The four girls graduating this year from the Fashion Design track of the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design (MAFAD) will be presenting their graduation collection during the FASHIONCLASH Festival. Gelena, Dusty, Lara and Milou are now experiencing a rather stressful period as they have to wrap up everything before the end of June. With all this work, they were nice enough to take the time to answer our questions. Thank you girls!Hi girls! Could you tell us more about who you are and your background?
Gelena: I was born in Odessa in 1987 and my family and I immigrated to Berlin during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Right now I live in Maastricht and I am about to (hopefully) graduate this summer and leave for new adventures. I was raised with a strong emphasis on literature and arts, which definitely served as creative stimulation. But mostly the unique mix of cultures and temperaments in Berlin and my travels greatly inspired my way of thinking and designing.
|Gelena's working space|
Dusty: My name is Dusty Thomas, I am almost 21 years old and I was born in Landgraaf. During my graduation, I live in Maastricht, so I can put all my attention and time into it. I have always wanted to become a fashion designer, so my whole life I worked for this moment. During my study, I discovered a big passion for denim.
Lara: I was born in Germany and raised bilingual – Spanish and German – by my fantastic parents, who come from Madrid. I started working when I was 14, and ever since, I have invested this money into travelling (Shanghai, Moscow, New York, Quito, etc.). I guess this led me to my interest for subcultural concepts.
Milou: My name is Milou van Esch, 22 years old, and born in Sittard. I discovered my interest in fashion design when I was about 14 years old. I remember watching the TV-channel Fashion TV for hours. When I saw the big applause the designers got at the end of the shows, I told myself: “Okay one day I will get that applause!” So since then I knew I wanted to go to the arts academy to study fashion design.
What inspired you for your graduation collection? What is the concept behind it?
Gelena: I wanted to create a very personal collection and decided to go autobiographical and explore the essence of my aesthetic. It’s about me coming to Berlin as a little girl and having two worlds clashing into each other. It’s about never quite fitting into any of those worlds – being too Russian for the Germans and too German for the Russians – and ultimately realizing that this turned me into who I am today. Visually, I was inspired by my memories of Russian children’s tales and cartoons, old family pictures and Berlin’s history, the “Truemmerfrauen” and a little Punk.
Dusty: I was inspired by knights from the Middle Ages. At the time, they wore nothing but skirts and dresses. Nowadays, you hardly find a man in a skirt. For my collection, I really wanted to create a new kind of skirt for men: half pants, half skirt. It had to be both comfortable and masculine. My goal is to show that men can look masculine even when wearing a skirt and dress-like tops.
Lara: My graduation collection is inspired by the Pachucas from the 1940s mixed with the Chicano-Gang-Look from the 70s-90s. Pachuco/a refers to a particular old school Hispanic and Latino American subculture associated with zoot suits, street gangs, nightlife, promiscuity and flamboyant public behaviour. One very loud version of the Pachuca look entailed wearing the masculine zoot suit but with modifications to fit the female form. This was very subversive at the time because of the long-held gender roles that dictated how a person should dress. My concept is based on the idea of creating my own Chicana gang. The name of my gang is “Ro$E$”, which is inspired by the poem “Woman are not roses” from the Chicana writer Ana Castillo. It reflects the picture of the woman I design my collection for: a woman that cannot be won over by cheesy compliments.
|Milou's working space|
Milou: The whole design process started with my fascination for refraction of light and by researching the physical side of light. The artist Olafur Eliasson drew my attention because he works a lot with physical elements such as light. His work "Remagine" has become my main inspiration for my graduation collection. It is a two-dimensional projection of light on a white wall, but it creates a three-dimensional illusion. The work evokes a sense of confusion: you know that you are moving in a square space, but you feel like the space behind the white walls continues. In this work, I was seeing abstract garments, so I cut out different shapes from images of this artwork and made several collages with them.
During your studies at the Arts Academy you had to do an internship. Where did you do yours? What did you think of it?
Gelena: I interned at Ohne Titel in New York and I loved it! They gave me the opportunity to be very involved and I got hooked on the atmosphere, the stress and insanity, especially during fashion week. I had a lot of fun! I am hoping to do my Master there because the energy of the city really inspires and excites me, although I could never leave Europe for good.
Dusty: I did my internship at Chasin’ in Amsterdam. I wanted to see how things worked in a commercial company. I did a lot of computer work there because they don’t have an atelier. That really disappointed me: I like to work with my hands, and not just on a computer keyboard. Apart from that, I really enjoyed my internship. I designed details for their denims and they liked it a lot. I got to know the other stylists and I discovered that working in a team is really nice.
|Dusty's working space|
Lara: I did my internship in a small team at Ann-Sofie Back-Atelje in Stockholm. ASB-Atelje is the avant-garde or couture line of the label BACK. The Atelje line concentrates more on innovation and experiments with shapes and materials. I found it very exciting to work on a couture collection because of the very creative design and development process, and the wide range of different tasks I was able to do.
Milou: I did my internship at Peter Pilotto in London. I learned a lot during this period because when you are studying, you have no idea about how it works in a real fashion company. I saw, for example, how well people work together to create a collection in such a short time period. I assisted a pattern cutter for a couple of weeks so I gained a lot of experience in pattern cutting, and I was really surprised about how much the pattern cutter has to say in the design process.
|Sketches of Dusty's collection|
What music are you listening to during this stressful period?
Gelena: Led Zeppelin, my all time favorite band, and electronic music from Berlin, whenever I get homesick. Especially Marcus Meinhardt, the Cheapers, Jens Bond…Tom Clark, the local heroes of the electronic scene.
Dusty: Most of the time I listen to calm music. Sometimes electronic, sometimes music with lyrics.
Lara: The first singles I bought from my saved-up pocket money, when I was around 12 years old, were “Try again” by Aaliyah, “Ms. Jackson” by Outkast and “Gravel-pit” by Wu-tang and they are still on my basic playlist! Before I would listen to Latin music from my mother. Celia Cruz is one of my favourites. Lately I like to listen to Concha Buika, Chance the Rapper, d’Angelo, etc.
Milou: I like a lot of different music styles, but when I’m stressed and working on my collection I like to listen to quiet music, otherwise I get restless. At this moment for example, I am listening to Paolo Nutini.
|Sketches of Lara's collection|
If there were one piece of clothing you would have to wear for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Gelena: Probably a great black leather jacket, it’s timeless, fits any outfit, gives you confidence and adds an instant bad ass attitude.
Dusty: A nice pair of selvedge blue jeans.
Lara: Probably a nice, relaxed pair of overalls. If it weren’t for the “toilet-problem” I would wear one everyday.
Milou: For me it wouldn’t be a piece of clothing but it would be a designer bag because I haven’t been able to afford one yet.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Gelena: I always wanted to be independent, and since I’m a little megalomaniacal I like to imagine I’ll have my own brand and maybe even open flagship stores, add a menswear line, accessories and aim for the universe – a girl can dream!
Dusty: That’s a question everyone currently asks me, and I don’t really know the answer. I guess I know that I want to work in a denim company with an atelier, a company like G-Star Raw. I want to develop patterns, details, techniques and a lot more for pants.
Lara: I still want to try out different fields in fashion therefore I can’t answer that question yet, but no matter what, I hope I’ll be traveling a lot.
Milou: This is a cliché question with a cliché answer. I don’t know where I will be in 10 years, but I know that after gaining experience at different companies, I want to be the head-designer, or a designer assistant, for a label like Acne Studios or Céline.
Thank you very much girls for your time, and good luck!
The collections of Milou, Lara, Gelena and Dusty will be presented during the Fashion Show on Saturday the 14th of June, starting at 7pm. Don't forget to get a ticket!