CAMIEL FORTGENS

INTERVIEW

Camiel was born and raised in Amsterdam and started sketching and designing clothes when he was 15.
He did not choose to go to fashion school, he went to study at the Industrial Design Academy Eindhoven instead. The outsider perspective he gained allows him to question everything about the fashion from the bottom up.

a standing man with a hat


 

Many people define you as a fashion philosopher. How do you define yourself and your brand?

 

Well, that’s an interesting way of putting it – a fashion philosopher. I try to look at clothing in terms of social interaction and how and why people wear what they wear. I’m not really interested in fashion or trends and my work is not just about creating a nice collection, looks or garments.

My designs have to contain some kind of meaning and I won’t add anything that doesn’t contribute to that meaning. If I want to design a T-shirt with a print, then the print has to add something substantial.

There have always been artists who believe that culture makes a very real and positive contribution to society and fashion can do that too by commenting on the world around us and on how we interact with each other. By instilling my clothes with meaning I hope to make a positive contribution to society instead of just adding to the pile of pollution. At the end of the day, we are all making products that no one really needs; there’s already more than enough clothes in the world.

  back side of a man

Photo by Olly Geary



Where do you usually grasp ideas or inspiration from?

I draw my inspiration from everyday stuff. Whatever I see when I’m walking through town, sitting on a train or looking for people, clothes, things etc. at a flea market. My ideas and designs are a reaction to the things I see around me and that reaction often comes in the form of a piece of clothing.

I like to work with recognisable elements, but then by giving them a twist so that they take on a form that is different to what people are used to and challenges them to think. It’s not some kind of mindfuck, it’s much more subtle than that. I draw a lot of inspiration from iconic garments that are representative of a certain era, like a 1980s raincoat, cargo trousers or baseball jacket. The basic shape of my clothes comes from men’s fashion but I don’t design exclusively for men; women also wear ‘men’s trousers’ and t-shirts.


 

What kind of messages or feelings do you want to spread through your clothes?

I want to open a discussion. To place garments in a new context and examine them from a different perspective. And to explore cultural behaviour in relation to fashion.

 

You tend to reveal the origins of your work. Textile, pattern, shape etc. What materials do you prefer to use lately?

I put a lot of time and effort into selecting high-quality fabrics. Natural, archetypal fabrics that are strong in terms of wear and character. Like canvas, Macintosh and denim. I don’t work with fabrics because of their ‘seasonality’ but because they come from high-quality suppliers. The clothes I design are 'built to last' and made using fabrics that are sustainable and sourced either locally or from companies with a heritage in a specific fabric.

I like to share the context of a garment. Showing the story behind the finished product.

 

To see thing differently from as it is, this kind of critical way of seeing is difficult at the beginning, How did you start seeing things with “why” questions? Was there any specific motivation?

I think I always did.
It comes down to following your intuition.
Following your gut feeling inside, not the crowd around you, or rules and reasons in your head.

Today in our digital world, images overflow and are easily spread throughout the world that on the one hand, everyone expresses themselves easily. But on the other hand, it can lead to a kind of standardized aesthetic sense. Please share your tips to us how to survive in this era.

Follow your intuition, however clichéd that might sound. It’s crucial to keep an open mind. To trust your intuition and to act upon it, regardless of whether it fits with the ‘norm’ or how things used to be done. I think we are often too inclined to think in logical steps; to follow the beaten path; to do the expected, based on how it has always been done.

 

Could you briefly explain about your F/W 19 collection?

I never have have a specific theme or mood board. In fact, we don’t even have a specific set of words now to describe the collection. Neither can I give you a reason why I designed a certain garment.
The creative urge was based on intuition. Work title of the FW19 collection: “1900 party”, but I think that captures a part of the collection.

  a standing man

Please tell us your final goal as an artist and as a person.

To be able to continue reflecting on everything I see around me and express my thoughts, worries or doubts. in Designing clothes or in anything else that’s the right medium at the time.