I can't break anything if I don't know how it is constructed

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Campness, cheapness, colours & community. As a costume and fashion designer KASK Fashion alumni Louis Verlinde toys with superficiality and simplicity, as well as pop-culture references. Their master project BROKEBACK SHITSHOW is a raunchy catwalk adaptation of Brokeback Mountain. With a passion for theatre costume design and the energy of bodily experience as a canvas, Louis’ work questions the relation between the work of art and the craft.

Louis, you graduated from the Fashion department at KASK this year. What are your thoughts on your education? 

Seven years ago, I started studying Autonomous Design at KASK. After two years, I transferred to Fashion, from which I graduated last year. I changed courses because I think I wanted to learn a craft and discover how handicraft and art intertwine, how they complement each other or where they fall short. But Fashion is a very rigorous field, standing up for your own voice can be very difficult, which is why I'm glad I had already taken my first steps into Fine Art. It allowed me to feel comfortable questioning things. A coat is a coat and is made that way, but at some point, every student thinks: is it really?

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You talk about craftsmanship, how do you think craft relates to the art object? 

I always think: I can't break anything if I don't know how it is constructed. I can make a perfect coat according to the rules of the coat, and I can take it apart again through craft knowledge. As a costume or fashion designer, you always work with people, their human bodies and energies, which some fashion designers sometimes seem to forget. Your art object is not only made in relation to craft. It's also about the bodies that wear the clothes, how those bodies move, and what kind of history they carry with them. I think that’s my favourite part of being a costume designer, working with people as people, not mere colleagues or ‘performers’. That sounds a bit floaty, but all those connections are what makes fashion so interesting to me. 

Your art object is not only made in relation to craft. It's also about the bodies that wear the clothes

You work as a costume designer for theatre, could I  assume the emphasis on the performer's moving body that attracts you to the theatre world? 

Yes, you actually work collaboratively on something. Costumes for performers can enhance their strengths or weaken something. Theatre is where that craft and that art go hand in hand, all through the dynamics of the performer. I love constructing worlds on the scene, letting the magic flow between actors, the director and the crew. 

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Your master's thesis 'BROKEBACK SHITSHOW' was also a very theatrical fashion show. Tell me about the project! 

I made BROKEBACK SHITSHOW with the fantastic theatre maker Gina Beuk. It is a multidisciplinary catwalk performance inspired by the film Brokeback Mountain. It took me years to actually watch the movie as I had been rather sceptical about it, but on one hungover afternoon I had to yield. There hasn't been another movie that both repelled me and pulled me in so much, with its the ferocity, the images, the failure of the love affair. At KASK, it was often said our work should be personal, which I struggled with for a long time. What does that mean, making personal work? Is all the work that you put so much time into personal? What is my 'personal necessity', my sense of urgency? Rebelling against 'the personal' can also quickly become purely superficial. In my third year, I made the Frituur collection: plastic shirts and dresses with Frituur-snacks on them. I'm still happy with that collection, my teachers a bit less so. But I understand sometimes things can get stuck at a 'concept' level. 

Is all the work that you put so much time into personal

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In your work, you toy with pop culture, with campness, with cheapness and surface. But also the needs of the community. Tell me more. 

Using cheap materials is not only a statement or a resistance, even if you have the money for expensive materials. Fashion is a very elitist pursuit. People spend thousands of euros only to see their collection disappear in a closet somewhere. As a designer, you are faced with impermanence and sustainability, questions there are no clear answers for. We should not pretend to have all the answers, but glorifying the literal and cultural cheapness is perhaps a possible answer to these questions. 

I also love the abject, because why do we need to build sanctity? We are all dirty and filthy. For BROKEBACK SHITSHOW, I work with a very childlike imagination of cowboys and the simplicity of childrens' drawing: big bold shapes and bright colours. I thought a lot about what kind of project I wanted, and I figured I wanted to work with people I love and to involve my community. So many dear friends helped me. With them, I tried to question, break, use, and respect conventions.

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Any advice to young aspiring costume designers, or Fashion students to be? 

Put yourself first, dare to take a pause, to scream STOP. Those first months or years are going to be all-consuming. You’ll want to prove yourself, but always be kind to yourself. Have patience. If I could tell my first-year self something, I’d advise not to hold back on the boldness. If I told my past self: work hard, play harder, they’d probably laugh at me for being cheesy, but it’s true, believe me. 

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Louis Verlinde © Rebecca de Cavel

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @louisverlinde <br/> Different Class and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits, featuring some of the interesting alumni and student profiles. The school is organizing an Open Day on 23.04.2023. <br/> schoolofartsgent.be</div></div>

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