The fashion of today is trapped in what it could be called a crossroads. The concept of style is increasingly capitalised, clothing seems a frivolous good, and even luxury is irrelevant in a world increasingly distorted by epidemics and consequent social crises. So, where does that pleasure for clothes fit today, that excitement for the art of dressing up and showing off? Amsterdam-based designer Marlou Breuls may be young, but she is living proof that age is not incompatible with wisdom and that her vision of fashion as an art form can be one of the survival routes of this industry. Personality, experimentation and fashion, real fashion from the future that is to come.
You established your brand in 2016, as you remember your origins. What has been your personal relationship with fashion? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I didn’t go straight to fashion. I was a creative kid but more in the way of collecting ladybugs and making 'witch potions' from grass and flowers. I think I went into fashion because I wanted a new medium, new materials to develop my ideas. I don’t particularly care for the industry itself or the attitude of people within it. So no, I didn’t always want to be a designer, I just kind of fell into it on my way of developing as a maker. I feel like I’m more of a fashion sculptor.
Your graduation collection enjoyed a great reception and had a lot of impact at London Fashion Week, winning the Lichting 2016 award. What memories do you have of that moment of your career?
Wow, that was almost 5 years ago! I was really young then, and I don’t think I fully realised how much that moment would impact my future and my career. I told myself: if my graduation collection gets a good reception then I’ll see where I can go from there if I’ll be able to start out on my own. If my graduation collection gets a bad reception, then I might never have the same unrestricted creative freedom again, so I put a lot of work and soul into it.
When you see your previous collections, are you critical of yourself? Would you do things differently than you did?
Laughs) Yes or, sort of. I still like the concepts behind my previous work, but I definitely wish I had started earlier with working with non-traditional materials and techniques. I went to a fairly commercial fashion school, so if that environment had been different I would have started much sooner with developing material handwriting.
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Your collection Objectification of the body seems to be a fusion of sculpture, fashion and femininity, where did this project come from? What can we expect from it?
Well, that directly relates to the previous answer, I think. Within Objectification of the body, I’m stretching in a new, less strict direction of what can be called fashion. I feel very restricted within traditional textiles, so the collection is at its core an exploration of these materials and where they can be taken.
The process and the end result of Objectification is synonymous with my own development from fashion design to multidisciplinary art – I’m working on blurring these borders between what can be considered fashion, what can be considered sculpture and what can be considered a garment.
From The Non-conformist to Objectification of the body what is the journey that Marlou Breuls has gone through from one of her first collections to her most recent one?
I think my journey has, like I mentioned before, mostly been the process of figuring out my creative niche. The Non-Conformist contains some of the same ideas about fashion and sculpture as I’m working within Objectification of the body but at a much higher level of exploration and experience.
Where do you find the inspiration to create such complex and characteristic garments?
The one person that has been a constant inspiration to me for years and years is David Altmejd. The way that he breaks down recognisable items and elements, rearranging and restructuring them into new imagery that feels at the same time familiar and foreign is really inspiring to me.
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What kind of public are Marlou Breuls clothes aimed at?
Nobody, really. I just have the urge to make something, and usually, people appreciate it. My clients are attracted to my handwriting and my craftsmanship. I think I’m most popular with other artists, and stage performers are also a common client group.
Do you see in the future of your brand you designing a ready to wear collection?
Not really, that’s not what I’m aiming for. I might do a limited edition drop of something, but I don’t have an interest in producing a lot of stock of anything.
Is Marlou an artist, a fashion designer or both?
Both, I think I can adapt and flow between based on what I’m working on. For one project I’ll be a proper fashion designer, from concept to production, and for another, I’ll be an experimental sculptor.
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What do you feel when you see your clothes worn by artists like Grimes or Bjork?
Mostly happy that the garment shipment arrived intact and on time (laughs). I’m cursed when it comes to shipping, something always seems to go wrong. No, but to be serious it’s mostly surreal. In my mind, I’m still just a girl from a small town in the Netherlands, so it feels kind of absurd that I’ve found my way here.
Your creations have also been worn by both men and women, do you think that gender will end up disappearing in the fashion industry?
How would you describe the adventure of being the head of a fashion brand in 2020?
Weirdly, it’s going super well. I have enough projects lined up, so I’m feeling pretty good, fingers crossed.
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How does Marlou Breuls face the future?
I prefer to live in the moment, project by project.
What changes in the industry have you been able to perceive since you started until now? Do you think the industry is moving forward?
I can only speak from my point of view. From my experience working in the industry before I started my brand full-time there were a lot of things that I didn’t like that are commonplace in the industry. I decided I wouldn’t do them in my own career and have worked pretty consistently at distancing myself from the bad habits within the industry.
What issues do you think the industry still have to solve?
I think the most important thing is that young creatives need to be fairly treated by the industry at large. It’s way too common that younger, less known artists and designers are exploited by larger companies, either by stealing their ideas or paying close to nothing.
Ultimately, young creatives are the future of the industry, and need to be supported, not exploited. The better they’re treated the better the future of the industry gets.
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