Interview with Marlo Saalmink


Connection. Togetherness. These are momentums we all seek to embrace. Moments away from the haste of our hasty day-to-day. Silent reflection on what we actually stand for, through the decisions we choose to take. For several years I have found myself captured by VIBE JOHANSSON, who has created her eponymous universe fully founded on individual willfulness. Whenever I meet her, to explore her new collections or simply for a cup of tea, she expresses herself so profoundly, making our encounters rarely brief or shallow. Her universe is one of calm composure, expression yet understatement. Immerse yourself in her world, one of many tales and profound wonders. Meet Vibe.

Vibe, Tell me what steps marked your journey towards where you are today?

Originally, I am from Elsinore, the city of Hamlet, north of Copenhagen. After many years of travels, I settled in Copenhagen about ten years ago. My travels changed many of my notions about the world and what elements are important in life. Such sentiments also shaped the idea of starting my own label. It would serve as means to express my particular sense of beauty or the contrary, depending on your understanding of that word. Questioning beauty and looking for it in dark places, physical as well as mental, is where it all began for me.


Do you feel shaped by your direct surroundings?

There is always a sense of place, innate to what we do. For me, I definitely have a hint of Nordic melancholia and the need to understate instead of overdoing. The simpler it is, all the more room there is for individual interpretations, which I find very important in my designs. Therefore there is a constant dialogue between me and my surroundings, one I however like to shape according to my feelings and aesthetics.


In your work: does form follow function, or vice versa?

Both are relevant to me. Form is nothing without function, at least not in clothing. Then it becomes something else. I appreciate artistic fashion pieces very much, but I do like that my garments are wearable. This also hooks in a little to your previous question, about surroundings, as functionality is a very Nordic concept. One I explore in a minimalist and profound manner.


In your collections, understatement, subtle nuances and minimalism seem to play a major role. How did you come to define your identity as a designer and brand?

As a creator, I have always been more interested in the less obvious aspects of anything really. Examples for me are: making an effort to understand complicated works of music that do not speak to me at first or going to the less-travelled parts of a new country or city and even exploring obscure literature that is hard to come by. This I what I think is also visible throughout my collections. I don’t want to give people a package deal for an emotion or a look. I want to leave that up to the wearer and this is also why I never concern myself with demographic analysis.


The dimensions in womenswear leave room for exploration, but are also prone to constraint. What triggers you in designer womenswear? And could a perhaps logical escape to menswear, be relevant to you?

Indeed, but I do like the endless opportunities provided by designing womenswear. That being said, I do work voluntarily from a more dogmatic and (as you said) constrained starting point of aesthetics and colour, or lack thereof. It has always been a natural thing for me, that at some point I would explore menswear, and I am actually at the moment working on launching my first capsule collection for Paris Men’s Fashion Week AW15. It is a very exciting step and I am super curious to see the feedback.


If you had to imagine, your SS15 garments in a particular universe or space, how would the atmosphere be?

It would be a space removed from time, where the future of humanity, whatever that might be, live side by side with the spirits of ancient mythical creatures. Where the unnatural merges with the supernatural.

As we discovered: construction and detailing appear as important in your work. How do you merge functionality, utility and aesthetic in a feminine way?

I experiment a lot. Aesthetics come first. All fabrics drape differently and demand different construction techniques. I rarely do any construction before I have a fabric in my hands, and this is also where the final details of a collection seems to fall into place. Until then my sketching is more about capturing a certain silhouette or exploring a specific geometrical shape. Functionality is applied last, when I question the wearability and purpose of each garment.

A last one Vibe: If had to describe what you stand for as a designer and person, how would you do so?

I like the idea of putting something out there. If I did not do fashion I would find another outlet. I have always produced something as long as I can remember; drawings, writing and so on. I will keep creating and I always feel I can do better than my last collection, which is a great motivator. That being said, I find it sad that the world is overflowing with products and I try to limit my own footprint as much as possible. I only produce what is ordered and give any leftover samples to charity. I reuse fabrics and order from stock warehouses instead of getting new fabrics produced every time. As a person as well as a designer I really like to define myself as a creator and not a consumer.

For more on Vibe’s universe: www.vibejohansson.com

Photographer: Emil Monty
Art Director: Marlo Saalmink
Model: Besa T at DIVA MODELS

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