In a world where trends come and go, there are people who defy boundaries and create a universe of their own. Caroline Zimbalist is a multifaceted artist who transcends the boundaries of painting, art and fashion, taking her passions to new horizons and exploring the intersection that is created between different disciplines. Her creations are like evocative fragments of a fantasy world, where her vision of today's fashion challenges the balance between the experimentation of new artists and the tradition of artisans and couturiers.
With a background in fine art and fashion from prestigious institutions such as Parsons and Central Saint Martins, Caroline has honed her artistic approach, creating a distinctive style and visual language all her own. She has a keen ability to combine daring experimentation with unconventional materials, such as intriguing bioplastics, with design. This allows her to give form to her bold visions. Her designs transcend conventional garments and become wearable sculptures, where the human body becomes a canvas for artistic expression.

Her designs are a window into her inner world, we spoke to the artist in an interview about this and discovered her inspiration, the magic that for her resides in everyday details and immersed ourselves in a universe where fashion meets art and the boundaries between the two are blurred.
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To begin with, before talking about your interesting project, I would like to ask you about yourself, who is Caroline? And what is her vision of fashion today?
Caroline loves spending time with family, owns three rescue dogs, and adores good food! She enjoys sunlight, trying new experiences, and dining with good friends. Most of all, she is a motivated artist who works every day trying to improve her designs and sculptures.
Her vision of fashion today is the challenge of balancing the wave of new artists, who experiment with almost anything, and the traditional artisan couturist who dwindle in the storm of breakthrough technology. She hopes some of the old ways endure.
I’ve read that since you were a child you had a great creative sensibility and began to feel very attracted to painting and illustration, but at what point did you begin to explore the intersection between art and fashion? Where did this interest originate?
It was during my time at Parsons that I fell in love with textile designs. I had grown up painting and drawing but at university I wanted to combine the two concepts. I had a desire to create a textile similar to a painting that could be draped upon the body or worn as an accessory.
You studied at Parsons Fine Art and fashion, you were at Central Saint Martins as well, your background includes many artistic disciplines. How has your artistic background influenced the approach and development of your work in fashion? How do you approach fashion as a means of artistic expression?
As a traditional artist studying fashion design, I tilted towards weaving illustrations and colour palettes in non-classical methods. The multiple classes and internships exposed me to many avante-garde materials; yet I also liked the regiments of fine art.
My approach has been to be artistically expressive with new materials, making sculptures and textiles and then experimentally transforming them into wearables. I maintain a respect for the past iconic designers as I try to be a painter with clothing as the canvas.
Tell us a bit about your references, we always have the image of someone in our heads who has influenced us in some way to develop our path. Which artists or designers inspire you in particular?
My references often change. Currently they’re: Christopher Kane, Weiderhoeft, Katie Stout, Yip Studio.
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Your work has been described as”fantastic”, evocative as if it were a fairytale. What elements of your imaginary do you incorporate into your creations? And what impact do you hope they have on those who experience them?
I wake up and talk about the dreams I had the night before. I also watch interplay with nature in the city, such as wisteria vines growing up brick walls. Another inspiration is food art, the colours, forms, and flavours! Those three things impact my experimentation the most.
I feel blessed to have an outlet to release my imagination via colours and shapes. Martin Clausens (Adorno Designs) once told me he was having a bad day when he first saw my work at a display. After picking up and examining my pieces he said he was instantly cheered up. I’ll always remember that.
Your focus on experimentation and the use of non-traditional and natural materials, such as bioplastics, is remarkable. What attracted you to these materials and how do you incorporate them into your designs? How do you select materials for your works?
I wanted creative freedom. It’s like my distaste for tight-fitting clothing - I don’t like feeling constrained. Professors and artists (e.g. interning with Gaetano Pesce or class at Central St. Martins) showed me new materials used for art. With a lifelong admiration of plants and animals it seemed apropos that I’d settle upon an encompassing material.
I mostly liked the malleability of bio-plastics, its capacity to hold limitless colour palettes and the flexibility to draw liberally or with precision. I can aggressively experiment with my designs, adjusting texture and functionality of the garments with trial and error. I choose materials that keep the whole experiment alive and contribute to my imagination of futuristic apparel and weird plant life in a changing, science fiction-like world. Also - sometimes biomaterials can have a bad odour. I select items to avoid that problem.
Could you tell us about your technique for creating and sculpting bioplastics?
I use my stovetop to cook all my recipes, warming mixtures and then draping them over mannequins and or moulding them into desired shapes. I use fans or humid weather or air conditioning to precisely control drying times. The moistness levels of the materials are extremely capricious when being manipulated. I have failed countless times to advance forward.
Sustainability is an integral part of both artistic and fashion expression. What role do you think fashion currently plays in promoting eco-responsible practices? How do you address sustainability in your creative process? And how important is this in your work?
I think self-consciousness about what one wears is a ubiquitous feeling. Fashion has tremendous influence and an opportunity to play a leading role with sustainability. We are seeing an increasing number of designers take on responsibility by showcasing eco-responsible textiles. (E.g. I really admired Sam Finger’s entirely up-cycled clothing collection last season.)
I started with bio-plastics for its versatility without realising how it would alter my choices. My process now involves material that is almost entirely biodegradable as well as repurposed furniture that I can work into larger sculptures. My awareness has grown as I’ve got more experienced. I can rework a failed garment into smaller accessories rather than throw it away like I did when I was younger. It wasn’t how I started, but the work altered me. My three dogs don’t seem like trash to me though they were all discarded by their first owners. It reflects upon the previous question about the power of fashion in regards to sustainability. Fashion changed me.
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Creating from experimentation by formulating your own materials must be a long and complicated process. Which project has been particularly challenging for you? How long can it take to create a piece?
Functional garments consisting mostly of bio-material have been the great challenge recently.
Many wearable pieces with a larger share of traditional textiles combined with smaller amounts of bio-plastics have done well but the pieces that showcase a majority of bio-material have proved difficult.
The natural properties of the ingredients can cause warping, shrinking, and twisting. With sculptures I can add a hardening agent. But a wearable piece has to be somewhat comfortable and flexible. Some pieces take only a couple days but the more intricate ones take 2 to 3 weeks. I can’t work unwaveringly upon one piece. Complex work needs intervals of drying time.
Further exploration of your pieces raises questions in relation to their interaction with the human body. How do you approach the aspect of bodily aesthetics in your designs?
The pure bio-plastic garments or the intrepid pieces (sheer or colourful) have been easily worn by models or bolder people.
For now, I am in an experimental phase and most of my apparel dives towards artistic expression. However, I set aside time for some pieces to be more elegant, flowy, or restrained for a less flamboyant wearer.
My partner is introverted and prefers to wear the button top from my collection. That’s a traditional button down shirt with biodegradable, colourful buttons, loose fitting and subtle.
Have you ever experienced moments of doubt or creative block in your career?How do you deal with them and find inspiration to move forward?
When I feel creatively blocked I prioritise the less artistic work of my brand. Emails, daily research, updating my website, reaching out to new stores, etc.
Often I deal with it by running for several miles to dump mood-changing endorphins into my system. I also make sure I get more sleep the night following a stuck day. Following other artists and their new work really inspires me.
How do you find the balance between individuality and commercialisation in your creative work? Do you think it is important to keep your artistic voice intact while adapting to the marketplace?
Individuality leads the way with my creativity. I am foundationally an artist and always want to fly free. That part of me will never be silenced.
I rely upon my team to make the more left-brained recommendations. I surround myself with people who help me make the commercial choices wisely. I’m so grateful for my family, my partner, former professors, Lindsey Media, Don Patron, and others. They balance me.
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As well as being a talented designer and artist, you are also a freelancer. How do you balance your personal projects with your work?
I always set aside at least 2-3 hours to do art no matter what the schedule is. However, I am extremely grateful to have freelance work that is mostly remote. It allows me to be in my studio almost everyday, surrounded by my work and able to create.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given in your career so far? And what advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps and develop at the intersection of art and fashion?
I can’t zero in on any single advice. I heard “if it feels right, do it.” That helped guide my particular personality. The guest speaker at my Parsons graduation ceremony said, “You will hear constant no’s. No no no no no no no no no no no no and then one day you hear a yes.”
I think about that a lot and how hearing her repeat the no’s grated on my nerves as she spoke them. It produced an emotional response in the moment. I was angry how negative she was towards hopeful, graduating, art and fashion students.
But when I started getting some of those no's in the real world, I had heard and experienced them at that graduation speech and the blow was lessened.
So keep going. I recommend setting aside time and a space to create everyday. Everyday. Just keep going and doing what interests you. Follow other artists and do research constantly.
Finally, I would like to ask you about your plans for the near future, what new projects will we be able to discover this year?
I am starting to create much larger sculptures based on the idea of what futuristic house plants might look like. I think of them as more museum gallery pieces.
I also have a few exciting collaborations lined up that highlight my work in new ways. I’m always interested in putting on a full fashion show. Inevitable, but I can’t promise that it will be this year.
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