New things aren’t very inspiring to me

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<p>Oumar Dicko is a recent graduate from the Fashion department at KASK &amp; Conservatorium in Ghent. He does much more than making clothes, however: he tells his story through writing, collages, and silhouettes. We sat down with Oumar for a conversation about archives, history, and navigating the abundance of images we are bombarded with on a daily basis.</p>

<p class="intro-subtext">Text by <strong>Simon Baetens</strong><br />

Pictures by <strong>Ugo Woatzi&nbsp;</strong></p>

<p><strong>It is not easy to find your work online and you are not very present on social media either. Is that a conscious choice?</strong></p>

<p>Definitely, yes. I want to have full control of the context in which my work is shown. I am currently working on a website, but I am hesitant about being very visible online. There are already so many images out there that we are bombarded with all day long that I want to think long and hard before adding to that never-ending stream. What is the value of an image when we are submerged in them?</p>


<p><strong>You do however work with collage quite a lot. Re-using existing images is more your style?</strong></p>

<p>Yes, it is. I love to collect old books and magazines: Paris Matches from the 50s and 60s, for example, are favorites of mine. In those books, I create new images, collages and texts. Actually, a collection always starts with me writing a novel. By doing so, I postpone the aesthetic expression by really living through emotion or feeling first and capturing it in text. I strive to wait as long as I can to translate that feeling into a visualization or garment. The next step is to go through my archive of books and magazines and create collages that accompany the text and help me tell the story. Then, eventually, I create a silhouette.</p>

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<p>But the silhouette is not the end product for me - it is just one step in my creative process and in my attempt of transmitting an emotional experience. I don’t necessarily call myself a fashion designer. In fact, it’s quite difficult for me to define myself: I use different media to create a world, and the garment is one element of that world. I am always more interested in what resonates when someone wears the clothes I make than in the contemplation of my silhouettes as standalone artworks.</p>

<p class="quote-left">I am always more interested in what resonates when someone wears the clothes I make than in the contemplation of my silhouettes as standalone artworks</p>

<p><strong>Do you also use collage techniques when you work with fabrics?</strong></p>

<p>Absolutely. My collection Les Habits Fatigués is completely made out of existing textiles and pieces of clothing. Similar to how I create my paper archive, I collected lots and lots of second-hand clothes and fabric scraps, cut them up, and used them to create the collection. I am very drawn to things that have already lived before they happen to end up in my hands. New things just aren’t very inspiring to me.</p>

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<p><strong>You work in many different media. Why did you choose to study fashion over other forms of arts?</strong></p>

<p>Fashion crossed my path in a rather spontaneous way. I danced for many years, classical dance, contemporary, African dance. After undergoing surgery, I was not able to dance at the same level anymore so I didn’t pursue being a professional dancer. My father used to always bring fabrics home from Mali and as long as I can remember, and I played with them and used them to make things. However, the idea of wanting to be a fashion designer hadn’t crossed my mind.&nbsp;</p>

<p>I ended up choosing fashion because it allows me to discover and explore many different things before having to pin myself down on one specific thing. There are many steps I go through before actually draping fabric on a body and I find not knowing where that journey will take me to be very thrilling. In fashion, the body is very central, just like in dance. Lastly, fashion has a very rich history to draw inspiration from.</p>


<p><strong>After choosing what to study, you also had to decide where to do so. How was your experience at KASK School of Arts?</strong></p>

<p>I was also admitted at the Academy in Antwerp but I chose to go to KASK. The formation is focused on finding your voice as an artist, and fashion just happens to be the medium we work in. KASK is always buzzing with activity, you meet teachers, students and artists from all kinds of disciplines and those encounters immediately place your work in a broader context. Sure there were some ups and downs but in general I felt happy at KASK, especially during my Master’s. I loved being able to choose my mentors and creating something with them, rather than being stuck in the student-teacher dynamic.</p>


<p><strong>Have you ever created costumes for dance or theatre performances? Is that something you would like to explore?</strong></p>

<p>I would love to! There is a certain freedom to making a costume because it is outside of the logic of a collection. In most fashion shows, the attention is on the garment and the models are only there to show them in the best possible way. In film, dance or performance, there are so many other elements at work and the costume is just one part of that bigger whole. Working in a team is very inspiring as well, being able to bounce off each other and work together to tell a story or send a message.</p>

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<p><strong>Fashion is a very saturated and competitive art form. The fashion market is even more saturated. How do you define what you want to add to this and how do you find your own style amid everything that already exists?</strong></p>

<p>I think this a challenge for every artist, especially when you are young and are just starting out. It is very important for me to know my history, to know who and what has come before me, and to nourish myself by visiting museums, going to stores, reading, watching movies… But at some point, I have to distance myself from all this. I can’t be a slave to what has been done before. So I try to do research, distill images and ideas from that and put them together in new constellations.&nbsp;</p>

<p>The process of selection is very important, it teaches me how my intuition works. After placing those objets trouvés in a new context, I can step back and leave it for what it is. My moodboard, for example, is on my wall: it’s there when I need to look at it, though even without doing so I have an idea of what it is about, of its ‘essence’. But by having it in front of me, I have no choice but to look at it again and again and see new things in it every time I do so. This creates a sort of unbalanced state in which I constantly shift between knowing my references inside and out and discovering them again and again. I am drawn to fragments, to details. The eyes or the hands in a photo are what I tend to cut out, and I rarely use an image in its entirety or how I found it.</p>

<p class="quote-right">I can’t be a slave to what has been done before</p>


<p><strong>What history do you mean about when you do talk about fashion history?</strong></p>

<p>My idea of fashion history is very broad and I tend to go from one fascination to another. There is of course the Belgian fashion legacy, but the way fashion is used in Mali is also a strong reference for me. The way I see fashion history is a melting pot, with very classical designers like Yves Saint Laurent, but also streetwear, designers who are not famous and are harder to find, who are not on the radar of mainstream fashion. When I research something I keep going deeper and deeper into the elements or people that fascinate me and this brings me to names or images I didn’t previously know about.&nbsp;</p>

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<p><strong>Who is the woman you design for?</strong></p>

<p>It is tricky to have a customer in mind while creating because then you easily end up in the supply versus demand loop. Fashion journalist Diana Vreeland once said: ‘You're not supposed to give people what they want, you're supposed to give them what they don't know that they want yet.’ Once I am dressing someone, an actress or a singer, for example, I start from a conversation which triggers a good back-and-forth between creator and client. By working with someone who wears your clothes on stage and has a specific idea about how to move in them, we quite quickly reach a very personal connection where we both bring our ideas and emotions to the table. That is how I want to work: having a real connection with someone and telling a story together. It may sound contradictory at first, but this way of working is very much related to the quote by Diana Vreeland because the customer and I challenge each other to leave our comfort zones without compromising who we are.&nbsp;</p>


<p><strong>How would you describe your comfort zone?</strong></p>

<p>That’s an interesting question because I am noticing more and more how widespread ‘comfort’ is as an imperative, especially in fashion. These days everything has to feel good, be practical and comfortable. But if you try to cater to a general idea of comfort, your voice as an artist is at risk. I’ve met people who feel they’re most confident when they are wearing tight-fitting clothes that change their posture, while others prefer oversized sportswear. Those are two very different definitions of comfort. If I have a comfort zone, it would be the constant challenge of asking new questions and staying in motion,&nbsp;when I don’t know where I’ll end up. The feeling of being out of balance is endlessly inspiring to me. I make very little distinction between my life and my work: they flow in and out of each other without me even noticing it.</p>

<p class="quote-left">The feeling of being out of balance is endlessly inspiring to me</p>

<p><strong>How do you find rest then?</strong></p>

<p>I read a lot. By getting lost in a book, I learn a lot about myself. I also enjoy watching documentaries and I try to go for a long walk every day. But even then, inspiration tends to strike. The way people dress or how they carry themselves; I can’t help but notice it.&nbsp;</p>

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<p><strong>What is next for you?</strong></p>

<p>I'll keep creating, of course. Again, I don’t have a business plan ready for my ‘brand’, but I am certain I will find my way. I will be performing in BLOOD LTD by Bloet alongside Jan Decorte and Sigrid Vinks, which I am very excited about. I will also create the costumes for the piece. And I hope I will keep meeting interesting and inspiring people who I can have some sort of exchange with!</p>

<p class="bg-white" style="text-align: center;">Subbacultcha and KASK &amp; Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits,<br />

featuring some of the interesting alumni and student profiles.<br />

<a href="<>" target="_blank"></a><br />

<a href="<>">@dickooumar13</a><br />

<a href="<>">@simonbaetens</a><br />

<a href="<>">@ugowoatzi</a></p>

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