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  • Sean Holley

Wildside Volume 2: An Exclusive Conversation with Kié Einzelgänger



Recently, ARCHIVE.pdf spoke with Antwerp-based designer Kié Einzelgänger about her second collaboration with Wildside Yohji Yamamoto, which was released in April 2023. Kié designs elegant, complex clothing informed by her fascination with the Interbellum (inter-war) culture that lasted from 1918-1939, and her second project with Wildside is a continuation of this premise. In this collection, Kié reprised the structure of her first Wildside collaboration, again choosing to experiment with the concept of three semi-formal shirting options.


The key idea behind Kié Einzelgänger x Wildside Volume 2 is the concept of unintentional oppositeness, which is a phenomenon where we act differently to others without there being any conscious intent behind our rebellion. This concept surfaces in the design of all three pieces: they all feature understated stitching details and quirks in construction that only reveal themselves upon closer examination. There is clearly far more than meets the eye when it comes to Kié Einzelgänger’s work, so we spoke about the inspirations, imagery, and other key behind-the-scenes details from her second Wildside collection. Read the full text of our interview below:



Collection Overview


Hello Kié, to begin this interview, can you tell us the story of your second Wildside collection? What were your intentions when starting the second installment of this project, what were some key moments in the production process, and how do you want people to interact with these garments? Also, do you believe your successful collaboration between a Japanese and Belgian brand will inspire other brands to do the same?


The materials were kindly provided by YY. The traditional Cotton broadcloth and the warm black Rayon. It was a satisfying limitation to start the design process exclusively with these fabrics. All three shirts in the collection have an interesting reversed detail: by including discreet seams and other elements on the exterior surface of the shirts, they appear as if they were turned inside-out. This makes the garments versatile enough to be worn as either a jacket or shirt.




The cotton broadcloth shirt with 4 hidden and inside pockets is designed to be worn buttoned or unbuttoned. The cuffs can be flipped over and used as a French Cuff as the shorter length for women.



The rayon layered shirt has a reversed detail of the voluminous drape that is extended from the shirt's hem, almost looking like a Möbius strip, and the design is sculpted to appear differently from all angles.



The rayon open collar shirt has a reversed hem, reversed facing, reversed pleats, reversed straps and reversed french seams. The pattern was drafted from scratch with the reference of a painting from Rudolf Schlichter, Portrait of Margot (1924). This shirt has the most classic detailed sources from the Interbellum period.


It is carefully made in Japan, and designed in Belgium. This type of production combination is certainly rare in this 21st century. I do believe that merging the influence of different environments during the production process brings unseen results.


Could you define the concept of "Unintentionally being opposite", and discuss how it informed your design choices for this second Wildside collection? How did you integrate the idea of unintentionally being opposite into the editorial images surrounding the collection, and when you were planning the editorial, did you have other ideas in mind you also wanted to highlight?


Every time I initiate the creative direction for a photoshoot, I write 2-3 pages of scenarios for the entire team to understand what this photoshoot is all about. The below image is an example of one of these scenarios. The starting point was my own definition of "Wildside". I have been considering this definition since the beginning of my work with Wildside Yohji Yamamoto in July 2022. Ever since my childhood, I have found myself being unintentionally opposite to things in my life, whether they are situations, topics, or groups of people. The Einzelgänger moments where you find yourself going in the opposite direction from something else without knowing became the main theme of this second collection.



This photoshoot was mainly about "the non-innocent side of children'', and it was largely inspired by my childhood diary entries. I was severely bullied during this time, and one of the goals for the photoshoot was to capture the feeling of desperation found in my old writings through the lens of black comedy. I sourced the visual reference from the milk scene of Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange, and our photoshoot was started from the portrait of model Rocky Tuzava drinking a glass of milk.



It would be ideal for my customers to feel this spirit of unintentional oppositeness when they are dressed in these reversed designs, as they are discreetly diverging from the normal clothing around them. Experiencing an Einzelgänger spirit that way…


I noticed that the first and second Wildside collections follow a similar premise: Three versatile shirts constructed with Yohji Yamamoto’s fabric. What was your intention when you decided to make this creative choice? In what ways do you believe the repetition of motifs can lead to the creation of deep meaning over time?


The selection of three consistent designs was indeed a suggestion from YY, and it suited my speed of creation perfectly at the time. Having a suggested fabric selection in the beginning also enabled me to dive into constructing the silhouettes right away. And yes, it was my intention to produce a collection that is cohesive with my first Wildside collaboration, because I wanted clients to feel familiar with the products. In the future, I will do my best to maintain the consistency, so that there will continue to be an affinity between the garments and their wearer. Just like encountering a friend that you have known for a long time.



Editorial Shoot


How did you choose the models for your second Wildside editorial? Were you personally involved in the casting process, do you have a personal relationship with the models, and have you worked with them in the past? Also, what was your reasoning for keeping the editorial to just 2 models?


Yes, for every kind of photoshoot or fitting, I prefer to build friendships with my models beforehand for a few weeks rather than casting directly from the agency. Our mutual familiarity becomes evident in the visual production, and working together is much more enjoyable. In November 2022, I met Rocky Tuzava at a bar in Antwerp and I ended up casting her for this editorial. My personal relationship with her is interesting. We share the common experiences of having a terrible adolescence due to frequent bullying, and we cannot reside in our country of birth for many personal reasons.



This photoshoot was perfect for us because the main theme was to express the “non-innocence of children” and we know this image by heart. We were informally planning this photoshoot by sharing our traumas for hours and hours in Antwerp’s cafes and bars. I didn’t imply much meaning by having 2 models, but I would definitely include male images in my upcoming catalog.


Who was the photographer for this editorial? Have you collaborated with them before? Did you share creative responsibilities with them to decide the direction of the shoot, or was it largely up to their judgement?


When I started planning the editorial, I assumed that a member of my team would handle the photography. I wrote the shoot’s scenario for my usual team in Antwerp, and then I heard that my acquaintance named Shin Yatagai had become a photographer.


Shin and I used to know each other many years ago in Japan, and he happened to be in Paris for a few months. I was also visiting Paris during that time, and we had a conversation where I told him that he should visit Antwerp, and I also offered him the role of photographer for the editorial. At that point, we discovered a mutual interest in initiating a project with creative freedom. We decided to work together, sharing our perspectives to utilize my existing scenario to its fullest potential.



I was also wondering if you could provide some information about the locations selected for the editorial shoot. Do they have significance to the project beyond their appearance (for instance, if one of the settings is a historical site that has an ideological connection to your work)? Are they all located in Antwerp, or elsewhere?


Yes, they are all located in Antwerp. I finished my MFA, Master's Degree in Visual Arts at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in 2022, and I always wanted to create something that incorporated the campus’s buildings to commemorate my personal history. The building is a centuries-old monastery known as the Temple, and it was converted into a museum by architect Pierre Bruno Bourla in the mid-1800s. The Academy’s faculty generously allowed me to use the entire building for the shoot.




The Temple’s beautiful high ceilings and walls acted as an ideal backdrop for the editorial. As my references are from the Interbellum period, it is ideal for my shoot locations to have walls that are at least 100 years old. I believe that this history reveals itself in the photos and transfers a unique feeling to my designs. For my next catalog, I have already found another wall in the Botanical Garden in Antwerp, which will surely bring an intriguing dimension to the production.


Inspirations


When you mentioned Rudolf Schlicter’s Portrait of Margot as inspiration for one of the shirts, I became curious about your process for finding inspiration. Do you find references more spontaneously when researching for enjoyment, or do you purposefully look for sources when you are getting ready to design a collection? Do you catalog your research in an organized way so you can come back to it later?


I love how my designs are a reflection of my own journeys and personal diaries. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that my investigations are always purposeful. It’s a bit of both approaches: I often find things accidentally, but those discoveries are still guided by my intuition.


I was in Paris almost every month for my research. Last year, at Centre Pompidou, the exhibition “Allemagne / Années 1920 / Nouvelle Objectivité / August Sander” was a true inspiration for me because most of the time, my research is strictly focused on France’s 1920s references and culture. This exhibition covered Germany in the 1920s through paintings, photos, and writings.



At the exhibit, I encountered this painting Portrait of Margot (1924), and I fell in love with the shirt design. Below is a scanned file by me. I drafted the shirt right away when I came back to Antwerp, and I used this base for the final version featured in the Wildside Vol. 2 collection. And yes, I archive my entire research both in my journal and on my website. You can find my “Scanned by Kié Einzelgänger” blogs here.



Based on your body of work as a designer, it seems that you strongly believe in clothing being comfortable and versatile enough to move around and live in. Why do you think the wearability of your garments is so important? Also, which characteristics of your garments are you trying to highlight when you conceptualize your editorial content? Do you think it's more important to offer the customer an aspirational image around your designs, show them a realistic preview of how the garments behave in different settings, or accomplish both of these objectives at the same time?


I have profoundly admired the effortless wearability of YY’s philosophy. Anyhow, I don’t like to embellish myself too much in general, and I will never be interested in flashy fashion that catches temporary attention. I learned how vain that style is through several incidents in my teenage years when I used to dress that way.


What I am perpetually interested in is how a silent piece of clothing can instantly change somebody’s ambiance in a subtle way. Therefore, I often recreate certain designs in hopes of perfecting my long-standing ideas.



There are many hidden intentions behind my designs and imagery. Applying real historical details from the Interbellum Period to a piece of clothing magically evokes an image of the past, almost like a costume design for films. To ensure that I can successfully mimic these historical features in a modern way, I conduct extensive research before incorporating them into my garments.


It is fascinating how the length of seam stitches, shape and placement of pockets, choice of materials and other design choices can visually change the Era. I hope these details will stimulate people’s nostalgia even if they didn’t exist in this period, and every editorial that I create has prioritized this goal.


I think it’s both. I want to present both realistic and functional value and bring people back in time. To Les Années folles in a 21st century version. And yes, “wearable” will continue to be a defining characteristic of my work in the future.



Writer: Sean Holley


 

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