Beate Karlsson is the creative director of Avavav. She has gained controversy across social media platforms for her monstrous boots, a development on her previous hand-feet sandals 'The Claws'. You might also recognise her as the designer who built wearable pink Kardashian silicone bums (The Face). Karlsson makes dreams and nightmares tangible and (un)wearable, including her finger boots that drip with green slime. Combining the practices of art and design, she excels in creating silhouettes from malleable materials. In this interview, she talks about the sustainability of her latest collection using deadstock materials from Burberry, Fendi and Jacquemus, and whether fashion should be controversial.
Hi Beate Karlsson! You recently made the move to join the Avavav team, can you tell us what the process was behind this decision?
Hi Ruth! Of course. I got a call in September from Linda Friberg, founder of Monki, Weekday and Cheap Monday. She asked me if I wanted to take over the creative direction of their new Italian based clothing label. I was charmed and intrigued by the invite, partly because of their sustainable production chain but also because she promised I’d have creative freedom. One week later I moved to Florence!
You work with a number of malleable, durable materials including silicone and clay. What inspired you to work with these materials?
Sculpting in clay has always come quite naturally to me and I consider it to be the most redeeming medium for a designer to work in, essentially because there are no limitations for silhouettes. Since my work is heavily focused on shape experimentation it is important that I’m not limited by the material I work in. For example, when I use textiles it’s a constant challenge against gravity and it’s hard to reach an exact form. As a consequence I have ended up making most of my pieces in clay, silicone, latex and 3D-print.
You paired your new monstrous boots with such pieces as wide-leg jeans, “tech pants” and ribbed tanks that are resemblant of such 1990s-pioneered brands as JNCO and UFO. Why did you decide to connect monstrous silhouettes with iconic rave culture pieces?
I want to create collections that keep a high artistic integrity and also offer fly everyday wear. I think there’s something very interesting in mixing street with over-the-top, avant-garde pieces.
The boots you made carry the latex-laden elegance of the erotic performer and the vibrant, oversized whimsicality of characters such as the grinch. How do you feel these elements fit together?
I’m glad you mention this! I love merging different worlds and marrying them into something, hopefully new. I’m trying to move away from the norms that we are imprinted with. For example, I don’t think it would be interesting to create erotic products with an erotic aesthetic. Instead, I would probably look for inspiration in something that would tweak the conventional material and shapes of erotica. As a result of my methodologies I often end up with this type of distorted concept.
Your boots are described in tactile ways such as “slimy” and “bloody”. What inspired you in making a very tactile collection?
I name my pieces from intuition, but I often end up with names describing the tactile characters of a piece. I think tangibility often strengthens the concept of a product and can make it more “alive”.
Of course, monstrosity is charged with symbolism. Why did you choose to make something resemblant of beasts in your designs?
I like to push the boundaries of wearable fashion; it’s my biggest motivation. The idea for the Bloody Feet boot for example is in one way quite simple since it has the familiar shape of fingers. But in another way it’s difficult since it challenges what is wearable. That’s why I wanted to execute the idea; because it was simple and challenging at the same time. The fact that the shape brings the mind to mythical creatures isn’t necessarily part of the concept.
Your work is vibrant, eccentric, and also controversial. Do you think more fashion should be controversial?
I would love to see more controversial fashion, but I think we are heading in an interesting direction where many young up and coming designers are mixing the practices of art and fashion.
You took scraps from luxury fashion houses to make your collection - including the iconic Burberry plaid. What does it mean to you to turn “trash” into “treasure”?
It is essentially what it sounds like. We are taking the waste that other brands are throwing away and basing the concepts in our collections on what we find.
Your work is highly innovative and unique. Everything is a must-have. What can we expect from you next?
Thank you for those kind words. On dropping my second collection for AVAVAV, you can expect lawsuits from the big guys!