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CHRISTIAN WIJNANTS

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CHRISTIAN WIJNANTS S/S 2015

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LAST WEEK I MET: CHRISTIAN WIJNANTS

Sky’s the Limit

Christian Wijnants made a name for himself with his incredible knitwear techniques and use of colour and print. We had the honour to meet the Belgian designer and have him speak about…

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…HIS NEW COLLECTION

In the Spring/Summer collection I wanted to go back to the roots, meaning something quite close to the nature. It has a little bit of the idea as if you have been dropped on a deserted island, or like the jungle book, that you‘d be surviving the jungle and you wrap yourself up with some trees and leaves and organic things.I wanted the collection to be quite vegetal and organic.

It consist a lot of embellishments which refers to something animalistic or roughness and vegetation. The main inspiration is one movie called The Wild Child. And that‘s the story of a young boy in the wilderness, in the forrest. I always like to relate to the nature, something natural and authentic.

I don‘t like when women dress up too sophisticated. I like natural sophistication. I never like too much make up or too much “tralala“. 

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…FINDING INSPIRATION AND PETER DOIG

I‘m trying to travel as much as I can, I mean it‘s not easy. But Peter Doig is the artist I‘ve been following and I loved for a long time. I love his paintings because of this lonely soul, this lonely man in the middle of the nature and wilderness that is almost disappearing in the painting and adapting himself so good with the nature that you almost don‘t see him anymore. Also something mysterious. In a few of the paintings you can barely see this man, this lonely man on a boat or in between the trees and I thought it was very beautiful and very poetic. How can you actually adapt or live in harmony with nature?  This type of spirit from his work really inspired me.

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…HIS WORKING PROCESS

It‘s an organic process in a way. You can‘t say I‘m gonna work 2 weeks for this and then this, so it‘s growing, everything is growing and every season it‘s very different. Sometimes the end result is quite clear in my mind. It‘s a very difficult process and to the last minute you don‘t know what it is going to be.

The only thing that is for sure is that you have to work on defining the colours and the fabrics and this is what takes the longest time to process. Usually I decide around the textiles and the sensitivity you want to have in the textiles and afterwards I work on the shapes. That‘s usually my process but like I said every season is very different.

I‘m working with mood boards, I‘m lucky enough to have a big space and my room also has big walls so I just put everything on mood boards.  I‘m working on different collections and do freelance work for different companies outside my own collection. It‘s always good to have this moodboard where you really try to make one kind of mood of what you‘re trying to express,that you can always look at it like “ok this is what I‘m working on.” Then suddenly you get a phone call or get stuck with administration work, finance meetings, I‘m also managing the whole company so it‘s always good to relate to this one moodboard.

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…BEING SATISFIED WITH YOUR OWN WORK

I‘ve got mixed feelings. I think everybody is very critical about his own work. You can always do better but the good thing in fashion is that it‘s never stopping. Even when you‘re not satisfied about one collection or not totally satisfied you have to keep on working on this feeling or this emotion and do this next season again and again. I would say collections follow each other and grow and it‘s not like

ok this collection is now finished and I start from scratch. It‘s never really ending.

It‘s definitely true that the seasons are very short. You don‘t have that much time and it‘s true that you would like to have more time to go deeper in what we do and you just have to do it. It also has its advantages – it‘s never boring, it‘s not like you‘re working on the same project for two years. I think this rhythm is also quite positive because you do a lot of things and continue.

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…TEACHING

I did some different things next to my brand. I consulted different brands and was teaching. Teaching was great. I was teaching knitwear. I really love knitwear  The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp asked me to start teaching a few years ago, so I did it for 3 years, until I couldn‘t combine it anymore because of a lack of time. It was very interesting as the academy is a place where you have a lot of very motivated people and they are very privileged to be in the school. It‘s a great school and you can learn whatever you want – men‘s collection, women‘s collections or accessories…

The students have a lot of freedom in the sense that they can experiment.

Being at the academy is really an experimentation moment in your life. You can do really crazy stuff which is something you will never be able to do when you graduate. Once you‘re in real life you never work that crazy or that experimental so it‘s fun to see those students.

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…WOMENSWEAR VS. MENSWEAR

Well for me, I experimented in that sense that my very first collection was “a teenager”. Teenage collection in the sense that I was really intrigued and I really loved this moment between childhood and adulthood. It was very inspiring.

I‘m still very inspired by childhood. There is something to it that is very intriguing to me.

That was my first collection but for the rest it was always with women in mind which I find much more exciting. And I never really did menswear, as I said, it‘s less my thing, I just think it‘s less exciting. So it‘s more a personal decision.

I don‘t like when men put in too much effort to dress up. I like it when it feels more casual, more natural. There are different kinds of authenticity when they have their own personality and are not just being dictated by a designer. I think it‘s not really interesting.

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…THE FASHION WORLD

You always have moments in fashion when it is very tough. As I said about the seasons, they pass by so quickly and there are very tough moments and it‘s a tough world. Like you probably also know, there is no time to rest and it can be cruel. It seem that everything is so glamorous but it‘s not. And also some people in fashion are not so easy. But at the end of the day I still love it.

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…HIS COMPANY

We are 12. But we have seasonal people coming in and out so at the peaks we are around 24. Everybody has their own segments and tasks. We work with different departments. In each department you also have interns, which is of course really great. We try to make it a nice environment at least so that people learn and help at the same time. Of course the company is growing and when I started we were two people. Now we‘re growing and its true that there are more and more people. It‘s difficult to have a close bond to everyone but I still try to create a nice atmosphere. I think that is very important as you spend so many hours and so much time of your life in this company and if it‘s not fun, what is the point? And honestly it has to be -, I mean fun is a stupid word but it should still be enjoyable.

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…WHAT IS NEXT

We just started the pre-collection. One of the reasons is that we noticed a big demand on specific markets,  especially in warmer countries – Asia and parts of the States. The summer collection always sell quite well but we don‘t sell any knitwear on these markets. We realised that we‘re specialized in the knitwear concept so we launched the pre-collection as the pre-collections, in my opinion, make sense because it‘s really a transitional product. And in this period ( November & May )  this transitional clothing is making much more sense like for knitwear. It’s a big project, meaning we do four collections in one year instead of just 2. Then the next chapter will be own stores – retail and online business.

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…EDUCATING ABOUT CONSUMPTION

There is the Woolmark prize,  and I was the ambassador for Woolmark for one year and my part was to promote handcraft, to promote natural fibers. I think it is really important that journalists and designers and everybody who is involved in the business is trying the best to educate and to really show the younger generations The respect for clothing, food and everything you consume.

The new generation see a shirt for 2,99€ and pants for 5,99€ and for them it is so logical and so normal but it‘s not normal and it‘s not ok. I think it‘s really important to regain respect and to show them where the products come from and who is making them. The transparency and the original things what the planet produces, where materials come from. Many people in the fashion world are frustrated by this domestic market and when you see these very cheap products you don‘t really get how it is possible, as you know that it costs so much money to produce something. When some people do that, you know that there are other people suffering.

I think the whole idea of transparency and gaining respect for what you wear is important.

We shall again and again explain; to make a shirt costs so much time and fabric, and to make a whole coat takes so much time and it‘s just not possible that it‘s in a clean condition being sold for that price.

I remember when I was a child, it was different. People were not consuming as much and throwing things away. I think this is one important message or task that we need to try to teach the next generations. The children of tomorrow, they think it‘s normal to go shopping everyday at – I‘m not going to say the name of the brand – and to throw it away and to consume and to throw away for very very cheap price. It‘s sad.

You should really just buy less and respect what you buy.

And think a little bit more, be more aware how you consume. As I just spoke about this at The Woolmark price, I was happy to help a bit in trying to promote the the noble materials, the natural materials and like I said, what the planet is naturally giving us, and also promoting natural fabrics.

The Spring/Summer 2015 collection will be available in February 2015 with selected retailers, find your nearest here.

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