For most designers, it’s no longer just about the clothes: It’s about creating an entire world around the brand and leaving the audience with a particular feeling. Tom Van Der Borght, winner of the grand jury prize of the 35th Hyères Festival presided by Jonathan Anderson this year, revealed what is behind his phantasmagoric works — and dispelled a few myths in the process.
Marie-Laure de Noailles motto was that life shall be full “of grace, of merit and of freedom.” Do you share this philosophy ?
Being at Villa Noailles this past October felt like a dream come true. The villa and its surrounding still breathe this free spirit that Marie-Laure de Noailles injected into this magical place, and maybe, in this special anniversary year, this spirit was maybe more present than before.
The energy vibrating from there resonates strongly with my own personal point of views in life. I always found the power of life manifests itself the strongest when I’m making or creating work, and on second plan, in the moment where the work is shared with the world. I believe here lays the core of Marie-Laure’s wildly modern spirit: I truly believe fashion (and art) should always be strongly connected to life at its largest. In that sense I believe I’m always on a quest for freedom and liberation through processes of intense manual labor, on a journey looking into alternative standards of beauty, grace and sensibility.
As a creative, you explore different fields from graphic design to video and installations. What is the specificity of fashion in your work ?
I think fashion is at the core of everything I do. I graduated as a fashion designer in 2012 and what I’ve always loved about it was the fact that it mixes many different artforms and ways of expression. I have always been excited by the human body as a framework for expression and self-expression, both from a fashion perspective as from a more performative approach. For me fashion is an embodied practice, a multidimensional layer between and individual and its surroundings, with the power to communicate in two directions. I want to develop pieces that instigate a conversation with the consumer [[cut: in the first place]]. In that sense, I like the idea of creating timeless, precious pieces to cherish — pieces that trigger you each time you encounter them. In the other direction, I believe my fashion work specifically has the ability to interact with a society, by people wearing it, and communicating messages of non-normative beauty and social awareness.
Your collection was intitled “Seven Ways to be T.VDB”. What are these Seven ways ?
The collection was part of a bigger work I developed in the past year and a half, mixing artistic research, performance, video, visual art and fashion. In this research I developed a survival kit for myself, based on experiences and phases in my own life. They form a visual work of 7 x 7 images, trying to visualise the complexity of being yourself. The first way to be T.VDB is to imagine you are a pony. The second way is to be a fashion queen. The third way to be T.VDB is to find your tribe. The fourth way to be T.VDB is to forget yourself. The fifth way is to survive a psychopath. The sixth way to be T.VDB is to create a safe cocoon. The seventh way is to break free. The idea of 7, comes from the different spiritual notions of the number 7, as well as from its ability to visualise the complex concept of intersectionality.
What is the most relevant advice you had regarding your work during the festival?
At the festival, I had the chance to meet a lot of amazing and influential people, and I received many great compliments and reactions to my work. If I have to specify any advice that stuck with me, I believe I would go back to the words of Jonathan Anderson, who described my work as uncompromising. I find this very essential in what I do and present. I want to always look forward and imagine a possible future. I’m obsessed by the beauty of fashion, the tactility of it, the ability to make people dream. I mainly took comfort from his words — that I chose a path that is the right one for me.
Credit photo : courtesy Tom Van Der Borght.