With three locations across the Netherlands and an enrolment of over 3,000 students, ArtEZ Art Institute offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in myriad creative platforms. Spanning visual art, architecture, fashion, design, music, theatre, creative writing, dance, and art education, ArtEZ’s curriculum caters to all creative minds and seeks to foster up-and-coming individuals. To find out more about this exciting institution, we chatted with fashion designer Karin Vlug, a recent graduate of ArtEZ and winner of last year’s Frans Molenaar Couture Award.
How did you initially become involved with fashion design?
Becoming involved in Fashion Design was very natural to me. Dressing myself every morning, trying on my mother’s wardrobe and discussing it, knitting with my granny, altering old clothes and sewing my first designs when I was 12 years old. It was all part of the process towards becoming a fashion designer.
Do any other artistic experiences or practices comprise your background?
I grew up in a very cultural family. We went to museums, the theatre and dance performances.
But I think the biggest influence was that I learned to look around me at a very young age. Counting stairs, comparing colours, looking at architecture, describing what I saw, counting/repetition… Then, when I went to ArtEZ it was the first and most important subject: “The grammar of the image”.
What does your design process typically entail?
It always starts with a simple observation of my daily surroundings, which/something I find very interesting. For example, the idea of my last collection was inspired by the IKEA concept.
After shopping at Ikea, you return home with a couple of flat boxes. At home you put these 2d parts together with a few simple actions. Everything fits perfectly, and after that one can change, vary and expand to one’s heart’s content.
My design process is very much based on the construction of the garment. Form will follow. Next to construction, I have a very big love for textiles. I create my own textiles with the use of materials that are mostly seen as invaluable.
In 2014, you won the Frans Molenaar Couture Award for “One square fits all” (congratulations!). What inspired this project?
My collection “One square fits all” consists of 90° angles only, such as the square and the T-form.
Sewing is not necessary, my pattern pieces contain tunnels and incisions, hence construction of the garment is possible by stringing together with a ribbon. For pants, only two pieces are required. For a shirt, dress, skirt, sweater or coat you will need one or more pieces. A complete wardrobe consists of ten pattern pieces.
The placement of incisions and tunnels, and the materials I developed, are the essence of the design.
I create couture without cutting or sewing; it is my vision of a new, accessible, made to measure, couture. Apart from a little silk and mohair, I use materials which are usually perceived as non-luxurious, e.g. different types of synthetic fabrics and anti-slip mats. These materials provide endless possibilities because of their melt-able nature. With the application of heat the materials are fused into a new one (and this is also the method by which tunnels and incisions are created).
In the near future my designs will be downloadable ‘made-to-measure’, and my pattern pieces, with the programmed incisions and tunnels, will be easily fused by means of laser or other heat source by or for the wearer.
Has winning such an award brought about any exciting opportunities?
Yes, very exciting ones! It has brought me exposure in magazines and expositions. But the most exciting opportunity is that since the Award I have been working for Professor Jose Theunissen. With a group of people from different universities and companies we are thinking about the future of fashion production within the next 5 years.
In 2014, you received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Fashion Design from the ArtEZ Academy of Art and, currently, you are a blogger for ArtEZ & Innovatie. What brought you to ArtEZ?
ArtEZ has always been the only school for me. The program focuses on a high quality of design and concept for four full years. I wanted to become a really good designer. Learning about business is of course also a very important aspect, but I figured I could do it later; first fully focus on developing my creativity.
What did your academic career at ArtEZ entail?
The first year at the academy is very experimental. They really try to open you up and be very experimental – a skirt does not have to start in the waist, and ‘what is a skirt actually?’ They hardly give you any practical skills. This way you really develop your creativity since you have to figure out everything yourself. The concept is very important.
The second year is more practical. You start to look at different brands and get more technical skills. Still concept and experiment are very important, but you slowly start thinking about translation towards clothing.
In the third year you develop Collection Arnhem – a collection created by all the third year students – from concept to show and production. So valuable! Everyone starts at the same point in the process, thinking about the concept. Later on each student will work on the part he or she prefers, for example print, fabric, or production.
How has your experience with the school affected your practice?
My experience at the academy has affected everything in daily practice. The most valuable thing that I learned was how to look around me, describe it and translate into a fashion design concept.
And, lastly, what can we expect from you in the future? Any exciting plans?
In the near future you can expect a new collection from me. It will be a more and more developed version of “One square fits all”. I will present it at the Frans Molenaar Couture Award 2015. I also have a very exciting event coming up that I am organising myself :) in June 2015 in Amsterdam!
Eventually I would love to have my own research company where I will work with different types of disciplines, chemists, product designers, fashion designers, architects, etc. and where we all think about innovation within the construction of clothing. We will develop collections under Karin Vlug, but I can also imagine designing special pieces for a big fashion house. To be continued. :)