In the last few months I had the pleasure of inhabiting an imaginary universe - Marga Weimans'. I had indeed the honour to join in the crowd of dedicated people who contributed to the first large-scale solo exhibition dedicated to the Rotterdam-based Dutch fashion designer opening tomorrow at the Groninger Museum (until 23 November 2014).
The exhibition will focus on Marga's collections from "Debut" (2006) and "Wonderland" (2009) on, but will also develop an architectural exploration of the Fashion House conceived by Marga as a series of spaces where a designer lives and works, with rooms dedicated to the atelier, the apartment of the designer and the branded space.
The Groninger exhibition culminates in an installation designed in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas' OMA*AMO that turns a dress into an entire room. The installation represents an investigation of the space/fashion themes: by entering the installation visitors will indeed be prompted to "wear" the space and "inhabit" the dress.
I wasn't the only person who lived in Marga's universe, but I was in good company: Marga devised the catalogue of the exhibition (I'm one of the co-authors; the catalogue was made possible by support from the Foundation for the Stimulation of Creative Industry) as a collection of quotes.
Many other people came therefore to symbolically live in Marga's Fashion House during the last few weeks, the list is long and includes among the others architect Philip Beesley, Peter Pilotto's Chrisopher de Vos, Dutch shoe designer Jan Jansen, designer and 3D expert Bauke Knottnerus, architects Barend Koolhaas and Aura Luz Melis, CEO of Dover Street Market International Adrian Joffe, artist Charlie Koolhaas, writer and director of acclaimed documentary Versailles ‘73: American Runway Revolution (2012) Deborah Riley Draper, TwoPoints.Net's Martin Lorenz co-author of Pretty Ugly, artist and initiator of Freehouse Jeanne van Heeswijk, and augmented reality expert Sander Veenhof, co-founder with Luciano Pinna of AugmentNL.
It was exciting working on the collection/space descriptions (given the nature of Marga's collections, this was a wonderful excuse to make quite a few architectural comparisons and bridge the gap between fashion and architecture), collecting the feedback of the other people involved and symbolically renting for a few weeks a virtual space in Marga's universe with all of them. We will explore a bit better the exhibition in future posts, but, for the time being, let's celebrate Marga Weimans' weekend with a series of quotes that may inspire this site's readers and the exhibition visitors.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Marga Weimans, Production Assistant Efua Heyliger, curator of present-day art at the Groninger Museum Sue-an van der Zijpp, and all the people who kindly provided their feedback about Marga Weimans' work.
On "Debut" (2006): For this collection I played around with the notions of Haute Couture, ornamentation and embroidery to show how Haute Couture can be consumed as an art piece. I remember investigating also how Charles James' four-leaf clover dress was built and reading about his extreme and not always practical constructions, his life and how his ambitious character played against him. Ornament-wise, the most elaborate piece in this collection verged on the architectural.
On Sublime: While working on "Debut" I went several times to the mountains as I wanted to experience a sort of sublime feeling. It was beautiful to experience nature like that. The mountain dress was the result of that terrifying sense of something enchanting and dangerous at the same time. Beauty and a sense of horrid battled and combined in "Debut", creating a sense of beautiful horror.
On Liminality: When I created "Wonderland" I saw myself as a marginal designer. I was conscious of the fact that I had a long way to go and I felt like an outcast. "Wonderland" was a way to escape that frustration of being marginal and therefore use that marginality in a punk way to reach out to something possible while trying to connect with the people surrounding me and living in other liminal conditions in our society. In this way I could share my own status of designer "at the edge" in a more universal way and make a statement about society.
On Technology: I've always been fascinated by technology. When I first incorporated 3D printed elements in "Wonderland", I wasn't interested in making a beautiful dress, but in testing and investigating the technology. I remember it was a genuine challenge printing the rabbit mask since it was an extremely large object. I've also been fascinated by Augmented Reality, a process that I employed in my "Body Archive" collection, and by how a non-material world can influence our physical world and how easy it has become to add information to our reality.
On Rotterdam: It's a non-fashion city and I guess in a way you could compare it to Milan as it's a very straightforward kind of place. It's also a city where a lot of artists are located so there is a lot of pioneering being done here because the spaces are cheap and there are a lot of artists and architects here.
"Marga Weimans - Fashion House" is at The Groninger Museum, The Netherlands, from 15th June 2014 to 23rd November 2014. From Saturday 21 June 2014, the Amsterdam Public Library will present a small-scale parallel exhibition, featuring a large part of the "Debut" collection.The Marga Weimans Weekend special continues tomorrow on this site.
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