Welcome to the “Technicolour World” of Tom Van Der Borght. It is in his artistic fashion studio, surrounded by a variety of fashion, textile, graphism, video, installation, and scenographic projects, that he took the time to tell us about his collection and his work with the exhibitors of Première Vision Paris.
Tom, your collections are very inspired by upcycling. How does this impact your way of working, and how does it guide and affect your work on a daily basis?
In fact, my work is based on three steps to achieve an eco-responsible approach. I would say that the starting point of my work is the fact that I am a small studio. My creations focus on unique pieces and very small production runs and I want to create pieces with value. I like to spend time on every aspect of my creations and I consider my work as artwork. I like the idea of cherishing a piece…which is the total opposite of fast fashion. For me, this is the first step to being sustainable even before upcycling because I truly believe that we have to reduce production volumes. On the material side, I really like to use leftover and overstock materials. So, one of my first questions to PV’s suppliers was whether they had overstock products.
Then I am always searching for innovative products that could offer both esthetic and responsible solutions. With some other sponsors, I am more involved in a hand-made process and an artisanal way of producing material… It was really idealistic to work like that for me because I like the idea of working with different processes. Accumulation is part of my work. “I never choose one thing”. And also, I always look both to the past and to the future.
Tell us more about the specific influences that went into the collection you presented at the Hyères festival?
The collection is part of a bigger artistic project. Every collection represents for me a lot of research. For this project, I didn’t want to use a classical process like most designers. For instance, I didn’t begin with a mood board. Every collection is a piece of me, is like a self-portrait, and also gives different versions of myself. I’ve got other influences. I am for example very passionate about the full universe of Björk, the Icelandic singer. She is the lifelong inspiration for me.
I also appreciate the universe of Charles Fréger, a French photographer working on the tribal costumes around the world. I feel a big connection with his pictures: tribes are part of my imagination and remain a big influence for me. Then the British art performer Leigh Bowery remains a big source of inspiration. By using fancy disguises, he becomes a way of fighting against injustice. The performer always breaks the limitations about female/male or body type ability which could be also part of my creations. The seven looks that I presented in Hyères are a mix of these three artists’ universes.
Your style definitely reflects your optimism and commitment. How do you convey this in your collections?
I like the fact that people consider my work as optimistic. The fact is that my pieces are connected to my emotions and one part of my job is to give emotions to people. For me, creation is a kind of therapy, which is probably why the result becomes optimistic. Making a collection is for me a way of dealing with life, feeling optimistic. Ì have a background as a social worker and so I am very concerned with social topics and I suppose that my own personal life influences my will to fight against injustice. I like also the idea of questioning people about their normality. I would say it is the biggest ambition of my work. I like when people question themselves about what is normal.
I also believe that every crisis is the best moment for positive change and I want to look forward to the future. So, I suppose that this last collection is a way to surprise people in this special period. I like the idea that people feel free and want to go out of their cocoon.
In creating this collection, you worked with some Première Vision Paris exhibitors. What was the process behind your collaboration with them? How would you describe your experience overall?
First, I wrote a wide list of materials that interested me. Then I had the pleasure of talking with Pascaline Wilhelm, the Première Vision fashion director, who was really ready to help me and gave me precious advice on choosing the best suppliers to build the collection. I did not have much time to spend at the show, so I visited only a few suppliers and then I sent them emails. I used PV’s online tools a lot to help me. Then I received the definitive list from PV. I was really pleasantly surprised to get so many positive reactions from them. I collaborated differently with each of them and I have to say that this project it was really special. I have a personal story to tell for each collaboration.
The supplier Dani, specialized in leather, gave me two pieces of leather directly at the show and I promised to make a beautiful bag with the pieces, which I did. Ecopel, specializes in fake fur made from innovative materials, was really interested in my upcycling way of thinking and gave me some leftover stocks just after the show. This is now evolving into a collaboration with them as I am creating graphics they will produce for their fur. The graphics are inspired by the collection I made from the leftover stocks.
I selected some samples from Ventures but with the crisis, the material has to be changed so it was a very detailed process to decide how to translate the designs. It was really beautiful. Mackent Group printed a lot of graphics on their wonderful material. I would say that the main topic of those collaborations is that I developed a real personal relationship with all of them by sharing my inspirations.
Your designs all express an interesting take on volume, often starting with extremely small elements. Can you tell us about the components you like to use?
Layering is indeed the base of everything I do. Textures are very important to me and I consider them as special elements. For instance, I really enjoyed working with Ictyos leather, a small French tannery. This is an incredible company producing leather from fish skin originally destined to be thrown away and the tanning process is also responsible because it is metal-free. Limitations are something that I like in my work and the products of the tannery are particularly suitable for designing small products. I used them to create a bag with graphic patchwork for a special project with Chloe. The salmon is a particularly thin and flexible skin very gorgeous to work with. I also had the opportunity to work with sturgeon leather which is a very rare, luxurious, and quite thick leather, but I used a special technique to make it flexible and I used it on the collection for Hyeres. I was immediately attracted to the products from Manifattura Di Domodossola and they sent me a big catalog where I could choose elastic cords… I selected pieces with limited metrage that became elements of the bags. It offered me really beautiful base material I enjoyed playing with. I constructed a very special relationship with all of them and the sponsors all like that I made something different with their products than what they normally see.
I would like also to thank Supima. As a partner of the festival, they provided me with very luxurious and qualitative white cotton fabrics: white denim and a tee-shirt that served me as a base of embroidery and also a base on which to print hand-cut flock or flex print.