MEETING WITH PASCALE GATZEN

06/03/2017


In the midst of the Fashion week and after descripting the most well outstanding and cutting edge shows we demanded an expert eye, the one of Pascale Gatzen, friend of several fashion influencers and leaders.

There is some person in the fashion that stand out of the field by their own truly generosity, simplicity and kindness and who can completely subvert your theoretical and practical approach of this world. Pascale Gatzen is one of them. After having the huge privilege to learn stylish by her side, Pascale Gatzem give us her opinions and feelings about what fashion became and represent now and she also tells us more about her experiences and her remarkable journey.

  • When did you first started to be interested in fashion :

I started making my own clothes when I was 12 years old. I am not sure I was interested in fashion yet. But I did use garments as a social positioning, I had come to experience and recognize clothes as a powerful tool to position myself and as a strategy to gain visibility and social empowerment.

  • What is your background :

I studied Fashion at ArtEZ, the most well-known education for Fashion Design in the Netherlands. After our graduation, five friends and I formed Le Cri Néerlandais; in March 1994 we were the first Dutch fashion designers to have a catwalk show in Paris. The group included and myself.

After doing shows together for two years we each went out own way. I did a series of projects that questioned the underlying structures of the fashion system in a playful way. My projects were published in fashion and art magazines internationally. I often was invited to show my work in an art context.

I completed my MFA in Fine-Arts and Theory in 2001. Since then I have mostly created larger collaborative projects in which I shaped the conditions under which people collaborate. I wanted to create experiences and environments that promoted cooperation, exchange, mutuality and joy. My BFA Fashion Design education had strongly encouraged and enforced a competitive attitude; an aspect of my identity that has been very hard and taken a long time to negotiate. Since 1998 I have been teaching in BFA, BBA, MA and MFA programs, facilitating learning within design, fashion, art and theory programs.

  • How did you ended up working at Parsons School in NYC  

In 2007 I was invited to apply for a position leading out the curriculum for the Body/ Garment track in the Integrated Design Curriculum at Parsons School for Design. I was granted the position and I renamed the track the Fashion Area of Study, I created and implemented an alternative fashion education in which students were challenged to follow their hearts and discover and realize their own potential, as designers, artists and people.

I designed a holistic approach to education in which human values and potential were central to all the activities we developed. We learned through experience; by doing, making, performing and putting ourselves out there with confidence, love and play.
The series of core classes were carrying names like (un)Fashion, Being Singular Plural, Love and the Gift. The program was highly self-directed and students learned how to connect to the source of their creativity negotiating the dynamics between love and fear that plays at the core of every creative process. The program developed as a strong community that distinguished itself in Parsons, by way of dress and by the students' open, curious and engaged attitudes.

  • What do you think about fashion school

I think fashion school has a lot of potential when we start to embrace fashion as the human condition of togetherness. I see fashion as part of our everyday reality and activities; it is our common ground through which we express, share and position ourselves. Fashion is the public domain where we show up for each other and where we inspire and align ourselves with others. Fashion doesn’t limit itself to garments, it expresses itself in our speech, in our movements, in the objects we create, in the way we shape and perform our identities and our relationships; it is a very lively, dynamic and exciting space. If fashion school can embrace that joyful and expansive reality, it will be an amazing place.

  • How do you feel about fashion nowadays and the fast fashion industry

It saddens me that when people think of fashion they often refer to only one domain; the domain that has been shaped by and reduced to financial gain. Fast fashion is successful because it preys on people's need and desire to belong. And because it gives the illusion of easy access, people are no longer  seeing themselves as the creators and agents of fashion. Belonging has become synonymous with possession and property, not with creativity, vulnerability, exchange and play.

  • Why did you decide to wear exclusively hand-made clothes created by yourself or friends

I don’t think that has ever been a decision, I wear what feels special to me. A lot of my garments carry the beautiful handwriting of my friends and the garments I make carry strong memories of connections to places and people, because I tend to sew my garments wherever I go, it makes me happy.

  • Could you tell us more about the brand you created

After many collaborative projects, I decided to research models that support people to live cooperatively and sustain themselves economically. I explored Intentional Communities and Worker Cooperatives. Through field research I became very interested in and excited about Worker Cooperatives, I recognized it as a powerful tool for social, economic and cultural transformation. I decided that I wanted to develop an economic activity that could sustain a group of people organized as a Worker Cooperative.

‘friends of light’ is a New York based weaving, design and production collective producing hand-woven garments on hand-made looms from locally grown, processed, and spun fibers.

The four founding members of ‘friends of light’ are Mae Colburn, Nadia Yaron, Jessi Highet and myself. Our first series, ‘with light,’ consisted of five jackets woven to form using yarn produced in collaboration with Buckwheat Bridge Angoras, a wind and solar powered fiber farm and spinning mill in Elizaville, New York. Each jacket is made to order and is developed for a specific client. The jackets take approximately 160 hours to make. We are currently creating our second series of jackets. Through our work we aim to promote and give visibility to local production and connect NYC designers with local fiber farms and fibers producers.

  • What’s the best moment in the fashion history for you

Well there are a few, there is for sure nostalgia for the early nineties when my friends and I made our mark in Fashion. At that time, I was also collaborating with Alexander van Slobbe, a well-known Dutch fashion designer, on the label Orson & Bodil. We had a great dynamic between us, and we were very radical in our designs. We re-imagined every aspect of the garment, every seam, every finishing, every closure and so on. The inside and the outside of the garment were equally important, The design manifested itself in the intimate relationship between the pattern, the construction, the material and the finishing of the garments. The garments gained in abstraction because all decorative elements were the elements that made the garment into a functional object; a seam, a buttonhole, a neckline, how the hem folded towards the inside, the way the sleeve was constructed everything was specific to the kind of garment and the material we were using. It was minimal in a very well-considered and avant-garde way. A very beautiful moment in fashion history was the work that Martin Margiela did for Hermes, that was absolutely exciting to me. It was also very minimal, very generous and very precise, beautiful garments with a genius attention for detail and finishing.

  • Which brand/creators made an outstanding show this fashion week

I must admit that I don’t follow the shows closely anymore, I do sometimes check out a designer that students or friends of mine recommend. I love feeling emotions in clothes and I must say that I don’t get to experience that so often anymore. My favorite designers and artists are also good friends of mine, Susan Cianciolo, Myrza de Muynck, Saskia van Drimmelen, Sarah Aphrodite and Desiree Hammen.

Anissa Berkani Master Métiers de la Mode et du Textile