A CONVERSATION WITH MARGA WEIMANS DURING THE SETTING UP OF HER EXHIBITION AT THE GRONINGER MUSEUM

Interview by Filep Motwary

In a few days, the Groninger Museum opens its doors to the first, large-scale exhibition of Rotternam born designer, Marga Weimans. Intellectual rigor is the reserve of few designers and Weiman’s works, the Royal Academy of Antwerp graduate, builds bridges between reality and fiction, borrowing Couture methods of the past while involving technology and used as her immaculate link to the future. Weimans expands herself to multiple disciplines including fashion, architecture and fine art and has become known for its genuine studies of the body through designs that continually challenge any received notions of what fashion can be.

Divided in eight chapters, the exhibition is revealed to the public on June 15.

Style: "i-D setting"

Debut collection, photography by Wendelien Daan ©

One wonders if your approach serves both your own, personal creative urges as well as the business aspect of fashion, as it has transformed today. How do you separate these two factors and what it is you gain for each of the two?

At this very moment my personal and creative urges are paramount and most important. I do not think of profit only in terms of collecting a certain budget. I hardly have money to finish one collection, thus there is questionable profit. Focusing on the aspect of art-meets-Couture, I’m lucky – maybe not- for being in a position that depends on the few big buyers who embrace my work each season.
Most importantly, The Groninger Museum with whom we have a long term and loyal affair. For me business is the profit that allows you to make a living, a reality with a cause basically.
My next challenge is to transform my practice in such a level that not only will support me and my family, but also the people who work with me. Also, I aim soon to be able to produce my work in larger quantities, to make it available to more people.

I still intent to work simultaneously in two tracks. One is the experimental road – maybe less commercial- free from commercial constraints. The second is working along and not parallel to the business of fashion, while still thinking of new ways to evolve and make everything more concrete.

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Is creation a language finally, a utility? Is it a language one needs to learn?

Creation is by 100% a language. Design is a language! For me it is a way to participate, understand the world I live in, and naturally to express myself through it.
In order to connect with an audience or the fashion world, effectively, I craft he message carefully. How to achieve this connection between my design and the audience? Is every design decision rational? In a way, creativity is also very “right” brain. ( I have the feeling that by working commercially, one’s ability to communicate becomes vital and clear) The power of rational thinking…

If I asked you to name the differences between an innovative designer/artist /architect and where do these three meet in your work…

I would say that the designer and the architect are on one side, the artist on the other. An architect can be innovative mostly in the architectural aspect. On the contrary, a designer’s work must result to a consumable product.

An artist expresses through a sculpture or a painting, an installation and so on. These two meet in my work in the sense that I tell personal stories about my career, fashion or technology. To share these stories, which always have a double side – personal and universal – I use these three disciplines: design, architecture and art.
I see it as a game or as a movie even. There is always a setting, the clothes, the concept as a whole. Everything comes together. I feel that time spent through research or to experiment, also gives innovative results and unexpected dimensions.
And it’s often through a research procedure to cut across disciplines. Sometimes the research for a dress results to a maquete that looks more like a sculpture rather than a garment.

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Can’t these three combine and become one, today?

Absolutely! It is only a question of time. Very concretely, I witness it through my collaborations.
For example with the OMA/AMO team. We where thinking in the same way although our professional backgrounds and tool kits were different. We designed a dress as a ‘wearable’ space. Up to a certain limit there is no difference between the artist, the architect and the designer. But it takes a lot of risks to work in such unconditional way.

What kind of risk?

Risk in the sense of not taking note of one’s vulnerability.
Working in a discipline (architecture) that I am not trained in and which I voluntarily invaded. And for them as well, being open for ideas from someone who is not in their profession field. It is amazing working with architects that are so profoundly committed and eager to do new, critical steps on such a high level.

Myths, Fiction, Customs and Tradition have always been a part of our society. Focusing on Fiction, which is less obvious in the pragmatism of society- at least today- does it serve a role in fashion?

Fashion is fiction; it is an illusion, a story. Even pragmatism is a fictional story-line at times and if you allow me to call it an “ideology”. We now seem to need practical and wearable clothes indeed.
Considering that the pendulum turns – and it will unfortunately, considering China is heading for a major economic crisis – we will need myths, fairy tales, something to take us out from the current negativity. Just like Christian Dior’s New Look right after the horrors of the Second World War.

The fiction is apparent for me.
Celebrities are the new mythical gods. We believe in the, as we witness them staging beautiful clothes. Our need to buy clothes that a celebrity wears, a bag or accessories, may seem like a part of a play. Do I make sense?

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And how can fiction become reality, a fact or a factor? Are Celebrities the only way?

No, but still a major force of course. Blogging, selfies, Instagram ect.
I see people who are stars in there own small circle and whose relative celebrity status, influences culture in a micro yet very diverse way. You mean the reality of wearing the clothes, I suppose?

Yes, the reality of wearing the clothes

Celebrity is a specific story line, a selfie world if I can call it as such. I think sustainability and transparency in terms of “where do your clothes come from” can also become a big story. I may sound a bit cynical, but it is for real when I say that a sustainable company today, actually is about selling clothes and nothing less.
Of course a creator needs to be sustainable and that is a good thing.
Though` as a consumer you need to be aware of the fiction that consists in communicating the product, the advertisement or other ways of promotion.
Local production, small production and so on.

Do you take into consideration how people experience or respond to your clothes? How do your creations influence both genders of spectators and in what ways?

I design mainly dresses as they convey for me, Couture or fashion, in the most clear way. I would hope that both men and woman are touched in a way, both visually, and conceptually. Luckily, I was introduced to high fashion by my uncle who is gay. I’ve seen the gay community being particularly committed to producing or experiencing new forms of beauty. In the back of my head, the gay community is an important judge of my work.

Why in your opinion the Gay community is more sensitive to beauty?

I think that being not what we call “the norm: gay, black and so on, it sometimes forces you to look for new ways to establish an identity. Beauty, clothes, art, music are very direct and easy ways in which you can express yourself and claim you’re own signature.
There were plenty of times, for example, I was the only black girl in my classroom, where being blonde was the norm and seen as attractive. I saw that same dynamic in gay or lesbian kids.

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I see your point. Why do you think us humans tend to separate each other in categories?

Part of it is our nature. Part is marketing

Marketing? Can you elaborate?

In terms of fashion, it’s easier to sell clothes if you separate you audience in very clear groups. This must have an impact on how we people see each other. Marketing, advertisement. Tradition thus the myth

What is the role of history and art history in your conception of fashion and how could your clothes possibly serve the future?

I use historical references in my creations, it could be an iconic dress like the “Four leave clover dress” by Charles James for example. History provides me with clothes (signs) that everybody knows, this way it communicates and links past and present so well.
The “Hour-glass” dress, (from Christian Dior’s “New Look”), talks about iconic femininity so I can use that dress (or sign) to tell a story about the aspects of it

History, as well as Fashion History, places clothes in a certain cultural moment or time frame. The clothes have a meaning because they convey the essence of what happened during the period they were created. I use this historical meaning in the most positive way I can.
For me, Chanel’s jacket means freedom and utility – to put it in a story context.
For my Debut collection, I was very inspired by Charles James, the great American couturier. I felt his story of creativity against all costs – you can see that in the elaborate construction of the dresses- resonated with the mood I am in, and what I wanted to talk about in my collection.
Serving the future….
Ideally, when somebody, in 50 years time from now will look back at my archive, my body of work; I hope they see some relevant issues being addressed in the clothes. Technology being one of them.
The clothes should serve the same purpose in the future as they serve now, while I tell my stories through them.

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How relevant is architecture in your work? Does fashion serve the same role as architecture did during the renaissance years? Why does fashion have such a strong impact in society? How you perceive fashion yourself?

I think yes, since we live in such visual times, due to the Internet. Fashion is a very direct way to communicate, a very important one. Renaissance architecture was about showing a new complete human. Our society’s new human is born through technology and formulated on photographs and plays a big role, as a new way of expression in society.
I’ve always seen fashion as a way to tell a larger-than-life story or share a concept. For the future I would like to think about working more on experiencing how is it to wear clothes on your skin, my own skin: wearability.
What does it do to your body, how does it look?

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Are we becoming the artists of architects of our personal environments through our work you think?

Yes, I feel that. For me that is really a cool and very Punk/Hip Hop attitude. Take your environment in your own hands. This is why I worked on the architectural side in the installation work: fashion house-most beautiful dress in the world. Building a house is my main drive. It’s a platform for my expression.

Most of your approach in Couture is fundamentally based on outlines that somehow embrace the past, though they do not represent it. There is nothing nostalgic about your work. By serving fashion, can we somehow connect to the past? In what ways?

Fashion history is a treasure box, an archive of interesting shapes, materials and stories. It’s about translating history in a relevant, contemporary way. It keeps fashion moving forward. So archiving is important.

Is it necessary that fashion should always reflect a specific historical era or are they timeless, infinite? How do you understand the concept of Couture?

There are no rules in my opinion. Couture is the amount of time, research and risk you put into clothing regardless of wearability and costs. It has the freedom to experiment in whatever material or form. Couture can be conceptual, there are no it has no rules. Although presenting in Couture week you often see elaborate handwork or craft. It does not have to be that way. I see Couture as complexity and freedom.

FilepMotwary © Groninger Museum

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