You can see fashion as a garment, but to me it’s a complete world

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We caught up with designer Marc Pengel of Marc Martha to ask where he finds his inspiration and why Antwerp is such a creative city. We also discussed how the pandemic has changed his practice, his hope for the future, and seeing the beauty in undervalued objects. Ready?

Hi Marc! What are you busy with at the moment?

I’m working on a new collection for Spring/Summer next year. We want to weave new fabric with recycled yarn. We’re also producing the previous collection, plus doing some PR and advertising. In fashion you never have an actual break - it just goes on.  


Do you have a favourite piece?

I have a favourite piece in each collection and they all have a story. When I design, I start from something I see, an experience, or a place. In my second collection, I made a wrap dress with imagery from the labels of hair products. It was after a trip to South Africa, where I was really inspired by the hair products and the hair salons. I saw how much people valued their hair and I thought this pride was very poetic.  


What’s the story behind your beautiful hats?

I look at things we don’t value, what we'd throw away or not think about so much. The hats are inspired by these plastic buckets that people put on their heads in the many Caribbean and African cultures. I made them very organically into something luxurious with some really beautiful fur in collaboration with a Dutch milliner.


What makes working in Antwerp so special for you?

There’s a certain creative energy in Antwerp that I really love. People are really interested in art, in music, are going to galleries,... There’s a big scene here and it's very accessible. Everyone is involved. Even those who aren’t specifically making art have an interest in it and go to creative places.



There’s a certain creative energy in Antwerp

How has the recent period of strange living affected how you’ve worked?

The first year of the pandemic was very hard. Fabric places and factories all closed down. We couldn’t do anything with models. I lost my passion a little bit, not being able to work with people and all.

This past year has been about finding that love for fashion design again. It was actually very liberating to be completely focused on the clothes and the collection whilst having time to reflect without the pressure of a show. We found new creative ways of working, in video and print.

So you’re working beyond the discipline of fashion? 

Fashion is really connected to art. You can see fashion as a garment, but to me, it’s a complete world. We’re working on printed books that would still be their own thing without the clothes and I love that. We also made toys. In fashion, there’s a freedom to do everything.

In fashion, there’s a freedom to do everything

What does the future hold? Will you stay in Antwerp?

I’m very happy in Antwerp. I’ve built a context here so that I know who to go to. I have the team and the atelier here. There is obviously a benefit in being based in Paris or something, but I’m in love with this city and the brand. We’re already building something interesting here. Anyway, my mind is already two years into the future.

And how is it there, in the future?

Great! The new collection is actually what I’m most excited about. I came up with this story and I’m working a lot with the sun and the circle. It’s a symbol of hope because whatever happens, you always see the sun rising again.




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