I think people should work more together instead of against each other.
The art of Die Brücke was expressionistic. What does this definition mean for you?
It is an awareness of life and a protest against society. The ability of feeling wilderness and freedom whilst using a brush. Working spontaneously and intuitionally. Showing what you feel, sharing it, and not being scared of yourself and the reactions you get from being different.
And what’s your definition of creativity?
It is a gift that everybody possesses. But there is 5 % creativity and 95 % hard work. Creativity is unlimited as long as you ignore the rules others give you or try to impose on you. You follow your own desire, your own passion and have a voice.
Your collection took in references from basic geometric shapes. If you could decide which shapes were basic, instead of those defined as being so, which would you choose?
The shape of music and the shape of a smell, for example. Something intangible. Because it doesn’t exist yet.
You were selected for the Future Fashion Designer Scholarship by Bruno Pieters — how did you spend the prize money, €10.000?
The prize offered me the opportunity to work with the companies I wanted to work with; I could afford sustainable, certified and recycled material – for example go to Premier Vision and be in contact with companies offering the fabrics I wanted to work with. This I could not have done without the funds. And I am very glad about it. I spent the money completely on the MA collection, everything. For the fabrics, sewing kit, yarns and shoes, for paper, for paying the models, for paying a friend who helped me with the printing, for the tufting lady making the tufted piece for me, for the photographer of the shoot in the end of the year, for printing my portfolio and books and organisation tools. I would do the collection in the same way I did it. I think I spent the money as it was intended to be spent, for my work.
Photography by Michaël Smits
You’re looking for transparency in fashion: what do you think the big houses need to do in order to give the right example?
I think what one needs first of all is a conviction. Not everybody shares this conviction and I cannot make them to do so. However, if I have this conviction, I can start working accordingly and in this way show that it is possible to work in a transparent and sustainable way and be creative, innovative and interesting at the same time. You can start with the kind of button you choose, with the yarn, with the choice of supplier. You can do the full program or just start slowly.
How do you think that young designers who are starting out now should fundamentally incorporate sustainability in their practise?
Ask questions. Take time to do research in sustainability and transparency. Find alternative fabrics, the right suppliers to work with, the right fabrics and materials.
All photography courtesy of Marie-Sophie Beinke
Words by Jorinde Croese