The core lies in sustainability and timelessness

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Visiting an exhibition about fashion should always lead us to a conversation about ecological awareness. This is no different in this interview with Ghent-based textile designer Leen Stoffels. Along with finishing her Masters in textile at KASK & Conservatorium this year, she has been working on her platform STOFFELS for a while now. After visiting the expo Brussels Touch at the Fashion & Lace Museum we had a conversation about craftsmanship, patch-works, sustainability and fast - fast - fast - fashion.

Can you tell me a bit more about yourself and your work? 

As a textile designer, I compose spontaneously. I see myself as a craftsperson, especially in my work with STOFFELS: a platform I founded a few years ago to share my textile creations but which at the same time serves as my inner personal outlet. 

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How did you experience the exhibition? 

I almost immediately placed my focus on the textiles and techniques used in the garments. I find the design and context interesting but it doesn't touch me as much as the material, colour and texture. The little knitted socks by Chevalier Masson were my absolute favourite. Their knitting patterns are recognizable but here they manage to break free from the merely traditional. It becomes more than a sock, the context changes completely.

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How important is the influence of a city on a designer's artistic development?

Being from Leuven and studying in Gent, I am not in the most ideal place to comment on what Brussels specifically does to a designer. Nevertheless, I am convinced that a city can have a huge influence on the development of artistic practice. We all unconsciously incorporate the energy of a city that moves around us into our work. Like every city, Brussels has its own identity. This identity is shaped by what and who moves on the streets, fashion is and will always be linked to identity. Belgium is highly regarded in the fashion world and the 'Brussels' names that appear in the exhibition have a very important share in this.

Belgium is highly regarded in the fashion world and the ‘Brussels’ names that appear in the exhibition have a very important share in this

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The expo Brussels Touch focuses on designers with a clear link to Brussels, how do you relate to Belgian Fashion?

Last year I did an internship with Belgian designer Christian Wijnants, which was a very nice experience. It was intriguing to be able to look inside a successful Belgian fashion studio. It was simply amazing to see how a small team of designers brings everything to fruition. Since my interests lie mainly in knitwear, I chose Wijnants because of the quality and playfulness of the textures and patterns present in his work.

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Throughout the exhibition, wearable pieces alternate with true eye-catchers, what unites the work is 'the free spirit of fashion'...

Wearability is different for one person than for another, so for me, it's a very relative concept. An extravagant piece can be perfectly wearable fashion for me and not for someone else. In terms of sustainability, I think wearability and timelessness are a must. Timeless pieces are the future because they are sustainable, they don't end up in the fast-fashion landfill. Timeless fashion, as we see here in the exhibition, is wearable. But wearable fashion is not timeless. The line between wearability and couture or more extravagant pieces is blurred. For me, an extravagant piece can be perfectly timeless and therefore wearable. 

Timeless pieces are the future because they are sustainable, they don't end up in the fast-fashion landfill

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Do you feel more like a textile artist or more like a fashion designer?

Definitely a textile designer. During my internship I noticed that fashion remains too commercial for me, everything goes fast - fast - fast. That fast-fashion mentality doesn't suit me. As a textile designer, I learned to deal consciously with the material. The core lies in sustainability and timelessness. To go against all the waste, I wanted to fully commit to slow fashion. STOFFELS began from a big pile of clothes and my guilt about it. Nowadays I don't buy anything new to create work. Everything comes from what I found or got. It's very soothing to have to work with what you get from someone else. An old garment with a story can become an item with a new story.

To go against all the waste, I wanted to fully commit to slow-fashion

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What appeals to you within the craft of textile work? 

During my education, I specialized mostly in knit-wear, but at STOFFELS the basis is patchwork. Mixing materials and textures, but equally being inspired by patterns and colours that catch my eye on the street. In one of the most beautiful pieces in the exhibition, a red striking leather jacket by Gioia Seghers, ropes were used to shape the model. I found this particular weaving system interesting partly because I am developing modular knitwear myself. This allows me to weave with ropes and adjust the thickness on the surface of the textile.

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What are your dreams and plans for the coming months? 

In March we will start a website and webshop with STOFFELS. Recently Evelien Tempelaere joined the Stoffels team and we became “Studio Stoffels”. Evelien does the communication and media -part, the business-part and we brainstorm together. And I am doing the making and creating -part. I am excited to go on this journey. We're two friends with a passion for design, fashion and sustainability. Together we want to challenge waste culture. Of course I want to keep working on Studio Stoffels in the future. The plan is to become self-employed after my studies. I would also like to work as a knit-wear designer in a slow-fashion company. An open studio is a small dream. A place where I am working all day long, where people can pop in with an old t-shirt or a cardigan from their grandmother that I can transform before their eyes. Encountering the people who wear my work is very important to me, it generates a feeling of intimacy and casualty. But nothing is fixed yet, I will probably just follow the thread that guides me on my path.

Encountering the people who wear my work is very important to me, it generates a feeling of intimacy and casualty

@studio.stoffels  

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