Thursday, July 4, 2013

Iberian Gold: Collection 2012-2013

After a year of hard work, I can finally reveal with pride my third year collection that I created at the Academy of Sint Niklaas.
Iberian Gold is a collection inspired by the Portuguese Palacio da Pena in the town of Syntra. 

Palacio da Pena, Syntra
The excessive decorative style of the palace can be seen in the rich fabrics and treatment of the garments. References to the military function of the palace are visible through the adding of the stripes on the sleeves and legs.
Research of the ethnical clothing of the Iberian Peninsula revealed a preference for golden materials and the covering of the head. Golden accents and accessories are worked through the collection.
Two prints were developed which were based and inspired on the Azulejos: gorgeous, colorful tiles used in Iberian architecture.

Portuguese Azulejos

Print 'Cut the chains'
Print 'Blue abiss'

You can watch a clip from the 2013 show of the Academy under 'Moving Images' where the collection and the ethnical costume do their thing on the catwalk.

I also had the pleasure to work with an astoundingly talented crew for the Iberian Gold shoot. The following photographs are part of the first series. The second series will follow shortly.


Photography: Aaron Lapeirre

Production: Maryam Kamal Hedayat

Special Thanks: Pieter-Jan Donders, Uschi Cop, Danielle Gabriels, Louis Strijbos

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Exotic Side of Belgium

Well into the third week of April, Belgian sun finally decided to show her unreliable rays.
It got me thinking about other more exotic countries, where the sun is a given and they don't even have a word for 'rain coat' or 'umbrella'. (Come to think of it, in my rebellion against Belgian rain, I never use either)

'Exotic' is used to describe everything foreign, things that are not from 'here'. At the same time it is used to embellish hidden insults, 'that's an exotic hairdo', meaning you just hate it. A negative meaning to distance yourself from what you're seeing (and you’re obviously not understanding).

Throughout history people have looked at 'the other' in this way, completely putting these unknown religions, races, life choices, rituals and habits apart from their own.

Taking fashion into the equation, the concept of 'ethnic dress' is an entirely western construction. Everything that strays from the traditional western mode of dress is by direct result denominated 'ethnic'.
This perception is very prominent in this Spanish take on an African Tribe costume. These costumes are used in the Parada Moros y Cristianos all over Spain.

Parada Moros y Cristianos, El Verger, 2009

I think it is very interesting how the African costume is interpreted by the Europeans. Animal skin, feathers, a spear, impressive face painting, all the clichés are present.

It was an assignment at the academy that got me to further research this costume. The exercise consisted in choosing and replicating an ethnic costume of choice.

After an extensive search for beads, feathers, leather etc. and engaging some friends and family to help me put together the spear and helmet. The final result was impressive!

In our western minds everything that strays from our modes of dress is considered ethnic.
This can be seen as strange as it is the western clothing that is exceptional in several ways.

For example, in 'ethnic clothing', patterns are often constructed from geometrical shapes like squares, circles and triangles. These patterns, sometimes made as one piece on a loom, often don't have to be cut or sewn but are draped around the body. 
Portrait of a Nair woman 
This Sari, a traditional Indian dress, is worn 
draped around the body.  
It has a rectangular pattern.

Modern western dress, from the Middle Ages till now, has been predominantly sewn and tight round the body rather than draped.
Earlier, highly developed civilizations considered unsewn drapes to be the height of sophistication. 
The ancient Romans for example were proud of their luxurious togas and citizens were even forbidden to wear fitted clothing. Sewn clothing was considered barbaric.

Marble Statue of August, Roman Emperor
The reasons for this preference for uncut cloth are various. Fabric was very expensive and the ample consumption thereof was used to express wealth. It was also believed that fabric had not only a structural but a spiritual integrity. Clothing serves as a protection against external circumstances, like cold weather, but it is also believed it protects the wearer against all kinds of evils. That's way the cloth had to stay intact. If this isn't possible, the textile is cut in big geometrical shapes that are believed to be powerful.
That is also why embellishments on ethnic clothing are often found on important and vital parts of the body, like the heart, the head and the wrists. They serve as a talisman to fend off bad spirits and curses.
The beads and embroideries on the dress and
headdress of this Nordic bride are most dominant 
on the chest and  head area.

Our western conception that draped dress or clothing made of simple geometrical pieces of fabric is less refined, because easier to make, is a misguided opinion. Most of the time so called 'ethnic' costumes are much closer and in keeping with our human needs and nature.

So we can ask ourselves: isn't our fleeting modern fashion, which changes with the seasons and whims of designers, the exotic oddball?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Birth of Mere Alchemy

Halleluja, praise the fashion gods!
Mere Alchemy has seen the light of day.

As some of you may know, I spend a lot of time designing and sewing clothes.
Fate provided me with a super talented twin sister who likes to take up the old knitting needles and work her magic!

And so the inevitable happened.
Two minds came together and Mere Alchemy was born. 

With this new brand, we create unique one-of-a-kind pieces which incorporate knitted details and innovative designs. Our garments are exclusively custom made by 2 pairs of hands.

The following months we will exhibit some of our designs at pop-up bar Huiskamer Ernest in Ghent until the 15th of July.
For a taste of our vision, feel free to drop by!

Like our Facebook page and stay informed on all our latest designs, events and expositions.

Contact us:


The Mere Alchemist