The Fashion Spyder network for emerging designers and industry professionals welcomes fashion designer Jolka Wiens.
Jolka Wiens was born and raised in Berlin and received her education in Fashion Design at the Gerrit-Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and with an internship with an established designer; Mattijs van Bergen. Her inspired concepts and unique approach to textiles caught the eye of our talent scouts and we are delighted to have her join our network.
Jolka has kindly shared with us her personal experiences and wisdom gained from her studies in Fashion Design to her apprenticeship with an established designer and how she came to start her own label.
You studied at the Gerrit-Rietveld-Academy in Amsterdam. Can you tell me about your experience with this course and the school.
The Rietveld offers a 4 year bachelor study, starting with the foundation year. This system was one of the reasons I was curious about this particular academy. You follow 1 year of different design – and art disciplines, which gives you many possibilities to explore yourself as an artist or designer before you have to choose one direction.
When I graduated, it was not part of the studies yet to do an internship. I did one though in my summer vacation during my studies. I can only recommend to do internships during your study time or in your vacation in-between different years. By now, the Rietveld has an obligated internship program you have to follow (usually in your summer vacation) before your final graduation year.
After I graduated, I worked a few month for Mattijs in his atelier , when I also started to collaborate with Muuse. Muuse is a danish company, which help young (selected) designers to sell their graduation collection and might collaborate for Capsule Collections.
If you look at it from the perspective of fashion design, the Rietveld has a very open approach to this subject, which has it advantages and disadvantages, too.
The Rietveld Academy was good choice, at least for me. I don’t think it would be for everyone, it’s a bit chaotic in its own way, but usually i loved that about it. I think the Rietveld is very different in its approach to fashion, compared to other fashion educations in the Netherlands. You basically start with a “foundation” year, where you experience a lot of different disciplines in art and design during 1 year. They are very autonomic in their approach. This also goes into the higher years, after the foundation year you choose your own direction into a specific art or design direction. But you can make use of all the workshops, it gives you lots of freedom in finding your own way into fashion. For example, I made a mini collection once using metal, and ceramics for a different shoe project. It is a lot up to yourself, what you get out of this education. You have the freedom to work with other departments as well, or use different workshops. The disadvantage is that you only have 3 years of specialized fashion education. Which is not a lot of time. The education at the Rietveld, or most art academies, is mostly focused on the design part and you work very independent. What I think was missing, is a good program for the business or management part of fashion design, to give students more understanding of how things work after they graduate. The Rietveld does have Theory Programs about Art and Design, lectures etc, but it could be more specialized in the context of the different departments too (in my case fashion).
Had you any experience or interest in fashion design before entering or did you take this direction toward fashion during your studies?
I never was the typical ‚everything-is-about-fashion‘ person, who’s only occupied with labels and such. But since I was a child I always had an interest in dressing differently and always creating new styles for myself. I also loved to change my outfit like 5 times a day…sometimes I still do. Wearing clothing has a lot to do with presenting/creating a feeling, creating your own atmosphere. You can dress up nicely to hide your sadness for example, or more professional, just to get that job that you wanted. People will usually judge your appearance, and what you wear is part of it.
Everybody wears clothing every day. It is a subject everybody relates to, if they want to or not. Even someone ‚not interested‘ in fashion, still chooses a certain style and colour of socks for example. This decision can be made neither conscious or unconscious. The topic of nonverbal communication in clothing and fashion plays a big role in my work.
What advice would you give to students studying Fashion Design about preparing for and creating the graduating project/collection successfully.
Be ahead of your planning. If you are unorganized, get organized. Use your time efficiently. A lot of fashion studies, which focus on the creative part of design do not take much time to teach you organizing yourself. Time management can make or break your collection, just be aware of that.
“Time management can make or break your collection”
Take enough time for textile development, the creation of your concept, adjustments.. and especially for making and finishing the garments. Realize that a lot of things can work against you (waiting lists for machines or workshops / financial part), and so on… Your ideas might be adjusted in your head very easily, but not necessarily in practice. If you work on a collection depending on technical equipment, make sure you plan in time to research materials etc, and that it can take time for waiting lists (up to several months).
As well, be aware that you are (usually) completely free to do what you want to do – no production issues matter at that moment, or design restrictions for example. Use that freedom! And make choices… It can be scary, but you won’t get there by only thinking about your possibilities. It can cost you valuable time. Time you need to transform your ideas into the final result. Even if things go unexpected – a ‚wrong‘ result can turn out into a new idea, which sometimes can turn out great.
And most importantly – have fun doing what you do!
What has been the greatest benefit and/or disappointment you’ve had from studying the BA Fashion Design course and would you recommend it?
I think the greatest benefit for me was the freedom you have as a fashion designer studying at the Rietveld Academy. The downside is, there is not much time taken for the management part you will be dealing with after you are graduated. I am glad that I studied there, but the choice of your Academy or School should be also made by your personal impression.
About your tutelage with the designer Mattijs van Bergen. Can you tell us about your experience there and how you came to work with him?
I was interested in working for him, so I approached him myself. Of course I did some research before, I was thinking what I wanted to get more insight in learning. Back then, first of all came my interest to learn more about how it is working as an ‚independent‘ designer (or small label). I thought it was a good chance to see everything what it means to work on your own, doing design and management by yourself, which is a lot of work and responsibility. Next to that, I wanted to work in an ‚atelier‘, to develop my technical skills. He has a great team, and working for him was a lot of fun as I learned a lot as well. At that time, he participated at the ‚Dutch Fashion Award‘ and he won. It was a great experience to be part of that.
What did you learn there that was most beneficial to you?
Seeing the hard ‘reality-part‘ of working as an independent designer. I learned about what the possibilities are if you work on your own.
What was your favorite part of this experience…
Seeing how much love can be put into a collection – if someone is managing everything on their own, it is very brave and inspiring to see. Mattijs does as much as possible with hand work. I learned a lot of technical skills you can only learn at an atelier someone is taking time for things like this. Next to technical pattern questions for example I was creating hand made fabrics for several pieces. It is great to see that designers are still able to take so much passion and time for details, even though time pressure is very high in this field.
What would you tell a student to expect from a tutelage like that; how to prepare themselves for it, what is expected of them, would you recommend it etc.
To work for a designer during or after your study is always a good experience. Even if it is a bad one, you will always learn from it! Choosing a designer or a brand, it depends what you want in the future. If you want to work for yourself or if you want to work for a high class brand or a big company (or a small one..). It is very personal, think about what kind of experience you want to gain.
Can you tell me about your choice of textiles and techniques in MIMI/KRY
In my graduation collection, I use especially neoprene in white/ black (very graphical effect) and light gold. I also make use of a skin colored, translucent Lycra fabric, to prevent the appearances becoming too heavy in the visual feeling. I also use knit in my collection, so a complete opposite (traditional) technique, next to (modern) laser cut. Like the white sweater and the jacket with the horizontal stripes. Both pieces have a mohair feeling to it. In general, I am always tempted to use materials which make a sculptural approach to design possible. Not necessarily only stiff or heavier fabrics, I also love to work with stretch for example. I look for playing with haptic, the feeling, the visual effect of fabrics. By choice I always love to develop the fabrics a step further from what they were when I first saw them. It is about adding your own personality to something.
- did the concept inspire the choice of textiles or did the textiles inspire the concept?
Both. I usually always work on my concept, first. But if I find a fabric which I like, it can influence my concept. It can be very different, a fabric can also inspire me for a certain context in my concept, like a special surface (as example). Textiles have always a connection to the concept in my work.
- The laser-cut neoprene has a surprising and wonderful effect, do you have a favorite textile manipulation technique.
Not necessarily favourite ones. I always enjoy to discover new techniques. It was the same when I started working with the laser cut technique for my graduation collection. It was challenging because next to design questions, everything has to be translated into computer files. Every millimeter needs to fit exactly. This is quite time consuming. During the laser machine is cutting your fabrics, you need to interfere with the pieces, place them right, adjust things on your file depending on sizes, it is a lot more than designing only by pattern or moulage. As much as I love to experience with modern techniques (as laser cut / 3D-printing) I love traditional techniques like knitting, I appreciate working with my hands and add much handwork into my garments.
- do you keep up to date with technical advances in textiles
Of course I try to be informed about all new techniques going on. As a designer you should, I think. Fashion is all about renewing and change.
What do you think about new “smart” textiles that change heat, colour, have recharging or illuminating properties, or 3D printed garments, are they a gimmick or a future for fabrics?
I really love the development of new techniques. Right now, a lot is not affordable yet if you work for yourself, but when time goes by I can imagine that it dripples down into the mainstream, too. I mean, so many companies make use of laser cut in retail for example. It is good, I think, to look forward what new opportunities are out there. Some of those techniques might always stay gimmicks, but I think a lot will develop into much more than that. For me, personally, I see it not all, but some as part of design in the future. Designers always looking for ways to renew. With new techniques, it is satisfying the need to create something which never has been there before. Important is, I think, not to forget traditional techniques. Sometimes they come close to ‚die‘ , or be forgotten through new technical developments. My interest goes to a mixture of new and traditional techniques.
Its like 2 worlds coming together, creating what our generation is kind of like – not only traditional anymore, but not yet far enough in the perfection of futuristic techniques.
About the Vogue Young Vision Award in 2012.
Can you tell me about your experience and do you think these fashion design competitions are a worthwhile experience?
I was working for Mattijs van Bergen at that time. I did that about 3 month and was fortunate enough to be asked to join the Vogue Young Vision Award 2012. After that, the danish company MUUSE contacted me if I am interested to collaborate with them. And it is always a worthwhile experience I believe. you see where you stand and you gain experience, too.
What did it take to start your own label and do you have advice for young designers who are starting theirs, for example if you had some unexpected problems you were able to resolve.
Yes, a lot of unexpected and expected problems. You just get more realistic the longer you are graduated. It is not so easy to come up with enough money to work and on new collections continuously, neither to do a larger production of it in the same time or even afterwards. If you are looking for investors for example, you need a tight business-plan. Time management is crucial. It can happen that you get great opportunities but you don’t have the financial tools to take them.
Many thanks to Jolka Wiens for sharing her experiences and advice with us. We will be hearing more from this highly talented designer soon so stay tuned to our Journal for updates.
You can view Jolka’s profile page HERE
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