THE NOURISHING NORTH OF BARBARA I GONGINI! By editor: Marlo Saalmink! It takes time to make a stand. To maintain what you represent, without blinking twice. When it comes to fashion, we are in need of new innovators, people who speak their minds irreverently. Think of this as a counter-balance to our contemporary culture of followers. Let us salute mavericks that seek out new ways of communicating who they are. For me, Barbara of the eponymous label BARBARA I GONGINI, is such a person.
Ever since she founded her brand ten years ago, she has never succumbed to outside influences, she simply creates what she wants, always on her own terms. Her world is one of understated functionality, maintained in the shadows, balancing off the mainstream. On a recent visit to Valby, Denmark, where her atelier is based, I met up with her and we explored the power of layered expression, responsible creation and gender classifications.
KALTBLUT: Homeland. The raging beauty of the Faroe Islands. Could you describe this magical islands in your words through your personal understanding?
Barbara: The Faroe Islands are the epicenter of nature’s most hefty forces. It is commonly known that one day in the Islands grants a full experience of the four seasons. At one moment there is a storm raging and the next, you find yourself in complete stillness. The islands landscapes are architectural, with dramatic low dips and high mountain ridges. Winter times are shed in darkness and the summers are bright as the sun. The islands represent contrast, as do I in my design take. It is this versatility that defines the uniforms I create.
KALTBLUT: Translation. What made you turn to fashion design as a form of creative expression?
Barbara: As an explorer, I always knew in my gut that I would devote my life to a certain array of art. Back in my younger days, on the islands, there was this fantastic creature and an icon really. She owned a multi-brand store with the most delicate and intricate of haute couture designs straight from Paris all the way through the latest Japanese Avant-Garde offerings. As a youngster, I was simply dazed by her and her passion for design and I believe that that was the moment, where I found comfort in clothing design. The modulate phase of creation making is of particular interest to me. The experimentation of silhouettes is fascinating and intriguing at the same time, because it can challenge me and allows me to explore various shape and forms. This is my art.
KALTBLUT: Craft. Making a universe is not a sinecure, how did you shape what now is BARBARA I GONGINI?
Barbara: Well, my drive for creating was driven by a pure mission to express myself, to share my vision. It is my prerogative. I believe that if one remains true to oneself, that vision will eventually accumulate results – whether they are hedonistic or of a monetary orientation. Nonetheless, creating such a universe is not done in complete solitude. I have been blessed to work with an amazing group of people that support my vision and allowed me to place it into a larger orbit.
KALTBLUT: Flexing. You often mention that your collections exist as interchangeable entities, is this also a comment on sustainability and caring for our world?
Barbara: Actions toward sustainability are taken at every phase of our value chain and so, filtered down to the core product, from its composition as well as its aesthetic. My design is rich in multi-functionality as a means to grant individual garments a longer life cycle. Therefore, one can find the right expression that suits the individual mind. As the collections are not trend based, my designs are part of a continuous story telling – parallel to the cycle of life.
KALTBLUT: Absolve. Black remains a predominant colour in your work. Could you tell me what attracts you in it?
Barbara: I have never regarded black as a colour, but rather an absolute backdrop, a canvas that grants space to experiment with form, tactility and textures. A common streak in avant-garde is this concept of novel conceptualization of forms, where multiple layers are explored. Those layers allow one to enrich and build tactility within a garment, giving contrast – it is the architecture of the silhouette that challenges the senses. The blackness gives her room to maneuver majestically. Movement is key here.
KALTBLUT: Freedom. Let’s speak a little of gender definitions in fashion. Some of your work can be worn by both sexes. How do you see the role of gender in design?
Barbara: My designs are gender free in existential terms. Our designs once started in the realm of androgyny where my collections where sex-less. Throughout the years, our universe has grown and so the demand for a female and male collection immersed. The collections still inherent an androgynous sub-base, they are simply technically constructed to grant a proper fit to a female or male body. I strive for social justice and like to stress that my garments are non-discriminating and not bound by sex, political or social order, or any other normative pressures. I welcome everybody to explore it.
KALTBLUT: Explain. How is your dialogue with your followers and clients?
Barbara: Well, I like to establish an intimate setting between our dear friends, being both clients and devotees to our brand. New technologies have allowed us to maintain an ad-hoc open dialogue with both end-consumers and other players in our universe. We strive for transparency in our communication, both internally as well as externally, in order to enlighten our followers about our actions towards aesthetic responsibility as well as reciprocate what our audience desires. This is why I value the buzz our fashion shows create, both online and offline, because it gives me an instant feedback on what is great and less so.
KALTBLUT: Future. What would you like to change about the world we live in today and what would you like to preserve?
Barbara: This is a rather existential question, to me. I urge people, systems and various other constellations, to become more conscious of their own spiritual being. The end-goal should be to live in harmony with each other, where each person has the right to be true. It may be argued to be a utopia, but that is my dream that I like to support in any way that I can.
What is of most importance to preserve are all the great actions taken toward social responsibility in various industries on diverse levels. Primarily, to sustain our planet and its raw resources by taking more conscious decisions towards consumption, of any disposable product. This planet is our home…let us come together and continue to nurture and foster it with care.
For more on Barbara: www.barbaraigongini.dk
Interview by Marlo Saalmink