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Fetishism in Fashion

It’s a rare treat to find Lidewij Edelkoort in her home-town of Amsterdam, and an even rarer treat to speak to her in her own home. Following the seminar M˚BA 13 and on the eve of What Design Can Do we spoke with the world’s leading trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 16-05-2013

With the Arnhem Mode Biennial on the doorstep and during a flash visit to Amsterdam, caught up with Lidewij Edelkoort. 

How did you become a trend forecaster?

“Basically, I was born with this skill. Studying at the ArtEZ (Academy of Arts, Arnhem) fashion department my teachers always knew I could sense future trends, although they didn’t really know how to harness it. After a lecture about styling offices I knew that was what I wanted to do. I learned through the pioneers of styling, companies in Paris such as Mafia, working with the basics such as colour cards.”

You have been in the business for over 30 years now. How has the profession changed, does working ahead a few years mean something different than in the past?

“What has changed is that we used to forecast a few different directions, trends would be ‘consumed’ and then discarded. Nowadays there is no such thing as ‘out of fashion’, there is this club sandwich of trends. It’s a more complex and more layered, more sophisticated world today. 

What has also changed is that I have become a motivational speaker, helping clients and audiences to gather energy to tackle another domain or season, something which has been tough lately due to the crisis.”

Would you say we need to revive old styles in order to create new ones?

“Well it’s one way to go but no, not necessarily. Citations are unavoidable as it becomes more and more difficult to come up with new components. With a constant stream of information today, trend forecasting is a form of editing, that’s a job in itself. Bloggers do it by giving their personal opinion, I give societal point of view, a public voice if you will.”

You state 'trend forecasting is like archeology but to the future', can you please elaborate on this?

“Identifying a trend is a continuously building process, a series of observations, curiosity, mapping, gathering information and intuition. I create a kind of personal archive, once an idea has reached saturation it just pops up by itself. Although it can be triggered by a single image. Trend forecasting is much like archeology as it is the gathering and interpreting of fragments of information.” 

In Cape Town at Design Indaba 2013, how does your curated exhibition relate Memphis' ideas to the South African style'? 

“I noticed that many South African artists were gathering pieces to make them into totems, on the one hand it was very African but through the colours it sometimes started to look like a form of Memphis. Replay, a London brand gathers glass domes from Ebay which are turned into totems. I started seeing young designers making interesting citations towards the Memphis movement. It felt right to curate an exhibition based on these findings, which really worked.”

What is your approach to fashion?

“Fashion I can feel as a change in my body, even though it’s not through my personal wardrobe, my body feels that certain accents are needed. Sometimes I feel like my neck needs to grown, or I want an accent in the back, long slender arms.”

And what about your personal approach, do you find what your looking for in shops?

“No, but that’s because I’m never really looking for trends.” Points to her feet, “My Céline fur Birckenstocks make my feet look like paws, illustrating the animalism in me. It completely deforms the feet which I find interesting, I think we are entering a period wherein bold, brutal bulbous shapes will take over.”

In your latest curatorial role at the Arnhem Mode Biennial, the theme is ‘Fetishism in Fashion’, which indicators will you examine?

“I have been studying the theme for a while now and found that a fetish is mostly an artifact, an extension of oneself that allows you to link with other things or people. A fetish can be any kind of object, a shoe, a bag, even a baby blanket.”

For the Arnhem Mode Biennial, Edelkoort has selected 150 outfits by designers mostly still unknown in the West. Instead of choosing European fashion houses, which she deems burdened, having to work within a fixed set of rules, young designers from new developing countries such as Asia, India and Eastern Europe have been chosen to represent the theme ‘Fetishism in Fashion’. The clothing approaches the theme of fetishism in a manner that is both sensual and close to nature. 

About the future of fashion she states: “We are entering a period of excessive creativity finally cast off the shackles of the economic crisis, whether it be over or not. I call it Plan B, bolder, more courageous, humorous. We are tired of doing and redoing the past, tired of being so well behaved.”

Speaking at the international conference What Design Can Do, how do you regard this event?

“It’s always good to have a few major podia where people get together and speak, the ideas coagulate and become some kind of new mantra. Speakers seem to impregnate each other with new ideas.”

How do you see the role of designers in today’s society?

“For me design is becoming an omnipresent discipline which goes beyond the simple object, it can be a thought process. I think we will design experiences, new ways of being. But, I don’t see design as problem solving. Ales should just be, allow them to die or help themselves. Design should respond to opportunities, not problems. Talent really excites me when it creates a new path.”

For this interview, collaborated with Designboom. Read the alternative interview here

All images courtesy of MoBA

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