An Interview with Keta Gutmane + Marlo Saalmink

A KALTBLUT exclusive interview by Anita Krizanovic. For SS16, KETA GUTMANE proposes a casually tailored democratic silhouette. Loosely inspired on the visual observations of filmmaker Wim Wenders, the collection fuses traditional craftsmanship with contemporary tailoring. These elements collide in a controlled series of garments that can exist as independent entities. When composed together, they form subtly connected layers and contrasting surfaces. We had a chat with the designer about her vision and work. Joined by Marlo Saalmink from Atelier Marlos Saalmink. An international atelier, with a focus on fashion editorials, creative direction, brand development and strategic advice.


KB: Dear Keta Gutmane, please tell us something about you?
Keta: As a youngster, I grew up in Latvia, during the Soviet era. During these years, young people had to have real courage to walk around with long hair, punk leather jackets, whilst scribbling on walls and playing alternative music in cellars. This is because the system we were brought up in only needed uniform identical thinkers. There was no room for rebels.  Despite its initial blandness, Riga did witness some intrepid art manifestations, happenings, rock concerts and catwalks, showing untamed fashion and expression. Those individuals that stood against the system and were active in these events, were the most venturous and crazy hooligans of their time. To a certain extent, I was also “poisoned” by it all and this movement certainly marked me. It further strengthened my will to become an individual, I wanted to develop some personal characteristics in me, for which I needed a creative environment and crazy friends around me. During those years, the only alternative place where some artsy freedom prevailed, was the Art Academy. It truly was a temple for lost souls. Strong, idiosyncratic, creative personalities gained their roots from there and each of them had an unique view on art.

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KB: If you had not become a fashion designer, what would you do instead?
Keta: Already at quite an early age, it became clear to me that I wanted to be connected with creative spheres, either in music or art. Unfortunately I did not even develop any other interests besides those. Many years ago, I was seriously thinking of becoming a pianist and for a while I passionately studied classical music and took piano classes, thinking of becoming an opera singer at the same time. This sounds quite serious, but when my circle of friends changed, it also changed my perception and interests. I re-focused on design studies and my interest in alternative art only intensified.


KB: Do you remember your first designed piece?


Keta: Indeed I do. When I had just finished school, my mother got me my first client. It was her colleague at work who had ordered a two-piece office costume. It would have been all very fine. only if I hadn’t messed it up completely.  I misplaced a button hole so bad that nothing could be done to fix it. The jacket was ruined and the woman declined her order. It was awkward, I felt real stupid and my mom felt even worse, as I had let her down. Ever since, my mom has not recommended me to her work colleagues again. However, I persisted and continued anyhow!

KB: You describe yourself as a conceptual designer and that you use fashion as a medium, as a form of expression. What do you want to express with your clothes and where do you take your inspirations from?
Keta: The most exciting stage of making each collection is finding the narrative and new contextual tangents. This is conducted through extensive research, a way of bettering ideas and enhancing my own creativity. A certain ritual for this process allows me to touch another reality and to gain some different experience. At the same time, it is important for me to maintain a clear focus on the present day, in order to give meaning to processes that form the here and now.

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In my work, I am interested in real people, people walking the streets, sitting in cafes, chatting etc. This forms a mixture of different aspects and conditions that serve as a good source of inspiration for every upcoming collection. I wish the clothes I make go on to live a life of their own. I pay great attention to the textiles I use, the multitude of textures, my monochrome color code, the tailoring and final overall craftsmanship.

KB: You have a strong focus on reflecting your visions in form of fashion films, in photography and art. How do these connect?
Keta: All of these different media forms give a different experience that provides maximum saturation, after which one can move on to the next. My fashion films and installations belong to my past. This was a wonderful time, a time for teamwork between all those that participated in the making of ‘’LUST LUST’’ and ‘‘CREAK’’. This turned out to be a successful experiment that incorporated the most talented and crazy people who trusted each other 100% in all matters creative. Together, we made some real strong and attractive pieces of fiction that had a touch of black humor. When looking back at those projects, I can now see there is something quite unique and unparalleled in their narrative.. These works touch you on all levels and I think these are values that do not get lost with time.


“Armor. Nowhere begins at our finger tips.
Where does one begin.
On the exterior all seems calm. Interruption is caused by curious silent onlookers.”


Currently, it is photography that serves me well as a medium. It is rather new to me, and quite the transition indeed, as I try convey a message with each collection. In photography, it is important for me to create a message on an emotional level. This is the visual language of each collection, a fragment for some thematic series, thought provoking poetic moments. A perfect world, perfect tones and aesthetics. The photos are addressed to people that have a vision and who long for visually personal stories.

KB: For your Spring Summer 2016 collection you worked together with Marlo Saalmink. Please tell us more about the collaboration?
Keta: As the brand is evolving, I felt the need of zooming out, placing what I do into a wider and more global context so I could communicate my ideas to a wider audience. We approached Marlo as we saw a need for a holistic approach to our creative direction, brand development and strategic advice. His portfolio as well as personality fits us well. He views the collections from the outside and has a different angle. It is quite an interesting process to observe how he synthesizes the slightly different viewpoints (by me, photographer, MUA, and him) into a compelling visual language via his art direction and consulting. In terms of visuals, this prevents us sinking into the “Eastern European dramatics” that are so common here. Also, together we insist on creating something new.

KB: How would you describe Marlo in few words?
Keta: Marlo has his own handwriting & style when it comes to writing and art direction, yet he is also very open to dialogues. Next to this, he has this enormous luggage filled with a rich body of knowledge, so he knows immediately, what is “so YSL in the 70s” and for instance already done. He also has a distinct way of communicating, is über polite and low key, yet very intense, which I really enjoy.

KB: How and where did you met each other?
Keta: We met during Paris Fashion Week for a coffee and it was clear then that I would like to get to know this person, so we invited him to join us. Marlo flew over to Riga and this is how our communication and cooperation started. I needed someone to view my activities from a distance, a fresh direction for my creative brand vision, someone who would be able to perceive and translate my view into concept and visuals. Despite being from different cultural backgrounds, what unites me and Marlo is the search for new contexts and dialogue during the creative process, this is what fascinates me in our cooperation.

KB: Dear Marlo, please tell us something about you?


Marlo: Well, I am originally from Holland and initially graduated with a focus on European Studies and International Relations. Ever since, I had the pleasure to live and work in diverse metropoles such as Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen and Brussels. Many years passed, working on different fashion, art and cultural projects. It has made for quite an eclectic backdrop, for which I am most grateful. It also allowed me to reflect and to embrace a rather multi-faceted approach to fashion. One that is based on holistic respectful work, always with an open heart and humble mind. To keep it short, today, I work as a writer, lecturer and creative director, from our ateliers in Bergen, Norway and Paris. We like to balance larger commercial assignments with our constant hunger for young raw talent, injecting the fashion and art discourse with a novel take on both narrative and visuals. This is done through engaging with wonderful fashion institutes such as POLIMODA, innovative publications like ODDA MAGAZINE, FUCKING YOUNG! or SOME/THINGS and by interacting with designers/creators that inspire us. It is most humbling to encounter so many different creative souls each ‘‘fashion’’ season, coming from all walks of life. Travel is a large part of what we do and this enriches the mind even more. Overall, it remains a true privilege to create and engage so freely.


KB: Marlo, what do you like about Keta Gutmane and how would you describe the
work with her?
Marlo: Our first meeting was very important here. I could sense so much sincerity and her experience as a creator. This dynamic intrigued me. For me it was refreshing to meet somebody with a story and a sincere aptitude for design. Keta, was not afraid, nor was she overly vocal. Her pensive honesty triggered me immediately. When I observed her work, it was clear to me, that we could make steps together. The foundation was strong, but the storyline and visual aspects were definitely not that developed yet. Over a series of encounters and shoots, we got to know each other better. It has been a pleasure to observe Keta’s ability to grow by each season. She is doing very well. We always reflect a lot on our work together and I can also see that she is able to surpass herself with each collection. Our dialogues are open, creative, sincere and pure. Next to this, I have to mention, that I respect her workmanship very much. The garments are well made, functional and carry their own expression. Lastly, Keta, has a wonderful team, with her partner in crime Krists and managing director Kaisa, both inspirational and kind instigators!! Together, we work smoothly and always locked in constant conversation.

KB: Keta, what can we expect from you in near future?
Keta: It is most important for me to see some development, joy and not to get lost in translation :)  And we are observing this indeed! We work diligently together to advance and seek out our unique voice even further. It takes time, but we are progressing nicely. We just shot our AW16 campaign together, a most special feeling, always enriching the garments and their emotional meaning. Here we used color, returning to the essence of the garments and their slightly loose cut. Regarding the collections, I am slowly thinking of menswear, but let’s see. I will surely take things slow.

“Observation equals dialogue. It constructs a bridge between those who belong and the ones that once were lost.  Outsiders, you are never forgotten.”

Interview by Anita Krizanovic
SS16 campaign
photography by Martins Cirulis
About the SS16 collection: Long oversized coats are paired with sharply tailored poplin shirting, fitted slim pants appear underneath confident woolen blazers, a billowing graphic trench features alongside grungy coated cupro skirting and breezy linen vests are donned over silky loose tops. The styles are maintained in understated deep black and gamma white, only broken by an expressive dash of checkered tartan. SS16 serves as an empty canvas for soulful wayfarers and confident women, freed from  any societal inhibitions. The garments seek to empower their wearers, inviting them to explore their surroundings defiantly. Ignore the whispers and embrace the unknown. / Instagram / Facebook

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