The coronavirus has come for Fashion Week, but Fashion Week is unbowed. With the 2020 edition of show season going all-digital, the key designers talk us through how they’ve adapted to showing clothes in a world where showing clothes is (almost) impossible.
What’s been the biggest challenge with producing a lockdown fashion ‘show’?
Lisi Herrebrugh: Many actually. The biggest at first was the fact that weren’t able to order any fabrics, not doing any colourations we had in mind for the season. On the other hand, our student instinct right away took over the fear and we just worked with what we have. Make it work and make something beautiful out of it.
Rushemy Botter: The biggest problems are also our biggest advantages: difficulty takes you out of your comfort zone and you’re able create items you would never have thought of.
What’s been the biggest opportunity?
LH & RB: The biggest opportunity is to know what the final outcome will be. Being able to make pieces we love, thinking of them as an individual and seeing them as collectibles.
We had to think what the fabrics we have in stock would look like in different shapes, because we used what we had available at our atelier. Being able to keep an open mind at any moment was our biggest opportunity. There was more room for creativity.
What non-fashion skills have you picked up during lockdown?
LH: Cooking, I made some really great Japanese dishes.
RB: No new skills for me, I was really focused on working on the collection. I did develop new skills, but fashion-related like digital sketching.
How have you seen the Paris fashion community come together in the past few months?
LH & RB: We’ve seen a lot of people gathering and talking collectively about problems: seasons, production, deliveries, store-related. I was really happy to see this collective awareness as these are problems we are usually facing alone, and we were not aware many designers had the same troubles.
We were pleased to see all our friends in fashion come together for the Black Lives Matter movement. Everyone was, and still are, fighting for the same cause. This togetherness was very powerful and we should keep in mind that great thing comes out from being collaborative. Fashion is not a competition; it is a form of art where everybody has a place to speak.
Is this a watershed moment for the fashion industry?
LH & RB: We saw some true colours come out, but we instinctively focus more on the positive change in these situations rather than pointing out what people do or have done wrong, or how roads may have divided. We think it’s a great time for everybody to look at their own actions, and ask the question how to improve.
Favourite Parisian or Paris based designer at the moment?
LH & RB: Thebe Magugu!
What advice would you give to fashion graduates who want to set up a fashion business?
LH: Just put yourself out there. You should not follow the rules of bigger houses: set your own rules, follow your own path, be innovative and find solutions. Breaking the rules shines a light on your work by creating visibility. It will bring you respect by doing it your own way. In this time the younger brands are being looked at as they are very flexible, everyone is looking at them to see how they survive, how they cope with the changes.
RB: Just do it. You have a lot of means now such as Instagram and all the social media, you should not think about what might not work out and just start. Make sure to break the rules and stay true to yourself.
Street style is impossible this year. That a good or a bad thing?
LH & RB: It is not exactly relevant in these times. Instead of showing what you are wearing, share where your mind is, what you stand for and show your honesty.
What kind of role do you think a fashion show will play in 5-years-time?
LH & RB: It will definitely be more enriched with all that everybody has now learned.
What has been your favourite show of all time?
LH: For me, it was the 1999 Spring / Summer Alexander McQueen show, it was iconic.
RB: The 1990 Spring/Summer Maison Margiela show with the local children, because the realness was breathtaking and 1998 Autumn/Winter Haute Couture Christian Dior by John Galliano show. The storytelling was extraordinary, extremely detailed. A good show stays on your mind for a long time, it doesn’t happen often these days.
If your S/S ’21 collection had a mantra, what would it be?
LH & RB: For this collection it was really about creating these collectibles and iconic pieces. S/S ’21 was about going back to the core and seeing it blossom again. Our mantra would definitely be: unity, humble, optimism.
Can you pick one piece or look from S/S ’21 that defines the collection?
LH & RB: We would pick the couture polo as the polo has been, from the beginning of Botter, our signature piece. This season it is made out three different materials. The result is as couture as it can be: sculptural, raw and it embodies the realness of our new collection.
Also the beige suit made of a technical mix from horse hair and cotton, as the shape is really strong and it personifies this stillness of the collection. By the word ‘stillness’, we refer to this continuous sound you would hear after chaos strikes. That’s how we felt when creating this collection.
In a money-and-physics-no-object world, talk us through your dream fashion show.
LH & RB: We would love to do an underwater show, with sun shining through the water and reflecting on the sand in order to show how the ocean is heavily damaged. This would be a great idea to raise more awareness about this matter as people know oceans are polluted, but they do not see it. This underwater show would be a great way to show people how much plastic is in the ocean.
Who makes it onto the perfect front row?
RB: For us, the perfect front row would be the people that have inspired us. It would be beautiful for us to know they are seeing the story we have created for them. Ideally, it would be real people.
LH: Agreed, it would be nice for them to see what beauty they bring by inspiring us. It could be even just a smile that I wish I could give back to them.
Who are your fashion heroes?
LH & RB: Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, they inspires us to tell stories, Walter van Beirendonck, he is a genius creative that passes on all his knowledge to many students.
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