Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Work Makes the Dream Work

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Davao-based fashion design student Juliana Hellmuth debuts her art nouveau-inspired collection.

For this installment of Style, our resident editor Kiana talked to Juliana Hellmuth, a fashion design student of Fashion Institute of Design and Arts (FIDA) in Davao City, who is currently in her last year of schooling and is preparing for her graduation fashion show which will happen on the 30th of September.

Juliana is also an artsy fartsy fella who explores the intersection of painting, photography, and video editing. She paints faerie-like depictions of women, often swathed in the beauty of nature or in flashes of color. Her artworks always seem to evoke an air of mystery in them, like you’re being let in on an ancient feminine secret. Take a look at her artworks here! For her graduation show collection, she created a sneak preview in video form (which you can see here!) and sent us photos of several of pieces from her collection.

What’s your inspiration for this collection?

My inspiration for this collection is art nouveau. As a visual artist I always deal with painting females as the subject because I want to portray them in a certain manner, in their most vulnerable state. Now, the only art movement which I can relate it to almost perfectly is art nouveau, where women are portrayed in an ethereal manner such as mermaids, faeries, nymphs, dragonflies, and butterflies.

With the influence of art nouveau in your collection, do you operate in or have an underlying feminist approach, or a message you wanna get out there?

Since art nouveau portrays women in a very feminine way, I wanted to inject the thought of the female being able to handle herself, especially in this modern world. To be able to portray them in a way wherein they feel elegant, as well as spunky, is my goal. I’m not really a feminist, per se, but with regard to your question I think it’s more about gender equality and women empowerment. But not necessarily the label “feminism.”

I wanted it to be that way because I’m taking the inspiration of Chanel and Elie Saab, which always has these laces and embroidered gowns but it’s always very feminine, very pinkish, very white, without a hint of something that could make a man think and see na parang, “Okay, this is no ordinary woman.” I wanted to inject something about it that makes it spunky, so I used fabrics such as sheer, yurya metallic, chiffon, tulle, and juxtaposed it with certain hard fabrics such as leatherettes, chains and capelets. Oh, and also the colors, too, like nude is for vulnerability and the black is for edginess and boldness.

Can you talk to us about the process of creating your collection, and give us an overview?

Lots of bottles of vodka. Ever since I’ve known the theme for this, since I thought of art nouveau which has been last year pa, I think since that I’ve been preparing myself like doing some background checks on inspirations, color schemes, and all that. And it included a lot of real research from past collections of known designers who’ve used the concept of art noveau as an inspiration, also digging deep, taking a short course on art nouveau, hearing others’ perception of art nouveau, and studying the elements that they used in their art, studying the ornaments that they used to incorporate in their art and knowing the real purpose why art nouveau was invented or developed in the first place.

Talk about the specific pieces in your collection. Do you have this high fashion/couture vibe or are they the relaxed daily wear pieces?

I learned from the book How To Create a Successful Fashion Collection that you should always start your pieces with the same cuts, meaning the same silhouettes and the same heights. So I started off with wearable pieces like short dresses, all the while injecting a bit of couture vibe into it such as draping to look like Madame Gres. Also beadwork, even though it’s just like a short skirt or a short dress, there’s gonna be beadwork, there’s gonna be intense appliques in it. Then gradually my pieces will have three short dresses, to three mid-lengths, to three long gowns, and then the finale piece. The hemline is sort of  increasing in length until the finale piece is going to be a gown.

Also in my pieces — since art nouveau was conceived during the Victorian era — I wanted to include a very Victorian thing or a piece of garment which is known as cape. It comes in many forms but I did capelet, and instead of a conventional use of capelet wherein it’s just leather, I used the method of leather cutting as well as mixing it with other elements like chains and rhinestones, snaps, and metal snaps.

Is there something in the works of the designers you look up to that you incorporated in your collection?

Yes! What really inspired me to do beadwork was Chanel’s director, Karl Lagerfeld. I liked how in his pieces for S/S 2014, I think, he had intense beadwork. Not like the beadwork of Ellie Saab where everything is in its order. Somehow in that S/S 2014 collection everything was just, sort of, not in order and it was challenging for me, as a person who wants everything to be in order and nice. I like to challenge myself, so I embarked on that kind of journey to do some random beadwork in my creations and it kind of worked well.

What do you think of the Philippine fashion scene?

The Philippine fashion scene depends… it’s a whole wide scope kasi. Like, are we talking about the Philippines as a whole, what you see in the streets or at school, or what you see in the runways? But as a whole, [the] Filipino fashion scene really has a thriving talent and potential but it seldom gets recognized and I think Filipinos as individuals need to be more brave enough to express themselves.

I understand that [the] Philippines is a hot country so that you somehow resort more to making weather-appropriate clothes but somehow you have to, you know, as an artist, express yourself in a more creative way. I think ‘yun yung kulang, like when you try to compare it with Japan, dude I swear they are so brave when it comes to their choice of clothing, like they don’t really need your approval, like it’s “the hell I care.” That I think is what we need to have, this badass attitude, in general, when it comes to fashion.

Now I’d like to ask for your opinion about something I’m sure you’ve heard of—this phenomenon happening in mainstream fashion—the appropriation and “adaptation” of runway styles, prints, and designs by fast fashion retailers to make it more accessible to the public.

It has actually existed ever since. When you talk about fashion history… for example, in Paris, which was the fashion capital of the world. What happened was — so that no one will be able to copy  their looks — they hid their fashion designers, like they did not reveal the identity of their fashion designers. But right now, since we know who the fashion designers are and since most of them would like some exposure, of course you would go with the inevitable.

It’s just like art, sometimes your art gets stolen, sometimes your art gets re-interpreted, and then whoever makes it more accessible to the market, becomes popular. But actually that part of fashion is what makes fashion "fashion".

In trend, actually what you’re talking about is called the trickle-down theory — you’re starting from the top, which is the runway, and then it goes and trickles down to fast-fashion retailers, down to department stores, then to ukay-ukays or thrift stores. It actually becomes an honor for the fashion designer, in itself, and in a way. Although yes, it is unfortunate that your art becomes stolen knowing that it’s your general idea, but that’s actually, I mean that’s life — you will always have competitions and it’s usually “survival of the fittest.”

Sometimes the people who like to eliminate their competitors by not sharing important fashion advice or knowledge are those who are aware that they’re not creative enough to come up with a new style or trend. I have no problems with it, actually, and in fact if I was a known designer and then my work would get appropriated by a fashion retailer store like Forever 21, I think I would be honored in a way.

You know, like maybe as a high fashion designer I cannot cater to the tastes of the general masses, since couture usually serves the “higher class,” but at least these fast-fashion retailers make it available and accessible to the common folk.

How do you come up with an idea and how do you translate it in real life?

I always tell my friends that the craziest ideas come when your mind is uninhibited, so that means vodka, cigarettes, and chasers — so basically when you’re drunk. I have the craziest, creative ideas when I’m drunk. So there’s that.

Translating it in real life, creating it would be, like, me envisioning myself where I would be five to ten years from now. Then I have to remind myself that in order for me to be there, the decisions that I make in the present moment would be the pillars of my future.

You have to envision it like that, na parang… “whatever I’m going through right now is just nothing when compared to what I’d be dealing with in the future.” So no matter how much I wail or throw tantrums — I mean, I use it to express — but I always know that this, too, shall pass.

Do you have any advice for young people who aspire to make it in fashion or in art?

Get themselves out there, because I noticed a lot of people are talented but they don’t have the courage to get themselves out there. When I say get themselves out there I mean let other people know that you exist.

Art needs to be seen, it does not need to be kept in your journal notebook that nobody ever sees but you. It should be felt, seen, and appreciated. Just like fashion at the same time. Especially now that social media is thriving, people should learn and take this opportunity to let the world and other people know that they have art that some may just really appreciate.

Here are some sneak previews of Juliana’s collection:

Article by Kiana
Photos courtesy of Juliana Hellmuth
Cover art by Yanna Sta. Ana
Kiana Kimberly Flores's constancy fluctuates. A scholar of nowhere and an aspiring witch, she is a reader and thinker more than a writer and doer. Despite this, she writes a weekly diary at Rookie Mag and has contributed to Femsplain. She seeks to become relentless in her conducts. She lives in Davao City with her grandmother and a dog named Daisy.

Yanna is a 19 year-old student of graphic design and is sleepy all day, everyday. She really likes bread, dogs, and dogs that look like bread. 


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