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Poetically relating, rebelling, questioning and imagining

We have one thing to say about this year’s KABK Fashion and Textile graduates: wow. But really, this year we were – extra – blown away by not only the Fashion & Textile graduates, but by everyone’s presentation – from shows to exhibition there was always something inspiring going on. Although showing in person with a level of normalcy – as normal as the world can be these days – the fluid nature of today’s society was ever-present in their work. Exemplifying this year’s theme, EXPOSED, the students dug deep into themselves, to poetically relate, rebel, question, and imagine through their designs. It is therefore our honour to introduce to you Signe Grønlund, the Keep an Eye scholarship winner Stijn Koks, and Céline Bregman.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Signe Munch Grønlund and I’m from Denmark. I did my first two years of my bachelor’s at the Royal Danish Academy and now I’m graduating from the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. 

Could you tell me what the inspiration was behind your collection?
As a person who has social anxiety, I’m highly focused on social interactions and codes – like dress codes. I experience every day as a masquerade that unfolds – a game of hide and seek. Every day, we cover up and hide behind social masks to either fit in or stand out. So, why don’t we foolishly enjoy this masquerade? As a child, I would always play dress-up in my mom’s old clothes. The act of dressing up is a nostalgic ritual for me. It’s a crucial practice that gave me freedom of expression when I was young and now has become a central part of my design practice. In my graduation project, I explore the poetry of masquerade by dressing up, by covering up. I am the fool fooling the fools. I believe in dressing up, fooling around, dressing down and showing the poetry of this process. In the spirit of the fool, nothing is too silly or too serious. I can be the clown, the gorilla or the mattress I want to be. We are surrounded by the ordinary, but somehow its innate beauty doesn’t catch our attention. I fool around with the ordinary, I explore the poetry in boredom, uniformity and ugliness, by fooling around with ordinary utilitarian objects: an inflatable mattress, a sewing machine cover, couch covers and restriction tape. I fool around with recognizable objects and their covers to dismantle the ordinary and exalt it into a hyperreality. I copy an ordinary object that already has a close relationship to humans, but I present it in a clothing context. The copy becomes an imprint of an existing object placed in a new context. The object is the model, which generates a series of covers and imprints, which leaves traces in the garment. Covers and imprints are copies of the model, and the garments are copies of the copies. In this process, a series of copies are created all containing symbols of the object that refers back to the model. By closer look, the ordinary might be our revelation. 

What was the hardest part about making this collection?
A designer is a subject creating an object. The subject is usually separated from the object. To engage the subject in the process is essential in my work, but is also one of the hardest things about being a creative. I wish to be emotionally and bodily involved, but keep myself as a maker separated from me – which is ironically also a bit of a masquerade. My project is of me but it’s not about me.  

What kind of audience do you want to connect with?
I wish to appeal to an audience who believes that new narratives in fashion can challenge preconceived notions AND go hand-in-hand with ethical production. 

What are your plans for the future?
After graduating, I wish to look for like-minded studios, companies or collaborations with creatives in other fields as well. In the longer term, I can hopefully do a Master’s to deepen my practice.

Hi Stijn! Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Stijn Koks, I am a KABK fashion design graduate. As a teenager I was reconstructing jeans and wore them to high school. It was a cool feeling to be wearing something no one else had. At the time I was mainly inspired by rappers like Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti, who to me were absolute fashion icons. Once I actually started studying fashion design, I learnt how to take a less literal approach and translate my story into fashion, which throughout the years, has always been influenced by my childhood – and action figure fascination.

And what was your inspiration behind the collection?
GROWING UP IS FOR ADULTS is mocking adulthood, celebrating the now. The medical industry is a characterizing element of adulthood. Pills, COVID tests, needles and other medical waste are a representation of the constant awareness of the future. An attempt to escape death. Not living in the moment. I contradict this notion with my fascination for childhood toys and action figures. Playing with an action figure is the purest form of living in the now. Kids are not limited by boundaries, judgements, laws and regulations, nor by what seems to be impossible in the adult mind. Kids embrace the now. This collection is a plea to take on a more playful view of life.

What was the hardest part about creating this collection?
Where do I start? It has been a journey to find the right angle. At first, I knew I wanted to mock adulthood in some kind of way. Throughout the year I have found a way to project the two opposites, adults vs. kids. In the end, this made the story round, but it took a while. 

What kind of audience does this speak to?
Since my interest in fashion originally started with me wanting to wear cool shit inspired by rappers, I have always kept a target audience in mind that resembles my generation. I speak to the generation I grew up with – we go absolutely mental at concerts and at the same time are not afraid to show off their favourite Pokémon card or Star Wars action figure.

What are you manifesting for the future?
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. What really helped me was doing an internship at Walter van Beirendonck last year. From the beginning, I felt very connected with his work. There is some overlap in childhood, cartoon and action figure fascination. To be outside of the academy and experience his way of thinking and developing was refreshing. I learned a lot and it stimulated my dream to start something on my own one day, but I’m not in a hurry. For now, I wish to continue doing internships and broaden my experience and portfolio. I wish to continue “infiltrating” the fashion industry to keep on being busy. I’m a big believer in living in the now and seeing what happens step by step. 

You also were also awarded the Keep an Eye scholarship, that’s something that could give you a head start? 
Yes, that was a complete surprise. Really cool. This year the prize is especially meant as a scholarship to give me the opportunity to do a Master’s abroad, I’m not sure what the possibilities are, I guess it depends a bit on what my intentions are. For now, I want to finish my final presentation for the teachers so I can get my diploma and enjoy my holiday.

Hey Céline! Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Céline, I’m 26 years old, I’m from the Netherlands, and I’m a fourth-year graduate student at the KABK. 

What’s your collection based on?
My collection is an intimate collection about me. At first, I found myself portraying a romantic version of life and at a certain point I was like; ‘where am I in this story?’ I realized I was romanticizing myself and my past because of some unexpected major events I experienced. In my collection, I search for the reality in all this. I used my romanticism as a power and tool to search for reality. This became the guiding force in my collection – the dichotomy of myself, the real and unreal world. We had to start our collections with ‘what interests you’ and for me, that meant all things romantic and nostalgic, but there was no Céline in that story. I then realized that my life isn’t that romantic, that this was actually a way to escape the harshness of real life. 

How do you describe romantic? 
Dresses, clothing, traditional, things from the past, the whole designer world from the past. Flowers, butterflies, that type of organic dainty stuff is really interesting to me as well.

What was the biggest challenge while making this collection?
At first, it was to keep it intimate enough, but in the end, it was to not let it get too personal or it would be unbearable to dive deep into it. It was challenging balancing this. I wanted to keep it personal but not too personal – the question of what would you like to share with the world around you. Do you want them to know your whole situation? Or do you want to make it more general and keep your story more private in a way that’s still understandable for the audience? 

How does that play out in your collection – who does your collection speak to? 
Romanticizing can relate to anyone, I feel like everyone is romanticizing everything. Now with social media, it’s very easy to romanticize your entire life and I think in that sense it speaks to everyone. My garments are basics that I’ve distressed and distorted so they become more real. In that sense, I’ve brought reality into the romance. When I go to my own dream world, I’m always doing something with my hands in a sort of meditative state. I wanted to bring this into the collection as well. That is what brings the layers and the roughness to the collection. A lot of people can recognize it because it’s familiar – and that’s really what I’m aiming for – recognizable and not completely out of this world. Bringing my world to everyone around me.

What are your plans for the future?
I think I just want to continue with this theme – I really feel that it’s part of me and I think it’s the most personal collection I’ve ever made. That’s what I’m aiming for in the future, to keep close to myself. 

Images by Jaane

Words by Ella Paritsky and Pykel van Latum