When you meet someone for the first time, our minds make all of these quick assumptions about the individual. I’d like to think you can always see how much effort someone puts into the way they dress, how their voice sounds, are they a miserable bastard or are they just a bastard…what I find often surprising is someone’s profession, and in particular, what led them to follow that profession.
I think it is easily assumed that someone successful in an industry must have studied that their whole life. While I’d say this is probably the case for something specialised such as accountancy, I wonder if we are innately drawn to something other than what we are currently doing for a living. Do we follow the status quo and do what’s expected of us, or do we rebel and god forbid, do something we actually want to do?
During my trip to Trieste for the International Talent Support 2015 competition, I met with two of the winners from the previous year. One had followed a traditional path of studying her craft, and the other had jumped ship after heavily investing in another.
Mirja Pikaart won the accessories contest of ITS in 2014 and since then has been working for Louis Vuitton in Paris. I saw her recently there during show season to catch up, and to no surprise the Estonian designer is doing particularly well, working within the small leather accessories team. I never saw her winning collection, which consisted of book binding and other various “objects of use”, but I imagine it used the same quality of fabrication found within her 2015 collection. Each piece seems beautifully crafted, and while I wouldn’t say they were necessarily eye-catching, they seem built for a function and in a way that they’d never let you down. They are far from extravagant in terms of visuals, but the solid making process is very evident, and it works. I think her pieces are beautiful in their simplicity and reliability.
Please tell me about your 2014 collection.
Function was the starting point of my collection. Aesthetics is just intuition. I never really take a lot of visual images as reference, I guess the aesthetics just comes out when I’m doing it.
This year I used the same starting point, they were very similar materials and processes which I developed into something more commercial. I focused on useable fashion accessories, collaborations, working with different artisans.
What has changed since then for you?
I’ve been working in a fashion house, which has been a big reason for the development to do something more commercial. It’s always good to know you can do something with a concept and use a collection to make it commercially accessible.
Do you think this is what people like at the moment? Using materials such as vegetable-tanned leather.
It just came out so I’m surprised that lots of people liked it. I use vegetable-tanned leather because it’s the only material to get the curves right due to its flexibility. The woods were chosen because of their ability to age.
Has Estonia influenced you?
The nature and quiet and slow Northern European attitude has definitely influenced me and anything I have done. I went to one of the few places you could study accessory design and in the end there were 12 of us working in different fields, left alone with all this machinery and these workshops. There were no borders so you could do whatever you want – like book-binding.
Katherine Roberts-Woods was the main fashion winner and is heading up her own label titled ROBERTS | WOODS. Katie is one of those charming honest individuals, who I imagine says the first thing that comes to her mind and probably rarely utters anything negative. I find most designers don’t particularly enjoy being in the spotlight, and Katie is one of those, but with work constructed like hers it’s no surprise that many are keen to pick her massive brain. Her pieces are very very detailed, and are constructions which appear different from all angles of light. I wonder if this detail derives from her background, as Katie finished medicine school before becoming a designer, and as she says herself, there is an incredible intensity found in both creativity and science.
Was there a defining moment for you to change?
I couldn’t say there was one, it slowly dawned on me. I always had this – cliche – creative passion, and my parents encouraged me to be creative in my spare time. I was quite academic though and it was the right path, but I realised I didn’t think I could commit my entire life to that, so I finished med school and decided to start again.
So a total blank slate?
It was kind of terrifying. You obviously can’t just switch! So I taught myself the skills to make clothes, I knew I wanted to make them in some shape or form. I was making and selling things out of found or vintage materials so it wasn’t costing me anything, approaching little boutiques in Glasgow. I ended up at the Royal College of Art a couple of years later.
What’s your work process?
My process is definitely experimental. I start with a technique which grows into a concept. Usually people build a moodboard but I’m much more driven by process. I’m dying to incorporate both elements because just technique and no emotion can be a bit flat, and I want people to appreciate and feel ambition rather than just admire the technical side.
It’s not all about wearability. Sometimes I want to create something nice, and my work is usually structured and usually 3d, which lends itself to objects, the stuff of every day. I want my work to be relevant and there’s different ways of being relevant.
Creativity definitely consumes most of your life. If you’re not physically doing it or making it you’re looking for inspiration everywhere, and that’s why it’s amazing and that’s why we love doing it. We find it pretty hard to escape – it’s an intense love.